Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway Texas

Caprock Canyons State Park is rugged and beautiful, located in the Panhandle of Texas. Coming to the park, you will see bison roam the plains, bats gathering in Clarity Tunnel, and you can discover 90 miles of trails.

Things to Do at Caprock Canyons State Park

There is plenty to do at the park where you can hike, ride horses or bikes, camp, geocache, or take a scenic drive. Lake Theo offers no-wake boating, fishing, and swimming for those who love the water. It is a perfect place to bring a group for a picnic outdoor.

Hiking and mountain-biking at Caprock Canyons State Park

There are almost 90 miles of amazing trails for hiking and biking adventures. The Trails range from easy, such as the Mesa Trail to the incredibly challenging Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail. Trails range from just over 1 mile to around 15 miles in length. We mean it when we say only experienced bikers should ride the more difficult trails. You can get access to the Trailway from the park or numerous trailheads along the way.

Horseback riding

There is horseback riding allowed on many of our trails. Only riders with experience should tackle the more challenging trails. These trails have cliffs and drop-offs, and steep climbs and descents that are not for inexperienced riders. Water is typically available for animals along park trails, but you need to plan to bring your own drinking water, as no water is available on the Trailway. Present proof of negative Coggins for each horse at park headquarters.

Camping at Caprock Canyons State Park

Campsites go from drive-up sites with electricity to hike-in primitive sites and everything in between. We even have equestrian campsites with corrals for those on horseback adventures.

Water sports

Enjoy swimming, fishing, and no-wake boating in the 120-surface-acre Lake Theo. Borrow a fishing pole at headquarters and try your luck! We don’t provide bait, but sometimes have worms for sale.

Communities Near Caprock Canyons State Park

While traveling to and from the park, there are several cities and towns close by where you can find a myriad of things to do. We suggest visiting Quitaque, Canyon, Amarillo, and Lubbock

Lakes in the area offer some great fishing, boating, and other watersports. Here are a few of our favorites:

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area (130 miles north of the park)
Greenbelt Reservoir
Mackenzie Reservoir (32 miles northwest)
White River Reservoir (90 miles south)
The Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument protects the site of prehistoric flint quarries.

Directions To Caprock Canyons State Park

The park is 3.5 miles north of State Highway 86 in Quitaque on FM 1065.

All roads to the park and in the park are all-weather roads with paved surfaces. Unpaved roads outside of Caprock Canyons can be very muddy and slippery after periods of excessive rainfall. We recommend not driving on those roads until they dry.

Park Address:

850 State Park Rd.
Quitaque, TX 79255
The Park HQ is located at:
Latitude: 34.410296
Longitude: -101.053264

Campsite Information

Campsites with Electricity (50 amp)

People per Site: 8 Number of Sites: 10
These sites are in the Honey Flat Area.
Picnic table
Fire ring
Water hookup
50 amp hookup
Shade shelter
Lantern post
Restrooms nearby

Campsites with Electricity (30 amp)

People per Site: 8 Number of Sites: 25
These sites are in the Honey Flat Area. A $300 monthly rate is available from November through February.
Picnic table
Fire ring
Water hookup
Restrooms nearby
30-amp electric
Shade shelter
Lantern post

Campsites with Water

People per Site: 8 Number of Sites: 9
These sites are in the Lake Theo area.
Picnic table
Fire ring
Water nearby
Shade shelter
Lantern post
Restrooms nearby

Primitive Campsites (Walk-in | Little Red)

People per Site: 8 Number of Sites: 10
Located in the Little Red Camping Area. Tent camping only. Walk-in 10-30 yards from the parking area. Bring your own water and carry out all trash. There are no showers.
Fire ring/grill
Covered picnic tables
Organic toilet

Primitive Campsites (Walk-in | South Prong)

People per Site: 8 Number of Sites: 30
Located in the South Prong Camping Area. Tent camping only. Walk-in 10-30 yards from the parking area. You must bring your own water and carry out all trash. There are no showers.
Fire ring/grill
Organic toilets

Primitive Campsites (Hike-in)

People per Site: 4 Number of Sites: 40
Located in the North Prong and South Prong Primitive Camping Areas. 16.3 miles of associated trails.
One-mile hike to the camping area
Bring drinking water
All trash must be carried out
Pets allowed on leash only
No ground fires allowed
Composting toilets nearby

Primitive Campsites (Hike-in | Along Trailway)

People per Site: 4
Primitive camping is available along the length of the Trailway.
Seven-mile minimum hike/bike
No potable water
Bring your own drinking water
No campfires allowed
Containerized fuel stoves allowed
All trash must be carried out
Chemical restrooms available

