White Rock Lake is the largest lake in Dallas, Texas, and it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular outdoor places you’ll find in the city. There are so many fun things to do at White Rock Lake, and I hope to cover the best of them here!
With lots of great neighborhoods nearby like Lakewood, Forest Hills, and Eastwood Hills, this “Jewel of Dallas” is a fantastic place for residents and tourists alike to unwind and explore the outdoors. Even those from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area are regulars here!
This 1,015-acre lake is located about 5 miles northeast of Downtown Dallas. With so many acres under its belt, it’s no wonder this lake is a prime spot for enjoying fresh air and watching the beauty of a sunset, among other pleasant activities.
Best of all, you can do most of them for free!
In this article, I’ll list some of my favorite things to do around White Rock Lake for relaxation and fun. Take it from a local like me – this spot is a must-visit if you ever find yourself in East Dallas!
A Brief History of White Rock Lake
If you’re not aware, White Rock Lake is a man-made lake. In 2011, the lake celebrated its centennial anniversary. It’s almost hard to believe this beautiful lake is over 100 years old!
Did you know that White Rock Lake used to be Dallas’ water source? However, in 1929, land ownership transferred to the Park and Recreation Department. Together with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), many improvements were made around White Rock Lake. These improvements continued even after the CCC closed.
We now get to experience the best of White Rock to its fullest, thanks to all of these improvement efforts!
Logistics of Visiting White Rock Lake
White Rock Lake is pretty much synonymous with White Rock Lake Park.
This giant park surrounds the entire lake, making it a great place to stroll around and enjoy the views. (Fun fact: it’s so big that it’s twice the size of famous Central Park in New York!)
There are multiple entrances, parks, and areas around White Rock Lake. Depending on where you’re coming from or which destination you want to visit, you’ll want to access it at different points. The easiest way to figure out which entrance to use is to plug your destination into Google Maps or Apple Maps, and they’ll direct you to where you need to go!
So, once you’re there, how’s parking?
Well, as you might expect, with different entrances, there are also several different places to park. Parking lots can get crowded on weekends, but other than that, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a spot.
There are restrooms throughout the area, but don’t expect anything fancy.
And entrance to White Rock Lake is free (unless there are special events). But you can show your love of the lake by supporting and making a donation over at White Rock Lake Conservancy!
Before we dive into the best things to do at White Rock Lake, here are some ground rules at the lake:
The lake is big, but water activities like jet skiing and motorboating are prohibited. Additionally, swimming is not allowed (though it used to be!).
What to Bring to White Rock Lake
Here’s a list you can look at for recommendations of things to bring with you to White Rock Lake to enjoy it to its fullest!
- Sports equipment
- Lounge chairs
- Bug spray
- Food/ snacks/ picnic
- Your pet if you have one
Now that we’ve covered what to bring, let’s get into the best things to do at White Rock Lake!
Best Things to Do at White Rock Lake to Stay Active
Getting active is by far the most popular thing to do at White Rock Lake! Here are some popular activities to do at White Rock Lake:
Jogging and Biking
One of the best things to do at White Rock Lake is to utilize its 9.3-mile jogging/biking trail that is open to both cyclists and pedestrians. The White Rock Lake Trail has miles of trails that loop around the entire lake, making it a favorite pathway for bikers/cyclists, walkers, runners, and casual strollers.
You can enjoy scenic views while riding your bicycle around the lake on the 9.33-mile trail. The trail is mostly flat, but there are some hills near the spillway and the Mockingbird Lane bridge. Be sure to stay alert and courteous to other trail users, especially on weekends when it can get crowded.
If you prefer to explore the lake on foot, you can choose from various trails that range from easy to moderate in difficulty. You can hike along the shoreline, through the woods, or around the nearby park. You’ll see a variety of wildlife, such as birds, squirrels, rabbits, and turtles. You can also bring your dog along, as long as you keep it on a leash.
You’ll find a lot of recreational activities going on at White Rock Lake. There are baseball and soccer fields around, which are great things to do at White Rock Lake for sports enthusiasts.
White Rock Lake is a popular kayaking spot. White Rock Paddle Co. used to offer kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals; unfortunately, they closed down in 2022. You’ll still find some rental spots around, however!
So if you want to get on the water, you can rent a kayak and paddle around the peaceful waters of the lake. You’ll get a different perspective of the lake and its surroundings and you might spot some aquatic animals or birds. I’ve always thought that kayaking is a great way to exercise and have fun at the same time!
Have your own boat? Join the White Rock Boat Club to meet and socialize with like-minded individuals! Just remember that motorboats are not allowed on the lake.
In the mood for fishing from the piers? The lake is stocked with bass, catfish, crappie, and sunfish making it a great place to catch Channel catfish, largemouth bass, and white crappie. Anglers may also use their electric trolling motors for this purpose.
Just keep in mind that you’ll need a valid Texas fishing license and follow the state regulations. You can fish from the shore or from one of the piers around the lake.
If you’re looking for a way to relax and rejuvenate your body and mind, you can join a yoga class on the lake shore. Though I haven’t done a yoga class here yet, I do know that there are several yoga studios that offer classes at the lake for different levels and styles of yoga. You can check their websites or social media pages for schedules and prices!
You can also do bird watching for different types of birds here.
