Plainview, TX Birding Trails and Maps

30 Reviews

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Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

64.2 mi
State: TX
Trail Image Trail Name States Length Surface Rating
The Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway runs 64 miles through some of the most scenic areas in northern Texas. As it travels from South Plains east to Estelline, you’ll see varied views, including...
TX 64.2 mi Ballast

Recent Trail Reviews

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Not maintained

April, 2024 by vwrn6m9mrt

We only did a stretch of it to the Los Lingos Bridge. The trails in the park itself are way better than this. It just cuts through farmland, it is bumpy and rocky and, in spots, muddy. Definitely not the caliber we have been spoiled with for an official rail to trail path. You need a mountain bike for this imo.

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Great scenery but parts are quite rough

March, 2023 by yospiff1

I rode about 19 miles round trip from the Quitaque trailhead to the Clarity tunnel and back. Be aware that north of highway 689, the trail is not maintained and can be quite rocky with large clumps of grass. Fatter tires are better. Somebody else has posted a photo of a sign describing this section not being maintained, but that was back in '09 and the sign had weathered away by 2023, so I only found out once I was on it. I rode it with 38c's and it was manageable. It appears like they just pulled up the tracks and bedding and called it done. Piles of railroad ties can be seen here and there along the trail.

Once south of 689 the trail is graded with pea gravel and quite nice. You could even do most of this section on a road bike, though that is probably a poor idea. I did see ruts in a couple of spots so watch out for those.

The Los Lingos bridge is fairly long and can be windy, so be prepared. It appears to have undergone some upgrades in 1980, as many of the concrete slabs are numbered and dated. There is a history panel a little south of the bridge that describes the history and offers some photos of it under construction in the late 1800s.

There are a few more of those history plaques. The first one I encountered described the "valley of tears". (Not to be confused with the infamous "trail of tears".) This one was where native Americans had abducted and transported captured settlers.

Another one of interest pointed out what appeared to be grain silos in the distance, but were actually wash tanks for the gravel bedding for the railroads that was mined from this area.

The Clarity tunnel is famous for housing bats, but I was there in late March while the bats were still on holiday in Mexico.

A pretty good trail, but be prepared for some rocky paths and wind.

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Rough and overgrown

July, 2020 by treadlightly2006

A friend and I, both with a fair bit of riding experience, planned to ride from Turkey to Estelline and back. It is mid-summer, so we started at 5AM with headlights on our bikes with a goal of being done around 1PM. All the way to Tampico Siding was great. From Tampico to Parnell Station was absolutely terrible. Overgrown, rough, sketchy bridges. We had 4 flat tires before we got to Parnell. Luckily we had spares, but at Parnell, we opted to go out to the highway the rest of the way.

As others have said, there is no water or services on this side of the trail. Once you leave Turkey, you better have it with you if you need it.

On a high note, the Hotel Turkey is really cool and has some really amazing food. I was impressed!


Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Great trail overall, but be prepared!

December, 2018 by ronald_dixson

My brother and I rode the stretch of this trail between Turkey and Parnell junction over Thanksgiving. While I do recommend it, be advised about trail conditions and well equipped if you try it.

We stayed in the Hotel Turkey, which is a few blocks from the trail. (No complaints about that - it’s a fine place to stay.). The plan was to ride from Turkey to Estelline and back. But we got a late start and the going was slower than planned, so we turned around at Parnell Junction.

The biggest challenge was goat-heads. My brother’s tubeless tires held up fine, but one of the tubes on my rental bike eventually gave out - even with sealant. We had tools and a spare, but lost our Presta to Schrader adapter on the trail and walked about the last 6 miles back to Turkey. Be sure to have redundancy in your gear!

The second biggest challenge was probably the grass and general overgrowth on the trail. Some sort of lower leg protection would be well advised. We did not see snakes, but be aware of the possibility.

A third issue is the bridges. Some are concrete, but some have wood planks, and these are showing their age. Caution is advised on approach to the bridges. There are broken planks here and there, but the joists were all intact - I think. :) So, as of this writing, all bridges between Turkey and Parnell Junction were passable and safe for cycling. (Pedestrians should exercise caution. While there is no gaps to fall thru, one could twist an ankle or break a leg.)

Also, be mindful of a barbed wire cow gate between Tampico Siding and Parnell junction. It’s easy to open if you see it, but I wouldn’t want to ride into it closed!

Apparently, other trail users have been told that this section of trail is officially in a non-maintained state. We did not see any signs to this effect or hear it from anyone, but the condition of the trail makes this very plausible. I encourage any other users with relevant or updated information in this regard to post it.

