Northshore’s natural beauty and postcard-ready lake views offer users a chance to escape the concrete jungle
Pristine wilderness, abundant wildlife, and expansive lake views delight hikers and mountain bikers as they pivot, brake, turn, balance, and strain to negotiate the 21+ twisting miles of Northshore Trail. Pausing at a rocky bluff overlooking Lake Grapevine’s vastness — exhilarated and breathing deeply — the wonders of Northshore Trail sink in. “It’s freedom,” said McKinney resident and mountain-biking aficionado Jeffrey Denmon, “freedom from the phone, work, problems. It’s the closet thing we have to feeling like a kid again.”
Denmon first fell in love with Northshore during the pandemic. Despite the 45-minute drive between Flower Mound and McKinney, Denmon rides Northshore at least once a week in the summer and as many as three times per week during the rest of the year. “Northshore is, simply put, the very best trail in the Metroplex,” he insisted. “The diversity in trees, terrain and level of difficulty in sections are my favorite part — bamboo forests, cliff drops, wall climbs, moon rock sections, roots, and parts that are so secluded and mossy you would think you are in Ireland.”
The pandemic also spurred writer Kelly Dearmore to pursue mountain biking. Northshore won his heart as well. “It’s just so much darn fun to ride,” he wrote in a Texas Monthly piece in October 2022 entitled The Best Mountain Bike Trail in North Texas Is in . . . the Suburbs (click here for a PDF). “Northshore Trail’s length, challenging terrain (the trail is considered intermediate, and even difficult in some sections), central location smack in between Dallas’s and Fort Worth’s proper limits, and mix of natural beauty with postcard-ready lake views, is simply too enticing for many to pass up.” It also doesn’t hurt that “only a few blocks away from the trail’s southeastern trailhead in [Lakeside], cold beer and solid Tex-Mex for après-bike festivities are waiting.” Along with plenty of other options.
“I fell in love with Northshore in 2009,” explained Flower Mound trail runner, Kathy Smith. “I quickly determined that I wanted to live nearby so I could run to the trail from my house.” Not long after moving near the trail, she set her sights on becoming a member of the Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association (DORBA) work crew that maintains Northshore (see note at story’s end for more info on DORBA). No matter that Smith’s not a mountain biker. Or that the all-volunteer group was comprised of only males. Smith became the first female and the first trail runner on the DORBA work crew in 2016.
These days, she fulfills an important responsibility for DORBA. After a rain, Smith scouts the trail to determine whether to open it to the public. (When riders and hikers hit a wet, muddy trail, the tracks dry into dangerous ruts.) As one of the regions most popular trails, Smith has hundreds of trail-goers from across the area hanging on her “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” (The open/closed status of Northshore Trail can be found here.)
“Arguably Northshore Trail’s greatest natural wonder … is just how quickly it dries out,” asserted Dearmore in his Texas Monthly story, “especially when compared to the dozens of other neighboring bike trails.” Part of the secret is nature: the soil (a combination of sand and clay) drains well and the hilly topography — the very same atypical topography that makes Northshore so attractive — takes much of the moisture into the lake.
But nurture may play just as important a role as nature. DORBA work crew members work on drainage constantly, and not just after a rain. “We proactively attack areas that may create problems when it rains,” said Simon Hodgson, Northshore trail steward. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. They also trim the spring growth, prune those pesky limbs (called “face slappers”), and clear downed trees that block the trail. And much more.
The US Corps of Engineers has designated all of the acreage in which the trail sits as “environmentally sensitive.” That means that no one can prune, cut, or remove vegetation (e.g., individuals may not cut their own paths). The one exception: Members of DORBA’s work crew. “As long as we’re not changing the trail,” Hodgson explained, “we have the green light to do as we see fit.”
USACE’s strict rules preserve the pristine flora and fauna. On AllTrails, trail-goers express their appreciation for the trail’s beauty and offer meaningful advice. “The prettiest hike I’ve had so far in the DFW area,” wrote David McAllister in a four-star review on April 8, 2023. “Lots of beautiful meadows to look at. If you go on the weekends, you will have to frequently dodge mountain bikers who use the trail. Don’t wear headphones.”
“We recommend people pay attention to the emergency markers along the trail in case they need to direct help to an access point, stay hydrated, and operate on the trails within your skill and comfort level.”
— Brandon Barth, deputy chief and
emergency mgt. coordinator,
Flower Mound Fire Department
emergency mgt. coordinator,
Flower Mound Fire Department
“Lots of bikers but 99 percent were super courteous,” stated PK in a five-star review on May 27. “Poison ivy was out in full force. No snakes, but plenty of squirrels, birds, rabbits, and the occasional deer. Most of the trail is shaded. Wild blackberries on the trail heading back. The trail is marked well and maintained. There was only one place to refill water—I think it was at the end of the last loop heading back.”
More good advice came from mountain biker Luis Reyes in his five-star review on June 3: “Depending on the distance you’re trying to accomplish make sure you bring plenty of fluids and electrolytes. Recovery gear is also a good idea. It would be a shame if you had to walk your bike back because of a flat tire. Awesome trail, sick features and a very humbling experience. Gotta love Northshore. Can’t complain.”
For all the fun that can be had on the trail, difficult sections might sneak up on first-time trail-goers (especially mountain bikers). “Thanks to my penchant for trying to run before I learn to walk,” admitted Kelly Dearmore in his piece for Texas Monthly, “early days on the bike included crashes on the trail that resulted in an emergency room visit, stitches, and X-rays.” While most of the “technical” (i.e., difficult) parts of the trail can be found on the western loops (6 and 7), several challenges do exist elsewhere. “The Pit” on Loop 4 (close to Lakeside), for example, catches many by surprise.
“We respond to people that are overheated, lost (especially after the sun goes down), cardiac events,” said Brandon Barth, deputy chief and emergency management coordinator for the Flower Mound Fire Department, “but mostly it’s traumatic injuries (broken bones, head injuries, lacerations, etc.) from bicycle accidents or falling while hiking.”
The Northshore Trail poses some difficulties, Barth added, “because you have to find someone who doesn’t always know where they are, traverse varying terrain and vegetation. And sometimes, to remove the patient, requires a low-angle rescue (I.e., using ropes and haul systems to remove a victim up an incline).” Naturally, the Fire Department can help people more quickly if they know where to find them.
“We recommend people pay attention to the emergency markers (red pylons with a red cross and number at the top) along the trail in case they need to direct help to an access point, stay hydrated, and operate on the trails within your skill and comfort level.” Since 2020, the Fire Department has received 50 calls for incidents on the trail.
“I love the trail and will do anything I can to maintain its beauty,” explained Kathy Smith. “I felt completely blessed when the trail steward (Vic Dean was steward at the time) let me come on board so I could help and give back.”
As one of the many crew members who carry trash out after nearly every trail visit, she has advice for visitors to Northshore Trail. “Remember, we are visitors of this trail and the surrounding park. Let’s respect nature and its inhabitants as this is their home. Do not make shortcut trails as that disturbs the vegetation and the natural habitat. A good rule is to leave no trace. Leave nothing but your footprints.”
So everyone can feel like a kid again.
NOTE: Dallas Off-Road Bicycle Association (DORBA) serves as the primary advocate for premier off-road biking experiences in North Texas. With over 26 active trails throughout the region, including the renowned Northshore Trail, DORBA seeks to provide unparalleled outdoor adventures for all outdoor enthusiasts.