The lake is home to more than 200 species of birds, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. You can observe them from various locations around the lake, such as the Audubon Society bird-watching area or the wetland. You’ll see birds like egrets, herons, pelicans, ducks, geese, hawks, owls, and more. Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera!
Photography at White Rock Lake
Speaking of cameras, taking photos here is another great thing to do at White Rock Lake. I mean, with the lake’s beauty, you can see why it’s a popular photography spot all year round. Whether you want to capture a Dallas sunset or get some family photos, this is the perfect spot.
My favorite time of year to photograph it is around May and June when there are fluffy white fields of flowers around the lake! They are perfect for photos, so be sure to bring your camera! (You can see what’s in my camera bag here!)
Whether you’re a beginner photographer or a pro, White Rock Lake is a great place to capture beautiful scenery and wildlife. You’ll find plenty of photo opportunities around the lake, such as the waterfall at the spillway, the Dallas skyline in the background, the colorful flowers at the Dallas Arboretum, or the sunset over the water.
Speaking of the waterfall, one of the most beautiful spots at White Rock Lake is the waterfall at the spillway. The spillway is where excess water from the lake flows into White Rock Creek. The waterfall is created by a series of steps that create a cascading effect. It’s especially impressive after heavy rainfalls when it becomes more powerful and loud. You can hike to the spillway from either side of the lake and enjoy the view of the waterfall.
Parks & Pavilions at White Rock Lake
Breaking bread with friends and family is another great thing to do at White Rock Lake!
If you want to host special events, there are pavilions and other facilities you can register and rent to use as a venue. Winfrey Point is popular for weddings and other special occasions!
For a more casual hang, find one of the picnic areas around the lake. Grab a picnic table and set up your stuff! Nothing beats a picnic by the lake on a sunny day. You can bring your own food and drinks, or buy some snacks from nearby spots around the lake (I’ll cover a bit more on that later in this article!).
There are plenty of picnic tables and benches available, or you can spread a blanket on the grass. You can also use one of the grills or fire pits if you want to cook something hot.
And definitely bring the kids! You’ll find playgrounds spread out in various spots, especially on the west side of the lake. Our favorite is the park at the corner of Buckner and Lake Highlands.
The Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden
While you’re around the lake, you should definitely check out the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden (even in the winter!). It actually backs up to the lake, but you’ll need to use one of its usual entrances on Garland Road (there’s no access from the lake’s walking paths).
It’s one of the top botanical gardens – not just in Dallas but in all of Texas – with its stunning collection of various flowers and greenery. And with its romantic vibes, it’s no wonder it’s a popular venue for garden weddings! It’s also one of my favorite Dallas date ideas!
It’s definitely an iconic Dallas spot to visit (and snap a picture or two for the ‘gram!).
The Bath House Cultural Center
Another interesting thing to do at White Rock Lake is to visit the Bath House Cultural Center.
The history of the Center is pretty fascinating. In 1930, the center was created as a place where people could change, rent swimsuits, etc., when going for a dip in the lake.
Dallas banned swimming in the lake in 1953, and the Bath House stayed vacant for over 20 years. It was then transformed into a cultural center in 1981.
Now, it is used for multiple purposes- as a museum (the White Rock Lake Museum), a gallery, and a theater. It houses artwork (paintings, poetry, and photography – all inspired by the beautiful lake!) and pieces of history.
Go and see it for yourself! It’s located off of Buckner at 521 E. Lawther Drive.
White Rock Lake Dog Park
If you have a dog, they will love the White Rock Lake Dog Park! It’s a large, 3-acre dog park right next to the lake.
It has sections for big and small breeds, so don’t worry if you’ve got an extra large or extra small dog!
Fountains, covered areas, and washing areas add extra perks to the dog park.
Hypnotic Donuts and Jimmy’s Food Store
Want a morning break from all the fun lake activities? Head on over to Hypnotic Donuts for delicious donuts and chicken biscuits. They’re open from Wednesday to Sunday mornings and closed on Monday and Tuesday. Try their Sin’namon Roll – it’s simply scrumptious!
Meanwhile, for fantastic imported goods and Italian deli, Jimmy’s Food Store is a great place to head to. Shop around for authentic Italian wines or even join their wine tastings and/or wine dinners! It’s definitely a one-stop-shop for all things Italian!
I hope you can see just how amazing this lake is!
If you’re looking for a fun and relaxing way to spend a day in Dallas, TX, you can’t go wrong with visiting White Rock Lake. This beautiful lake is surrounded by a park that offers a variety of activities for all ages and interests.
These are just some of the best things to do at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX. There are many more activities and attractions that you can discover and enjoy at this wonderful park. Whether you’re looking for adventure, nature, culture, or relaxation, you’ll find it at White Rock Lake. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your gear and head to the lake!
It’s such a perfect place to get out of the city and is so deserving to be called a gem of Dallas. From sports to flowers to relaxing to food, you’ll find so much here!
What’s your favorite thing to do in this area? Let me know in the comments below!
Here are some more articles you might be interested in if you’re in Dallas!
- The Most Instagrammable Places in Dallas
- 6 Dallas Parks that Feel Out of this World
- Turtle Creek Parks: Hidden Gems in Dallas
- Best Dallas Date Ideas