Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway
Home to the Official Bison Herd of the State of Texas!
In September 2011, 80 descendants of the great southern plains bison herd were released to roam 700 acres of grasslands in the park. From a safe distance, visitors can view these indigenous animals in their native habitat.
History was made on Aug. 19, 2014 at Caprock Canyons State Park as cow #120 took the first steps to lead the Texas State Bison Herd into their new range within the park. The herd now has over 10,000 acres to roam. This legendary bison herd was started by famed cattleman Charles Goodnight and his wife Mary Ann in 1878. It is one of the five foundation herds credited with saving this magnificent animal from extinction.
- Texas State Bison Herd (PDF)
- Saving the Southern Plains Bison at Caprock Canyon State Park video
- Running with the Bison at Caprock Canyons video
- More about the bison and their new habitat in the November 2011 Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine article "Home on the Range."
Things to Do
The park offers day-use and camping facilities; hiking; wildlife watching; horseback riding; mountain-biking; boating on a no-wake lake (120 surface acres, 30 feet when full); fishing; lake swimming; a scenic drive; bat viewing and other guided tours (contact the park for reservations); and seasonal concessions offering horse rentals. Almost 90 miles of multiuse trails range from the very difficult in rugged terrain to trails with less than 3 percent grade. About 25 miles of the trails include cliffs and drop-offs, with steep climbs and descents that are recommended only for the experienced equestrian and mountain bike riders.
There are 13 trails in all (some still under construction), including six along the Trailway, which are each approximately 10 miles long with parking lots at each trailhead.
Water is usually available for animals along the trails, and some potable water is available at selected sites; but it is highly recommended that personal water is carried for each adventurer. The development of the trails change on a daily basis.
- More information on the Panhandle Plains, including fun activities and teacher /parent resources, from our "Outdoor Kids" pages.
- Swimming Safety Tips
The park loans out fishing poles, no bait is provided but live worms are for sale, when available.
The park offers a multitude of educational and interpretive programs including interior exhibits at the park’s visitor center, new exterior interpretive wayside signs at the bison overlook adjacent to the visitor center, and exhibits at the park’s outdoor Interpretive Pavilion.
New interior exhibits at the visitor center include four different "zones," each with a different content focus: geology of the canyonlands, the North American bison, the ecology of the canyonlands, and the story of the Trailway.
The exterior interpretive waysides at the bison overlook interpret the near-extermination of the North American bison during the 1800s, Charles Goodnight’s efforts to protect the animals, and the story of the Texas State Bison Herd at Caprock Canyons. The new interpretive exhibits at the Interpretive Pavilion tell the human story of the canyonlands, revealing the lifeways of various cultural groups.
You can hike, bike, horseback ride, or travel down the Trailway on a ranger-guided tour to the historic Clarity Tunnel, where close to a half-million Mexican free-tailed bats reside during the summer. Learn about the history of the scenic Trailway, see one of the last remaining railroad tunnels in Texas, and view the nightly bat emergence flights at one of the weekly park tours. Visit the Events page, or contact the park for more information and tour reservations.
When visiting Caprock Canyons State Park, be sure to check out the recently completed audio driving guide to the park. It's like having a tour guide on your own schedule and it's free! The audio guide is available for check-out at the park headquarters, on tape or CD ($5 deposit).
Be sure and check the calendar for upcoming activities like guided hikes.
- Interpretive Guide to Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway (PDF 1.3 MB)
- Ask about the Junior Ranger Explorer Packs available for free checkout at the park!
Nearby points of interest are the cities of Amarillo and Lubbock, the two major population centers on the Southern High Plains, and each is about a two-hour drive from the park. The city of Canyon is 82 miles northwest and is the home of Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, located on the campus of West Texas State University. The museum has numerous exhibits that pertain to both history and prehistory of this area. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is 93 miles to the northwest and is noted for its scenic beauty and the outdoor musical drama "TEXAS," which is performed each evening except Sunday from mid-June through late August. Lake Meredith, the largest impoundment in the Panhandle, is located on the Canadian River about 130 miles north of the park (Lake Meredith National Recreation Area). On the southeast side of this lake Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument commemorates and protects the site of prehistoric flint quarries. Other lakes providing opportunities for fishing, boating and water sports are Green Belt Dam Reservoir northwest of Clarendon, Mackenzie Reservoir in Tule Canyon 32 miles to the northwest, and White River Lake 90 miles south of the park. For more information on the city of Quitaque, go to the Quitaque Chamber of Commerce website.