Texas Red Rock
This is delightful country, a real surprise to discover up in this flat, rolling cattle land. As you get nearer and nearer, it is hard to believe you are about to enter an area worth the drive, but you very much are. Caprock canyons is worth the extra effort. The park has developed a variety of linked trails, none of which yet appear on the Topo maps. Additionally, there are washes to hike that add to the established trails.
The Upper Canyon Loop is the roughest and most demanding of these trails, following one drainage up to it's head, then crossing the ridge and dropping down into another drainage. The hike begins from the tent campsites located at the very end of the park road up South Prong Wash. From there the trail meanders up drainage, finally getting to a much rougher, very steep climb up and out of the drainage onto Haynes Ridge at 2.25 miles. There is an old roadbed running the length of the Ridge with a dramatic overview point on the far east end. This 2 mile long Overlook trail creates a looping option; it is possible to hike down and off the ridge on the far east end, reconnecting with the Canyon Loop trail near it's end.
If you do not take the Haynes Ridge trail option, the Upper Canyon trail will now descend steeply and roughly into the next drainage, winding around to meet the Lower Canyon Trail and the Canyon Loop trail at the 5 mile point. You may either return by the route you came out, or continue on the Canyon Loop trail for another 1.5 miles connecting with the South Prong road, hiking it 1.5 miles back to the trailhead... or, head up the east end of Haynes Ridge to connect with that trail for the reconnection to the Upper Canyon Trail.
Get an early start and expect to encounter numerous deer. The colors and terrain create such a dramatic contrast to the surrounding countryside that it is impossible not to be impressed with this exceptional sandstone canyon area.
There are pit toilets at the Trailhead, and full service accomodations back in the park proper. There is a nice, small lake. The park does require an entry and a camping fee. There are also two primitive campsite locations adjacent to the Upper Canyon Trail.
Noted from the Park Service Brochure: The escarpment's scenic canyons were home for Indians of several cultures, including the Folsom culture of more than 10,000 years ago. A decrease or disappearance of some species, from Folsom times to present, indicates a gradual drying and perhaps warming of the climate. Later paleolithic hunters, associated with the Plainview culture, also occupied the area from 8000-9,000 years ago. Only slight traces of these people have been found at Caprock Canyons. As the climate became increasingly drier, the period of hunting and gathering cultures began. Smaller animals, as well as plant materials, made up the diet of the people. 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. The Neo-Indian state was characterized by the appearance of arrow points and pottery. During the latter part of this period, 800 years ago until the Spanish exploration, permanent settlements were established, and agriculture was being practiced to some extent. These people traded Alibates flint for pottery, turquoise, and obsidian from the Puebloan groups to the west.
The region's historic era began when Spanish explorer Coronado traveled across the plains in 1541. After Spanish colonies were established in New Mexico around 1600, two-way trade between Plains Indians and New Mexicans began and gradually increased. The Plains Apache, present when Coronado arrived, acquired horses and became proficient buffalo hunters. They were displaced by the Comanche, who arrived in the early 1700s and dominated northwestern Texas, until they were finally subdued in the 1870s. During the Comanche reign, trade prospered and New Mexican buffalo hunters, known as ciboleros, and traders, known as Comancheros, were frequent visitors to this area. Las Lenguas Creek, a few miles south of the park, was a major trade area, and a site excavated on Quitaque Creek has produced artifacts indicating that it may have been a cibolero camp.
After 1874, Anglo settlement began, counties were organized, and ranches were established. Famed cattleman Charles Goodnight moved cattle into Palo Duro Canyon in 1876. In 1882, he bought vast areas of land for John G. Adair, who became owner of the noted J. A. Ranch. The land on which the park is located was included in the purchase. A railroad was built into this area in 1887, and by 1890, the town of Quitaque, with a population of 30, was a regular stage stop. The use of suitable lands for farming increased as more settlers arrived in the early 1900s, but most of the broken country is still ranch land. After passing through the hands of several owners, most of the land that now lies within park boundaries was acquired in 1936 by Theo Geisler, who died on August 15, 1969. The state purchased the land in 1975, and the park's Lake Theo was named after Geisler.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.