Overflow Campsites

People per Site: 8

Lake Theo Lodge

Sleeps: 9 Bedrooms: 2

The lodge is closed at least through December 2019 for renovations. The lodge has a view of the lake and is within 100 feet of it. No pets are allowed. You must provide your own firewood, eating /cooking utensils, and bed/bath linens.
A/C unit
Heater
Fireplace
Patio
Picnic table
Water
Electricity
No pets
Kitchen sink
Microwave
Refrigerator
Stove with oven
Coffee pot
Table and chairs
Bathroom Sink
Toilet
Shower
Bathtub
Fire ring with grill
Three full-size beds
One twin (top of bunk)

Group Sites

Pavilion (Lake Theo)

People per Site: 50

This is known as the Lake Theo Group Picnic Pavilion.
Picnic tables
Fire ring
Water nearby
Electricity
Restrooms nearby
Playground nearby
Wheelchair accessible

Pavilion (Visitor Center)

People per Site: 50

Near the Headquarters building.
Fireplace
Picnic tables
Water nearby
Electricity
Restrooms nearby
Wheelchair accessible

Pavilion (Equestrian Area)

People per Site: 100

Located in the equestrian area.

Picnic tables
Outdoor grill

Amphitheater

People per Site: 40

Horse Sites

Primitive Campsites (Equestrian)

People per Site: 8 Number of Sites: 12

All horses must have a negative Coggins test less than 12 months old. The maximum combination of people and horses is eight per site. These sites are in the Wild Horse Camping Area.

Picnic table
Fire ring/grill
The area has two 10’x 20′ horse corrals
Each corral holds one to two horses
Tents, trailers, & RVs are allowed
Water for horses only
No restrooms in this camp loop
Non-equestrian camping is allowed
Parking at sites
No electricity

Accessibility Information

The Lake Theo Pavilion The pavilions at the Visitors Center and Lake Theo are both considered wheelchair accessible from the parking area to the pavilion and its restrooms.

A fishing pier at the park is usable by wheelchairs but you must cross some hard-packed earth to get to it.

The park’s Amphitheater is also wheelchair accessible.

Keep in mind that nature can play havoc with accessible facilities outdoors. Call the park before you visit to ask about its accessible features. Call the reservation center to request an accessible campsite (1-512-389-8900).

Caprock Canyons Trailway Adventures

Hiker leaving Clarity Tunnel can explore the Caprock Canyons Trailway for day trips or even longer excursions. The trail is open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.

The Trailway stretches from the west, at South Plains on top of the Caprock Escarpment, to the east at Estelline in the Red River Valley. It spans across three counties (Floyd, Briscoe, and Hall), crosses 46 bridges, and passes through the Clarity Tunnel, one of the last active railroad tunnels in Texas.

Access the Trailway from the park, at various road crossings, and near towns. Pay entry fees at trailhead self-pay stations or at park headquarters.

Present proof of negative Coggins at headquarters before bringing a horse on the trail.

Exploring the Trailway

The Trailway is broken into shorter segments, ranging from 5 to 12 miles long (one way). Solid decking and side rails on trestles allow easy bridge crossing for all users.

Carry all water, equipment, and supplies you will need. No water is available on the Trailway.
Comfort stations are located at various points on the Trailway.

Caution: Sections of the Trailway are remote, and pass through rugged territory.
Please don’t travel alone.

Bring your cell phone for emergencies, but don’t rely on it, as cell service is limited.
Watch for falling rocks and rattlesnakes.

Clarity Tunnel

Clarity Tunnel is the summer residence of a large colony of Mexican free-tailed bats. Up to half a million bats spend their summers here.

The tunnel is 4.5 miles west of Monk’s Crossing (9-mile round trip) and 13 miles east of the South Plains parking lot.

The largest number of bats are here from April to October. Bats are sensitive to traffic, noise, light, and human presence.

Note: Take precautions when visiting the tunnel.

Never pick up a bat, as it may be sick.

Always wear long-sleeved outerwear and hats while passing through.

Camping

Stay overnight in the park or at primitive campsites along the Trailway.
Set up camp anywhere alongside the Trailway, but make sure you are within park boundaries.
The camping fee is $12 per site, per night.
A maximum of four people can camp at a site.
Pay at a self-pay station for one-night stays.
Pay at headquarters for multinight stays.
No campfires allowed.

The Nature of Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway

Powerful natural processes created the park’s steep and colorful canyons and bluffs.
The park sits along the Caprock Escarpment, a long, narrow rocky formation as high as 1,000 feet. The escarpment is a natural tran­sition between the flat, high plains of the Llano Estacado to the west and the lower Rolling Plains to the east.

