“Whatever you do, avoid South Dallas.”
This was one of the first things I learned about the city, before I’d even moved there. “South Dallas” generally refers to a consortium of all the neighborhoods south of I-30, which are by and large populated by minorities.
For years I dutifully avoided taking a single step south of I-30… until 2016 when I accepted a teaching position inside the danger zone. For 3 years I spent 50 hours a week in the worst neighborhood of Dallas… but that’s a story for another day. From that point forward I lost some fear and began to explore the South hoods. One cool spot I found was Kiest Park.
The park is immense – over 250 acres – and has just about everything you could ever want. A 5-mile long paved jogging trail, wooded areas, open areas, flowering gardens, sports fields, playgrounds, and hiking trails. There is a surprisingly nice tennis complex where you can witness some athletic youngsters smacking balls at mind-boggling speeds. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Venus Williams emerged from here!
The land for Kiest Park and Oak Cliff Nature Preserve (which deserves a blog post of its own) was donated to the city in 1931 by Edwin John Kiest. Having spent his early days as a paperboy in Illinois, Edwin worked his way up and eventually purchased the Dallas Times Herald. He and his wife Elizabeth were instrumental in some of the most important and long-lasting institutions in Dallas, including the opera and art museum. When Elizabeth died, Edwin donated the park land in her memory.
Kiest is split into 2 parts; the smaller southern part is the conservation area that contains the hiking trails. It’s not a particularly large swath of land, and not particularly quiet or remote. But South Kiest is worth a visit just for the sight of old growth trees. This is home to some of the most impressive trees in Dallas, including a majestic bur oak with its own historic plaque. You can expect about 45 minutes of hiking and will probably have the whole place to yourself. The trail entrance is tucked away behind the tennis courts and many people don’t even know it’s there.
In the spring there are dedicated no-mow fields for wildflowers, from bluebonnets to poppies. Fragrant scents waft through the air and families flock to the area to take photos.
These trails are a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. DFW does not have enough park land for the amount of people living here, and secluded places are hard to come by. Some of the more popular trails in town are so busy that you may as well be in the middle of a shopping mall. That’s one reason why I continually find myself coming back to South Dallas.