In addition to stand-by favorites like mountain biking, swimming, and trekking through rugged terrain, Caprock Canyons State Park is home to the largest herd of bison in the entire state. Even for those who never before thought, “You know what this park could use? More bison!,” watching the Texas State Bison Herd freely roam the grasslands adds a new dimension to a day excursion or weekend camping trip.
Located just south of the Texas panhandle in the Southern High Plains, Caprock Canyons is about 100 miles from both Lubbock and Amarillo. Hiking and camping are most popular in the spring and fall, as the intense summer heat is magnified in the rocky canyon terrain. Campsites fill up quickly, particularly during the fall and on holiday weekends, so call well in advance of any overnight trips to reserve space during peak times.
Caprock Canyons has a campsite for every type of adventurer. Primitive camping includes 40 sites along the trailway, 50 backpack-in sites, and 20 sites available to both equestrian trail riders and hikers. Additionally, there are multiple areas featuring walk-in campsites, some with water and electrical access and others without, available by reservation and then on a first-come, first-served basis. The park is both dog and horse-friendly, with campsites specifically equipped with water and corrals for horses.
Over 90 miles of trails wind through the park’s canyon terrain. With multi-use trails, hikers should be on the lookout for bikers and horseback riders. Trails vary in difficulty and elevation change, with an average route off of the main Trailway running 10 miles in total length. Expect to see wildlife while hiking, particularly the famed bison, prairie dogs, and bats in the evening.
The trails at Caprock Canyons are rugged, ranging in difficulty from moderate to experienced bikers only, with steep cliffs and elevation changes built into a quarter of the available trails. Bikers are welcome to bring their own gear, or bikes and helmets can be rented for daily use from the park. Caprock offers access to 13 different trails, but check at the entrance to see which trails are currently open for use and which are under construction.
Paddling enthusiasts can take advantage of the wake-free Lake Theo at Caprock Canyons, which covers more than 120 acres and is over 30 feet deep. Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboats are welcome, with equipment rentals available seasonally.
All of Lake Theo is open to swimmers, its no-wake policy making it a safe environment for both open-water swimmers and families cooling off on the shore. All swimming and water activities are at the visitor’s own risk, so be mindful of ability levels and surroundings while enjoying the water.
Know Before You Go
Bring plenty of water (the park recommends a gallon per person per trek). While drinkable water is available on a few select trails and water for animals is prevalent, prepare for higher temperatures and quicker dehydration when hiking through the canyons.
Multi-use trails mean horses, downhill mountain bikers and backpackers can potentially converge on a trail. Be mindful of potential collisions, particularly where trails intersect.
For families planning to bring small children, be aware that there is only limited access to plumbed restrooms facilities. Plan accordingly for bathroom breaks, diaper changes, etc. when heading onto the trails.
Remember that you may not ever feed or touch the bison (or any of the other wildlife).