Return to Caprock Canyons - Upper Canyon Trail

Great hike probably best in the park
User: texaskdog - 7/4/2014  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3point5stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 7.00 Miles Duration: 4 hours

We took the middle trail up the hill figuring it would be better to do it on the way up.  Big mistake as we had to walk the northern part of the loop (hot desert) in the hottest part of the day.  Up on top it is quite cool and gradual.  The north side was nice but yes would be best going up the north side and coming down the center (we didn't take the south side)

Beautiful Challenging Hike
User: brazosbound - 3/17/2010  [View Log Page]
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 7.50 Miles Duration: 7 hours, 15 minutes
User: Rowdius - 12/20/2009  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 3point5stars
Distance: 6.30 Miles Duration: N/A
Great hike through red rock bluffs
User: Redwolf - 9/13/2009  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 6.30 Miles Duration: N/A
We've done this one twice now. The first time we didn't bring enough water and were staggering as we came out. There's a lot of elevation change on this hike, over 1000 feet. We stopped at the butterfly grotto for lunch, enjoying the cooler temps.
Family Hike
User: TCummins - 6/2/2009  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3point5stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 7.50 Miles Duration: 5 hours, 30 minutes

Took the family (5) on this hike from the South Prong up to Fern Cave then back along the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail and down the Canyon Loop Trail back to the parking and main road, and finally back up the road to the South Prong parking lot.  Wow! What a hike with the wife and three kids (12, 9, and 7yrs).   Beautiful scenry! Got some great pictures. It down poured the night before so there were lots of critters too.  Roughest and most difficult part of the hike was up to Haynes Ridge from the South Prong.  Rocky and steep.  The trails have lots of brush in spots so long pants are a good idea.  Take plenty of water with you on this one.

Warm, but enjoyable
User: JHager - 5/23/2009  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 6.30 Miles Duration: N/A

I hiked the Upper Canyon trail on a warm, muggy day in May of 2009.  It’s a nice area and an enjoyable hike, but by that time of year, it’s starting to get warm, so begin the hike early.  The views from Haynes Ridge are great and Fern Cave is also interesting, so bring a camera with you.  I saw quite a few lizards, but no other wildlife.  The only other people I saw were a couple of mountain bikers shortly before I returned to the parking lot.  My timing turned out to be pretty good, because the area was hit with a huge thunder storm an hour or less after I finished.  By that time, I was ordering pizza and a cold drink in a small town about 40 miles (or so) west of the park.  It was a good hike, but probably better in the cooler months when heat and storms aren’t a concern. 

User: rodavenport - 4/25/2009  [View Log Page]
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 10.50 Miles Duration: 5 minutes
User: rodavenport - 4/18/2009  [View Log Page]
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 7.50 Miles Duration: 5 minutes
Beautiful red rock canyon
User: rodavenport - 4/11/2009  [View Log Page]
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 7.50 Miles Duration: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Nice cool early spring day. Lots of people hiking this day. Take heed of the rough& rugged trail warning. The climb up and over Haynes Ridge is fairly difficult especially if you are climbing from the South Prong. Also I highly recommend long pants unless your skin is like leather. The upper end of the North Prong and the climb up over the ridge and back down has a lot of growth on it.

Trails Galore! At Caprock Canyons
User: Lone_Star - 8/21/2008  [View Log Page]
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 8.00 Miles Duration: 4 hours

If you like hiking, you'll find plenty of trail in and around the Caprock Canyons State Park.  There are a couple of scenic trails within the park itself as well as a LOT of lengthy trails along the Trailway, including The Plains Junction Trail (10 mi), Grundy Canyon Trail (12 mi), Oxbow Trail (10 mi), Kent Creek Trail (10 mi), Los Lingos Trail (5 mi) and Quitaque Canyon Trail (17 mi).

I only hiked within the State Park, not along the Trailway.

