The best local nature parks for a much-needed escape

As a card-carrying member of the “I hate summer” club, I rediscover a certain zest for life every year when temperatures start to drop. This “certain zest for life” mainly refers to my desire to venture outdoors, armed with the knowledge that I won’t be barraged by mosquitoes or immediately start sweating.

Instead of soaking up autumn’s opening days in my backyard or cul-de-sac, I sought out the precious pieces of wilderness my suburban area has to offer.


Photo by Katherine Parker

Arbor Hills Nature Preserve: 9/10

6701 W Parker Rd, 

Plano, TX 75093

Sprawling 200 acres, Arbor Hills Nature Preserve offers forests, meadows and streams. Largely domesticated, Arbor Hills is dominated by paved sidewalks on which visitors run, bike or walk. Arbor Hills also has a playground, restroom, water fountains, gazebos and benches along the way. Arbor Hills is undeniably a popular spot: 10 a.m. on a sunny Saturday guarantees a crowd. Still, as a frequent visitor, I found that it’s not too difficult to go off the beaten path and find the sweet solitude nature brings at Arbor Hills.


Katie Jackson Park: 7/10

4900 Haverwood Ln, 

Dallas, TX 75287

Photo by Katherine Parker

Katie Jackson Park is certainly the spot for an immersive experience. At first glance, the park appears barely there, obscured by apartments. However, beyond the playground and gazebo, I found myself on worn dirt paths under a grassy canopy. The trails span 45.5 acres, but I soon felt directionally uncertain. The trails are narrow and the thicket is dense, giving the park a secluded feel. Additionally, I only crossed a few other visitors on the sunny Friday afternoon I explored the park. My experience was admittedly nerve-wracking, but I’m sure the immersive, wild trails will be exciting when I return with a friend. Katie Jackson Park’s main attraction is its expansive stream. At most points, the cool water runs no higher than mid-calf level, creating a natural splash ground perfect for fall weather.


Windhaven Meadows Park 6/10

5400 Windhaven Pkwy, 

Photo by Katherine Parker

Plano, TX 75093

Windhaven Meadows Park is more notable for its amenities than for its simulation of the great outdoors. With an expansive playground, wide sidewalks and a dog park, Windhaven Meadows is the perfect spot for a family excursion. While that wasn’t quite what I was looking for,  those looking for a group outing with open space and the visual reminder of surrounding civilization will be appeased with all this 123 acre park has to offer.

Nature is more than an escape from life — it is most real thing we can experience. There’s no better time to experience all the outdoors has to offer than its picture-esque fall months.