Day Trips: Caprock Canyons State Park, Quitaque
Where the High Plains drop into the rolling hills and the buffalo play all day
Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway outside of Quitaque in the Texas Panhandle seems to catch fire as the first light of the sunrise hits the red canyon walls. The crimson sandstone escarpment looks like rugged palisades protecting some hidden fortress.
The park is on a transition zone where the flat grasslands of the High Plains drop into the wrinkled hills unfurling toward the Gulf Coast. The red cliffs are a result of oxidation of iron in the sediments at the edges of an ancient sea. Veins of white alabaster gypsum indicate periods when seawater evaporated and deposited the sparkling minerals.
Maybe not as dramatic as its neighbor, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Caprock Canyons is no less beautiful. The mixture of blue sky, green vegetation, and red cliffs in the wide canyon is stunning.
Despite its remoteness – about a 7-hour drive from Austin – the park is seeing an uptick in visitation. The Official Texas State Bison Herd has nearly free range of the park's 15,313 acres, which attracts a lot of visitors. In addition to trails in the park, there is a 64.25-mile former railroad right-of-way turned into a trail from South Plains to Estelline that passes through the bat cave at Clarity Tunnel.
Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway is one of the most beautiful and rugged state parks. The park has four campgrounds, a small lake for fishing and swimming, a nature center, and a prairie dog town.
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