I camped at the South Prong Tent Camping Area, so my hike departed at the parking lot.  This trail provided breathtaking vistas of cliffs and canyons, so remember to bring your camera!  The Upper Canyon Trail was a fairly easy hike until you reach a section where you have to ascend an extremely steep and rugged cliff that takes you from 2,500 ft in elevation to 3,100 ft.  It is not an easy climb, so I would not recommend it for elderly or people in below average health.  I had just finished a 10 mile hike the day before in Copper Breaks State park so my legs were still aching, which made this ascent more difficult than usual.  Once you get to the top, you are afforded some beautiful views, making the ascent worthwhile.  From the top, you can continue along the crest on the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail (2 mi) or to descend along Upper Canyon Trail towards Fern Cave.  The cave sounded interesting, so this is the route I took.  The cave proved to be an interesting site with large boulders and lots of moisture and ferns.  At this point, however, I found the trail to be poorly marked and I got off trail several times once I left the cave.  It wasn't a big problem, however, because at this point in the hike you are essentially hiking along the bottom of the canyon adjacent to a small winding stream.  You can't really get lost since mountains surround both sides of you.

Once I got out of the canyon, I hiked back towards the North Prong Primitive Camping Area.  There were several trail marker signs indicating trails like D1, C2, etc., but I was a little frustrated because these trail numbers do NOT appear on the provided trail map.  Consequently, it would be easy for a hiker to take the wrong trail if he did not have a compass or good orienteering skills.  Luckily, I took the right trail (Canyon Loop Trail) back to the parking lot and then along the paved road back to the South Prong Camping Area parking lot.

As I mentioned before, I found this hike to be challenging, but very rewarding in terms of scenery.  Be sure to take plenty of liquids with you and allow enough time for a slower than usual pace.

There are several other trails in the park, such as Eagle Point Trail, the Lower Canyon Trail, Mesa Trail, and Canyon Rim Trail, but I did not hike these trails on this trip.  This is a beautiful state park, so this provides me an excuse to go back! :-)  

Haynes Ridge and a Rattlesnake!
User: a0628h0427 - 7/21/2008  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 30 minutes

I hiked this on a hot July morning. Knowing I didn't have time for the whole loop hike, I decided to try to get to Fern Cave by way of Haynes Ridge.  Big mistake!

After the approximately 400 foot climb to the top of Haynes Ridge, I started out toward Fern Cave. The views from the top of the ridge were beautiful in all directions, and I got some wonderful panoramic photos of both the North and South Prong Canyons.

About a mile toward Fern Cave, I happened to look down... and I was about a foot and a half from stepping on a 4 foot long rattlesnake sunning itself on the trail. I backed off and pulled out my camera and attached the telephoto. The snake never became alarmed. It just slithered off the trail, curled up and watched me to see if I posed a threat. I got some amazing closeups of it with the telephoto lens.

After it disappeared when I turned my back to change lenses, I realized just what a bonehead move I had pulled to hike in shorts. All I had thought about was the heat.... not about any slithery critters I might encounter. I aborted my attempt for Fern Cave as it was getting late and my encounter with the snake had spooked me, and I hiked back down to the parking lot.

I think I was the only person in the park that day. The only other car I saw was the Park Ranger, and even the Visitor's Center was closed when I went by at lunch!

Enjoyable Hike
User: rowdy - 7/5/2008  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 6.10 Miles Duration: 4 hours, 25 minutes

We started out at the North Prong parking lot and trail head.  Went around the Upper canyon trail to the fern cave.  The first half of that trail is wide and well maintained.  There was a little washing in the trail from a recent rain.  About three quarters of a mile from the cave the trail narrows and is grown over in some places due to lack of traffic.  The fern cave provides a cool place to relax and get away from the heat.  From the cave we headed up to Haynes Ridge and went back across to Haynes Ridge Overlook.  There are some really good places along the trail to soak up the beauty of the canyons from both sides of the trail.  The overlook is also very scenic.  This trail is pretty narrow and is grown up in areas too.  The trail up to the Haynes Ridge trail is steep in places and pretty rugged at times.  Bring lots of water and wear sunscreen for this trip.  You will need it.  The only people we passed along the way was one group of horseback riders.  Other than the lizards and one rattlesnake, we had the trail to ourselves.   Be sure to spray good with insect repellent, there are biting flies at different times of the year.  I would also recommend long pants due to small cactus, yucca and small scrub bushes along the trail.  Overall a good hike.  If you are not up for the climb, from the cave you can turn back and go back using the upper canyon trail. 

