Day Trips: Caprock Canyons State Park, Quitaque

Where the High Plains drop into the rolling hills and the buffalo play all day

Photos by Gerald McLeod

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.

1,308th in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 40312, South Austin, TX 78704.

Follow "Day Trips & Beyond," a weekly travel blog, at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Day Trips
Day Trips: The Grotto, San Antonio
Day Trips: The Grotto, San Antonio
Man-made cave part of “Art on the River”

Gerald E. McLeod, July 3, 2020

Day Trips: Port Isabel Lighthouse
Day Trips: Port Isabel Lighthouse
The lighthouse guided ships through the channel between Padre Island and the mainland

Gerald E. McLeod, June 26, 2020


Caprock Canyons State Park, Quitaque, Texas, Texas State Bison Herd

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle