Warm, but enjoyable
[View Log Page]
Distance: 6.30 Miles
I hiked the Upper Canyon trail on a warm, muggy day in May of 2009. It’s a nice area and an enjoyable hike, but by that time of year, it’s starting to get warm, so begin the hike early. The views from Haynes Ridge are great and Fern Cave is also interesting, so bring a camera with you. I saw quite a few lizards, but no other wildlife. The only other people I saw were a couple of mountain bikers shortly before I returned to the parking lot. My timing turned out to be pretty good, because the area was hit with a huge thunder storm an hour or less after I finished. By that time, I was ordering pizza and a cold drink in a small town about 40 miles (or so) west of the park. It was a good hike, but probably better in the cooler months when heat and storms aren’t a concern.
Trails Galore! At Caprock Canyons
[View Log Page]
Distance: 8.00 Miles
Duration: 4 hours
If you like hiking, you'll find plenty of trail in and around the Caprock Canyons State Park. There are a couple of scenic trails within the park itself as well as a LOT of lengthy trails along the Trailway, including The Plains Junction Trail (10 mi), Grundy Canyon Trail (12 mi), Oxbow Trail (10 mi), Kent Creek Trail (10 mi), Los Lingos Trail (5 mi) and Quitaque Canyon Trail (17 mi).
I only hiked within the State Park, not along the Trailway.
I camped at the South Prong Tent Camping Area, so my hike departed at the parking lot. This trail provided breathtaking vistas of cliffs and canyons, so remember to bring your camera! The Upper Canyon Trail was a fairly easy hike until you reach a section where you have to ascend an extremely steep and rugged cliff that takes you from 2,500 ft in elevation to 3,100 ft. It is not an easy climb, so I would not recommend it for elderly or people in below average health. I had just finished a 10 mile hike the day before in Copper Breaks State park so my legs were still aching, which made this ascent more difficult than usual. Once you get to the top, you are afforded some beautiful views, making the ascent worthwhile. From the top, you can continue along the crest on the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail (2 mi) or to descend along Upper Canyon Trail towards Fern Cave. The cave sounded interesting, so this is the route I took. The cave proved to be an interesting site with large boulders and lots of moisture and ferns. At this point, however, I found the trail to be poorly marked and I got off trail several times once I left the cave. It wasn't a big problem, however, because at this point in the hike you are essentially hiking along the bottom of the canyon adjacent to a small winding stream. You can't really get lost since mountains surround both sides of you.
Once I got out of the canyon, I hiked back towards the North Prong Primitive Camping Area. There were several trail marker signs indicating trails like D1, C2, etc., but I was a little frustrated because these trail numbers do NOT appear on the provided trail map. Consequently, it would be easy for a hiker to take the wrong trail if he did not have a compass or good orienteering skills. Luckily, I took the right trail (Canyon Loop Trail) back to the parking lot and then along the paved road back to the South Prong Camping Area parking lot.
As I mentioned before, I found this hike to be challenging, but very rewarding in terms of scenery. Be sure to take plenty of liquids with you and allow enough time for a slower than usual pace.
There are several other trails in the park, such as Eagle Point Trail, the Lower Canyon Trail, Mesa Trail, and Canyon Rim Trail, but I did not hike these trails on this trip. This is a beautiful state park, so this provides me an excuse to go back! :-)
Haynes Ridge and a Rattlesnake!
[View Log Page]
Distance: 3.00 Miles
Duration: 2 hours, 30 minutes
I hiked this on a hot July morning. Knowing I didn't have time for the whole loop hike, I decided to try to get to Fern Cave by way of Haynes Ridge. Big mistake!
After the approximately 400 foot climb to the top of Haynes Ridge, I started out toward Fern Cave. The views from the top of the ridge were beautiful in all directions, and I got some wonderful panoramic photos of both the North and South Prong Canyons.
About a mile toward Fern Cave, I happened to look down... and I was about a foot and a half from stepping on a 4 foot long rattlesnake sunning itself on the trail. I backed off and pulled out my camera and attached the telephoto. The snake never became alarmed. It just slithered off the trail, curled up and watched me to see if I posed a threat. I got some amazing closeups of it with the telephoto lens.
After it disappeared when I turned my back to change lenses, I realized just what a bonehead move I had pulled to hike in shorts. All I had thought about was the heat.... not about any slithery critters I might encounter. I aborted my attempt for Fern Cave as it was getting late and my encounter with the snake had spooked me, and I hiked back down to the parking lot.
I think I was the only person in the park that day. The only other car I saw was the Park Ranger, and even the Visitor's Center was closed when I went by at lunch!
Don't use Haynes Ridge trail to view this "cave"!!
[View Log Page]
Distance: 6.50 Miles
Duration: 3 hours, 30 minutes
N 34 27.811
W 101 06.905
John Haynes Ridge is not a trail, but a mountain goat obstacle course. Use the Northern route along North Prong Liittle Red River to Fern Cave and back. It is MUCH prettier and less difficult.
hard hike - striking vistas of caprock canyon
[View Log Page]
Distance: 6.00 Miles
Duration: 4 hours, 30 minutes
This trail is almost a loop. We were a large enough group hiking it that we left some cars at the starting point and some at the ending point, but it would only have been another mile or so hiking back to the starting point if we hadn't done so.
Who would have thought to find a place like Caprock (or nearby Palo Duro) in the middle of the flat Texas panhandle? This hike takes you through some of the most beautiful and striking canyon lands in Texas. Don't forget your camera on this hike and be prepared to take hundreds of photos, most of which will have a hard time doing justice to the stunning, rocky countryside.
For that matter, wear your best hiking boots with both outer socks and sock liners. And don't forget plenty of water and trail mix to keep you hydrated and energetic. This is one of the most difficult hikes you are likely to do in Texas, so don't try it without being fully prepared. The signs saying "No Water? Turn Back" were our first warning that this was going to be difficult, but we soon found out for ourselves.
The first half of our hike was on the southwest portion of the trail, down in the canyon in brushy but pretty countryside with lots of little depressions worn by the creek. Be sure to save your energy for the very difficult 600-foot ascent up to the top of the canyon. We sat up at the top, enjoyed the stunning view, and had a well-earned lunch. Then we went all the way back down to the canyon bottom to see the Fern Cave -- pretty, but the canyon is a hard act to follow.
Our only mistake of the hike was not climbing back up to the top of the canyon afterwards and then taking the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail along the canyon rim back to civilization. The top of the canyon is a lot cooler and windier than the bottom, so by the time we had finished hiking the northeast portion of the trail, we were all tired, hot, and running out of water, and the country in this portion of the trail gets a little repetitive.
But overall, despite the difficulty, this hike is well worth it, and I recommend it to anyone in good enough shape to hike it.