Don't use Haynes Ridge trail to view this "cave"!!
User: C456James - 4/13/2008  [View Log Page]
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 6.50 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 30 minutes

"Cave" Coordinates

N 34 27.811

W 101 06.905

John Haynes Ridge is not a trail, but a mountain goat obstacle course.  Use the Northern route along North Prong Liittle Red River to Fern Cave and back.  It is MUCH prettier and less difficult.

hard hike - striking vistas of caprock canyon
User: haggai - 3/13/2008  [View Log Page]
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 6.00 Miles Duration: 4 hours, 30 minutes

This trail is almost a loop.  We were a large enough group hiking it that we left some cars at the starting point and some at the ending point, but it would only have been another mile or so hiking back to the starting point if we hadn't done so.

Who would have thought to find a place like Caprock (or nearby Palo Duro) in the middle of the flat Texas panhandle?  This hike takes you through some of the most beautiful and striking canyon lands in Texas.  Don't forget your camera on this hike and be prepared to take hundreds of photos, most of which will have a hard time doing justice to the stunning, rocky countryside. 

For that matter, wear your best hiking boots with both outer socks and sock liners.  And don't forget plenty of water and trail mix to keep you hydrated and energetic.  This is one of the most difficult hikes you are likely to do in Texas, so don't try it without being fully prepared.  The signs saying "No Water?  Turn Back" were our first warning that this was going to be difficult, but we soon found out for ourselves.

The first half of our hike was on the southwest portion of the trail, down in the canyon in brushy but pretty countryside with lots of little depressions worn by the creek.  Be sure to save your energy for the very difficult 600-foot ascent up to the top of the canyon.  We sat up at the top, enjoyed the stunning view, and had a well-earned lunch.  Then we went all the way back down to the canyon bottom to see the Fern Cave -- pretty, but the canyon is a hard act to follow.

Our only mistake of the hike was not climbing back up to the top of the canyon afterwards and then taking the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail along the canyon rim back to civilization.  The top of the canyon is a lot cooler and windier than the bottom, so by the time we had finished hiking the northeast portion of the trail, we were all tired, hot, and running out of water, and the country in this portion of the trail gets a little repetitive.

But overall, despite the difficulty, this hike is well worth it, and I recommend it to anyone in good enough shape to hike it.

Georgeous and demanding hike
User: jmitchell - 9/3/2007  [View Log Page]
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 5stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 8.00 Miles Duration: 6 hours

In the first part of the hike, which starts out on the relatively flat canyon floor, there were lots of bugs, bees, and anoying horse flies. However, there was VERY beautiful scenery all along the way. The elevation change was extremely challenging on the ascent. More spectacular views on the way up and at the top. The Fern cave was cool. There was lots of frogs jumping around on dried leaves, which spooked me out until I figured out what critter was making the noise (LOL). I saw some hikers at the beginning and at the end of the hike but otherwise I saw no one the majority of the time. So some nice solitude during the hike can be had. There is an optional path over the messa which is about ½ mile shorter (I did not take this route) which ends up at the same end point. The hike was about 6.5 miles with 1-1 ½ mile road hike back to the car at the end. This was one of the hardest hikes I have ever taken, mostly due to my being out of shape and the rapid elevation change. I would not recommend it unless you are in shape and have some time to kill. But overall excellent scenery and lots of solitude, well worth the trip to make the hike!

A Great Place
User: barefootpoco - 5/28/2006  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 6.00 Miles Duration: 4 hours, 30 minutes

I lived in the panhandle of Texas for 47 years and some of my best memories are the times we spent in the canyon.  We have driven 60 miles in the snow to get to the canyon to see it in it's most awesome glory.....covered in snow!!

Hot weather or cold weather it is a GREAT place....


Loved it...
User: ddp040 - 10/17/2005  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 4point5stars Solitude: 4point5stars
Distance: 8.00 Miles Duration: N/A
Hiked the Upper Canyon Trail with my daughter and our two dogs. We only saw 3 other people the entire day. It was a beautiful, if tough, hike. Boomer and I were worn out...
Maybe the toughest hike we've ever done.
User: Austin Explorer - 9/28/2005  [View Log Page]
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 5stars Solitude: 4point5stars
Distance: 6.30 Miles Duration: 4 hours, 44 minutes
Much of this trail is relatively flat and crosses numerous dry streambeds, but the ascent and descent portions of the loop are pretty rough. The ascent up follows a steep streambed part of the way and scrambling over boulders was required. The descent on the back side of the ridge was rocky and steep and required careful footing and more than a few handholds for stability. The hot weather took its toll on us as well. We saw no one else on the trail and only saw a highway off in the distance for short period of time from part of the ridge top, or else we'd give this a solitude rating of 5.