Streams flowing east from the Llano Estacado descend to the lower plains through the Caprock Escarpment. There they join the Red, Brazos, and Colorado rivers.

Water making its way to the Little Red River has exposed geologic layers in the park down to the Permian age Quartermaster formation (formed about 280 to 250 million years ago). These layers are commonly referred to as “red beds,” thanks to the red tones of the shales, sandstones, siltstones, and mudstones. Each geologic age has different colorations, with shades of red, orange, and white.

The geology of the park greatly affects what lives here.
Most areas above the escarpment are on the High Plains and are short-grass prairie, which includes blue grama, buffalograss, and side oats grama.

The canyons in the western part of the park support several species of juniper and scrub oak.
The bot­tomland sites along the Little Red River and its tributaries sup­port tall and mid-level grasses. This includes Indiangrass, Canada wild rye, and little bluestem, as well as cottonwood trees, wild plum thickets, and hackberries.

The park blooms with wildflowers in the spring. A variety of yuccas and multi flowering cacti grow here.
Mule deer, white-tailed deer, coyotes, and bobcats are common around the park. A few prong­horn antelope also roam these canyonlands but are not seen nearly as often.

Small mammals such as grey fox, raccoon, and jackrabbits make their homes here, as well. Reptiles thrive in these canyons, consisting of fourteen species of lizards (including collared lizards) and over 30 species of snakes (including prairie rattlesnakes) reside here.

The area hosts some 175 species of birds, including roadrunners, red-tailed hawks and the rarely-seen golden eagle. Waterfowl use Lake Theo as a water source.

Caprock Canyons State Park is home to the Texas State Bison Herd. Bison roam over 10,000 acres in the park. Famed cattleman Charles Goodnight and his wife Mary Ann started the herd in 1878. It is one of the five foundation herds that saved this animal from extinction.

History of The Caprocks Canyon State Parks Region

Several Native American cultures made their homes in the scenic canyons here. This includes the Folsom culture more than 10,000 years ago.

Paleolithic hunters, associated with the Plainview culture, lived here from 9,000 to 8,000 years ago. Only slight traces of these people have been found.

Hunting and gathering cultures emerged as the climate became drier. They dined on smaller animals and plants. The Archaic period lasted from 8,000 to 2,000 years ago. Artifacts from this period include boiling pebbles for heating food, grinding stones for processing seeds, oval knives, and corner-notched or indented dart points.

Arrow points and pottery appeared during the Neo-Indian state. In the latter part of this period, 800 years ago until the Spaniards arrived, groups established permanent settlements and grew some crops. They traded Alibates flint for pottery, turquoise, and obsidian from the Puebloan groups to the west.

Spanish exploration

View of grasslands at sunsetSpanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado crossed these plains in 1541. Spanish colonies in New Mexico appeared around 1600. Trade between Plains Indians and New Mexicans gradually grew.

The Plains Apache, present when Coronado arrived, acquired horses and became good buffalo hunters. The Comanche arrived in the early 1700s, displacing the Apache. They dominated northwestern Texas until finally subdued in the 1870s.

Trade prospered during the Comanche reign. New Mexican buffalo hunters (ciboleros), and traders (Comancheros) visited often. Las Lenguas Creek, a few miles south of the park, was a major trade area. A site on Quitaque Creek has produced artifacts from what may have been a cibolero camp.

Cattle country

JA Ranch hands at dinner time angles arrived after 1874. Settlers organized counties and established ranches.
Famed cattleman Charles Goodnight moved cattle into Palo Duro Canyon in 1876. In 1882, he bought vast areas of land for John G. Adair. This land became the noted J. A. Ranch. The current parkland was part of the purchase.
The railroad extended into this area in 1887. By 1890, the town of Quitaque, population 30, was a regular stage stop.

More settlers arrived in the early 1900s seeking suitable farmland. Most of the broken country, however, remained ranch land.

A park is born

Most of the land that lies within the park passed through the hands of several owners after Adair. Theo Geisler purchased the land in 1936. He died on Aug. 15, 1969. The state purchased the land in 1975, and named the park’s Lake Theo after Geisler. Caprock Canyons State Park opened in 1982. It is 100 miles southeast of Amarillo in Briscoe County. The park has 15,313.6 acres, including the 1,217-acre Trailway.

More Texas State Parks

You can check out additional Texas State Parks by clicking on the list of parks below, or by going to the Texas State Parks home section. To find more state parks in the United States, visit our home page at America’s State Parks.