Review: Caprock Canyon State Park is no day trip, the park is located in West Texas near….nowhere. It’s about two hours from Amarillo, or five hours from Dallas. If you are making the trek out to West Texas, it’s close to Palo Duro Canyon, so make sure to hit both trails. It’s hard to get to, but beautiful. The red rocks reminded me of Sedona, just a lot closer than going all the way to Arizona. Plus, buffalo roam free in the park (keep your distance) and there is a prairie dog village here as well. It is a spectacular park, like no other!
Distance: There are 90 miles of trails, including a 64 mile Trailway, which includes a tunnel, home to a colony of bats.
Area of The State: Southeast of Amarillo, near nowhere
Facilities: Restrooms, camping, playgrounds, etc
Suitable for: Hiking, Biking
Type of Trail: Natural trails
Shade: There isn’t much shade in West Texas, and it can get very warm. Bring water and plan ahead
Where to Park: There are multiple trail-heads in the park, check the map below
Official Website: Caprock Canyon State Park
Nearby Trails: Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Full disclosure, I’ve not been to this park in many years, so my memories are a bit hazy on the specifics. What I can remember though is how awesome this place was, with the red cliffs and the arid dry river-beds, matched with the surprise of seeing buffalo on the trail (who are not always willing to share that trail).
We had travelled to Amarillo by air, to explore Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyon. Palo Duro is near a small town with amenities (Canyon, TX), but Caprock is remote! There was a small town nearby, Quitake, but there wasn’t much there. If you do visit, I would plan on camping at the site, or making it a day trip and driving somewhere else for accommodations. There just wasn’t much out here. Our reservation at a nearby hotel left us feeling unsafe, so we returned to Canyon, only spending one day at this park.
But what a day! This truly was a gorgeous park. Many of the trails have elevation, and if you don’t have a head for heights, be aware that some of them are vertigo inducing! For our hike we took the Upper South Prong trail through a canyon, then around the other side of the canyon via the Upper North Prong Trail. Along the hike we ran into a few buffalo, including one who was laying directly in our path, and refused to move. We tried to get around it by wading through the cactus field on the side of the trail, but it decided to follow us until finally it got bored of this game, and wandered off. We ran into quite a few buffalo, as they roam free in the park. You just have to come out to Caprock Canyon State Park to have that kind of experience.
Water is critical at this park, even though it started in the 30s when we were there, it quickly warmed up and once you are out in the park itself, you can’t short-cut back to the vehicle. Bring plenty of water, we didn’t think we would need as much as we did, but were glad we had it as the day warmed.
In the park there is a prairie dog community as well, in fact it bridges both sides of the main road, so keep an eye out as you drive through that area, since they will cross the road. Same with the buffalo, we had to stop a few times to allow a group of buffalo to pass by.
We didn’t get a chance to explore a lot of the park, and someday I do want to return with camping gear to spend more time. Of special interest to me was the Trailway, which I was wishing I’d brought my mountain bike with me for the trip. The trailway is a 64 mile hike / bike trail, that the state park sits about halfway between both ends. Clarity Tunnel is south of the park, and is the home to a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. Make sure to be careful when going through the tunnel, to not disturb them, and don’t touch bats alive or dead as they can be rabies carriers!
I’ll leave this review with some photos the canyon, but these pictures can’t do justice to the rugged beauty of this park. The official site has some very impressive photos, and many other photographers better than me have photos taken at the park, that you can find on Google Images.
Just keep in mind, this place is remote. Your options are very limited, so bring what you need. If you are not camping at the park, know your hotel options are even more limited.
This buffalo wasn’t willing to let us get back to the trail
Where to go for a beer: Nowhere near by for a beer, so bring your own! Or go to Canyon, TX where there is an amazing taproom, the Imperial TapRoom! They also have really great food, you can’t lose going to there (although it is an hour and a half away!).