You think you know a city. Then you find a hidden jewel, some gleaming nugget buried deep in the old familiar parts that causes you to wonder, “How’d I miss this?” quickly followed by “and what else don’t I know?”
My recent Dallas visit was a quick 24-hour trip; my husband was presenting at a conference held at the Hyatt Regency near Reunion Tower, so I tagged along. The primary reason was to visit our son, but I had another. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is explore, even in cities I’ve visited many times (like Dallas).
There are always treasures to discover when you’re willing to wander, especially on foot.
My time to roam began in the early morning darkness and I was smack dab in the heart of Big D on a weekday, so I asked the concierge for a safe running route. He handed me a small card with a printed 7-mile route created specifically for the hotel by Athletic-Minded Traveler. On one side was a map; on the flip side, written turn-by-turn instructions plus a QR code for smartphone use.
The route looked like a good start, so I set off to see what I’d treasures I’d discover.
Taking the Katy Trail
The last time I meandered through downtown Dallas was my second Dallas White Rock Marathon (“Run Faster—Betty White is Right Behind You!”). My friend Stacey, who was going for a BQ time (and got it!), and I (who was getting ready for my first 100K trail race) stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which was the race’s host hotel, so when my route passed the American Airlines Center, I was on familiar territory. The city was fairly shrouded in the low light but an army of construction workers walked briskly to job sites and those tall buildings forming Dallas’ iconic skyline were still aglow. Traffic was almost nonexistent.
About 1.5 miles in, I was instructed to “pick up the paved path that begins to the right of & parallels Houston St.” Huh. I remembered a pedestrian walkway near the Center, but that would be on my left. Imagine my surprise when I spotted a trailhead kiosk and map for something I’d never seen, the Katy Trail.
Dallas’ Katy Trail is another reclaimed rail line transformed into a pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfare. The name is derived from the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, abbreviated as “M-K-T” (say it fast a couple of times, with a drawl), which was closed in the 1980s and then donated to the city in 1993. What a treat! I couldn’t believe my luck. Ever since falling in love with New York City’s High Line, I’ve sought out these recycled tracks whenever possible—Paris’ amazing Promenade Plantée and Atlanta’s invigorating BeltLine—and I was thrilled to discover another.
On that crisp January morning, I picked up the trail at the south terminus. Now, I knew this from the map on the kiosk but I honestly did not notice any trail markers until I turned around to head back to the hotel. My trail experience has trained me to look for poles or metal flashing on trees, so the quarter mile markers embedded in the trail escaped my notice. In addition to being situated on the ground, markers are in the 12-foot-wide concrete bike path and, whenever possible, I traveled on the pedestrian-only recycled rubber parallel trail—which is softer but has no markers.
The Katy Trail is clearly well known to Dallas’ downtown dwellers. Many were enjoying the trail that early Wednesday morning, though it never felt crowded. Not surprising for a windy winter day, there were more runners, many of whom were working out-and-back routes, than cyclists. As the morning progressed and the sun brightened the sky, more and more walkers, many with dogs, emerged.
Pleasant note: Everybody I saw with dogs had them leashed and cleaned up after their pets—perhaps because doggie poop bags were readily available along the trail…near signs warning of fines accompanying abandoning that pile.
According to the trailhead kiosk, the Katy Trail covers 3.5 miles from point to point. My 7-mile route directions (remember; my start and end would comprise almost 3 miles of this out-and-back) instructed a turn-around at Fitzhugh Ave., “the 11th bridge from the path’s start.” Naturally, I got caught up in the beautiful sunrise, taking photos, reading historical placards, and generally exploring, so I completely failed to count the bridges. Because I couldn’t find any identifying signs, I had no idea what streets these bridges crossed. Remember, I didn’t realize where the mile markers were until some time after I’d turned around.
[Unfortunately, the online map doesn’t include mile marker designations and so, for those unfamiliar with Dallas streets, there are little clues after the fact to exact location.]
As someone who loves to wander, I didn’t really care how far I’d gone…until I needed to use the bathroom. Though I searched quite diligently and with great purpose—I even ventured down into what I later learned was Revechon Park and asked other trail users for guidance—I couldn’t locate one. Thank heaven for the friendly 7-Eleven tucked into the corner office building at Houston and Olive; with its friendly staff and clean, available restroom, it was a complete workout saver!
On the way back, I got to see all the city landmarks I’d missed in the dark morning minutes: the JFK Memorial at Dealey Plaza, Texas Book Depository building, and Holocaust Museum my daughter and I visited after a frantic, last minute trip to the US Passport Agency in Dallas years ago (now THAT’S a story that bears retelling).
Even though the work day was well underway, I had no trouble navigating busy downtown streets and highway access ramps, thanks to ample sidewalks and crosswalks. Being Dallas (which loves its cars and does its highways right), almost no-one downtown was walking to work. After passing a few cute sidewalk coffee shops, I chided myself for not having the forethought to bring along some cash.
Back at the hotel, I capped my morning explorations off with a hot shower, hotel robe, and a lovely room service breakfast.
Now that’s a morning to treasure.
Know Before You Go
- Trail is open and lit from 5 a.m. to midnight, year round
- No public bathrooms; Reverchon Park Recreation Center (3505 Maple, near the south end) has restrooms but you’d have to know where they are. The friendly folks at Katy Trail Ice House evidently let folks use their restrooms, but that’s no help if they’re not open.
- Parking at the south end is near the baseball fields at Reverchon Park Rec Center; at the north end, there’s a parking lot near Knox Street (see the Katy Trail website for detailed directions)
- Traffic, both bike and pedestrian, is two-way
- Trashcans and water fountains for people (and dogs) are handy
- Mile markers give both directions on either end of concrete strip in the ground
- I imagine it can feel crowded on the weekends, though it is quite wide
- Though I found some notice of past incidents online, I felt safe alone on the trail in the early morning (there are 911 markers in case of an emergency–I always carry my phone when I run)
- The trail is paved and suitable for all to use, though I’m not confident as to accessibility of ramps for mobility impaired users