Oak Cliff, TX. Home of Stevie Ray Vaughan and
the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve trail, another jewel in the urban landscape
of Dallas. The trail offers a good singletrack loop through the hills
of Oak Cliff with the full loop running @ 7.75 miles long. While it
is not as easy to find as some other trails, with the trailhead sitting
immediately behind the parking lot to a large apartment complex, once
you are on the trail itself, the fact that you are in the middle of
neighborhoods and busy streets fades into the trees, hills and creek
crossings offered up by the landscape.
I applaud Paul "Shadow" Johns, the DORBA [trail designer] for the trail, for his work on the trail system. The trail is well marked with the loops called out by signage at the intersections. To run the long loop, keep to the higher numbers at the intersections. There are also trail sections called out along the loops with perfectly descriptive names such as "double back", "sidewinder", "Big Gear" and "whiplash." The trail itself winds through trees, over rocks and roots and in and out of creek gullies and some very cool North Shore style bridges and ramps. The love of riding shows in the attention to detail that has gone into creating and grooming this trail.
There are well marked cheater lines for the technical areas on the trail marked with either "expert" or "EZ/Novice" signs along the way so that a first time rider on the trail can prepare for what is coming up next. The most technical areas on the trail are the bombing descents into some of the creeks and gullies that mark the trail system. Be ready to get back over your rear tire when you approach these sections as they can be deceiving as you enter them. Also, one of the gullies has a near vertical wall on the exit with a mass of roots on the approach wall. Lift up that front wheel, hit the root dead center of the wall and throw your bike up the hill and you can clear this with only a little extra effort. Try to simply muscle up the lift and you'll either stall or, as one rider on the circuit with me, get stopped cold by that wall and have to do a bit of hike-a-bike to get up.
The last section of the trail is "Shadow's Way" and has one of the best of the many wooden additions to the trail. A nice climb up, bridge with a turn that hucks you back to the trail after the short diversion. It is on the right side of the trail and if you are not ready for it you will miss the approach. Which is a shame as it adds a wonderful touch to the trail and shows the care that DORBA has invested in this trail.
While out on the trail you'll see the standard fare of squirrels, cotton-tails and various reptiles. I didn't notice very much poison ivy on the trail, so that’s good. I also noticed a large funnel web spider web along the trail before getting to Shadow's Way. Not your Australian, deadly funnel web, but one of our native species. Still a nasty bite and definitely a bit north of their normal range, but the web was large enough to be seen from the trail at speed.
This trail is single-speed friendly if you can carry your momentum easily. If you are new to SS'ing, I'd recommend a geared bike, although I still can't see a reason to "need" a full squish bike on the trails in the area, and unless you are running a carbon frame full suspension bike, the weight will definitely be a detriment to you in the twisties on this trail. The only negative I noticed is the same I saw on Boulder trail...a bike with uncut handlebars will be clipping trees along the trail through much of the single track. But, if you're aware of this and can stick your lines well, you can avoid the majority of the trees and work on your body English to weave your way through the tight sections with ease.
There were 6 groups of people out when I hit the trail @ 8AM, and when I was leaving after the ride, not only was the parking spaces at the trailhead full, the street outside the trailhead had cars lined all the way down to the second entrance. Definitely not a secret to the Dallas faithful with a group of riders coming over from Arlington the morning I rode it. Enjoy your time on the OCNP trail and pass along your thanks to DORBA and Shadow for keeping the trail ready for the ride. Yet another great DORBA trail system, well maintained and well ridden.