In any case, the trail is remote and has very low traffic. We did not see any other trail users during our trip. Take everything you need with you! There’s no QT along this route! We thought we were conservative, but barely had enough water with us.

That brings me to sum it up like this: We covered about 45 miles that day. Maybe five or so were a warm up. About 10 to 15 were pure riding bliss: the thrill of pumping the pedals, the rhythmic navigation of obstacles - around, over, or through, and feeling the euphoria of the wide open Texas landscape and the rush of the wind on your helmet. Maybe another 15 miles were the steady grind of making the next marker point or water break. The last 10 or 15 miles? Well, sometimes the velo gods send you a bill for miles of the joyous type. All told - I’d do it again.

If you understand those sentiments, then you will probably love this trail and I can recommend it. If not, caution is advised - maybe try the section east of Clarity tunnel first.

A ride partner is strongly advised. There were two of us, but a four-person group (two adventure couples or two sets of best buds) would probably be safer and faciliate being sufficiently equipped.

One shortcut tip: The best view we found was an overlook a few miles east of Tampico Siding. If you aren’t sure about trying this trail, an option would be to park at Tampico siding (about 10 miles from Turkey - near junction of Texas 86 and county road 657) and ride east for a few miles. This section of the trail is not too bad, and the worst of the goat-heads was to the east of the overlook and closer to Parnell junction.

As a whole, I’d give this trail a thumbs up - just be sure you are prepared and know what to expect.

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Love This Trail

November, 2014 by carolyn h

Backpacked the entire trail, 64.5 miles, from Estelline to South Plains last week. This is an awesome trail for hiking with an easy grade. Even the sections that are minimally maintained were easy walking. The trail winds through canyon breaks and up the Caprock Escarpment. Along the way the trail passed through range land, as wild today as it was when the bison roamed here, with long, deep gashes of red sandstone contrasting with the dark green of juniper trees. It ambled past fields of white fluffy cotton ready for stripping, bright green fields of newly emerged winter wheat, and red fields of tilled dirt resting until next spring's planting. There was always something new to see and discover.
There is no reliable water along the route but there are plenty of places to cache water along the way with the exception of the stretch from Monk's Crossing to South Plains. This is a 17.5 mile stretch with no public access, which means you need to carry extra water along this stretch.
I applied lessons I learned on the Appalachian Trail and took advantage of the amenities available in Turkey and Quitaque (contact the Caprock Hardware store for shuttle services). I spent one night at the Hotel Turkey B&B and had a great meal at Galvan's in Turkey. The next day I ate lunch and resupplied at the Allsup's in Quitaque (This saved me from having to carry all my food for five days).
If you are looking for an easy 3 - 5 day backpacking trip through beautiful country this trail wont disappoint.

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

October 2014 thru-hike of the trailway. South Plains to Estelline (64.2 miles).

November, 2014 by mountain dew

Finally got back to the trail after an earlier "shakedown" hike on the trailway with my son this summer. This time me, my wife and 12 pound dog thru-hiked the entire 64.2 mile trailway in 5 days during mid-October. We started in South Plains and finished in Estelline. We camped at Clarity Tunnel, next to the trail in Quitaque, in Turkey (the local Church of Christ preacher had rooms for rent in downtown, and the last night halfway between Turkey and Estelline. John Ferris station was out of water, but Clarity Tunnel water station had water. Water is the biggest challenge along this trail. Being October there weren't many creeks that had ANY water in them this time of year. We got lucky and found a small pound of water that we filtered from between John Ferris Station and Clarity Tunnel. We cached water between Turkey and Estelline. There are several farmers metal watering tanks between 100 and 500 feet from the trail, but you had better have a filter. We didn't use them and it's probably best not to unless you have to. You see houses in this section as well within a few hundred yards of the trail, but again... only approach these houses if you HAVE to for water. Hikers really need to cache water along the way between Turkey and Estelline. It's hard to tell which section was the prettiest. Each had it's high points. Cell phone reception is decent to good on most of the trail. Do not count on the watering stations having water unless you call and check with the Rangers ahead of time. We carried at least 3 liters of water each and from Turkey to Estelline we carried about 5-7 liters each for periods of time after we got to each of our water caches. The 46 trestles were awesome to stop and take breaks on because the breeze was better, there was no dirt and the insects didn't seem to be there. Carry lots of mosquito spray. They were horrible on some of these sections. Animals... we saw a hog, a badger, several mule deer, several white tail deer, hawks, a turkey vulgar, rabbits, NO snakes, etc. This is not a trail for beginners to thru-hike. The rail road ballast will wear you out in after a days hike. It's like stepping on rocks half the size of your fist in certain sections. Overall it was an awesome experience. I plan on thru-hiking it again next spring or early summer. Happy trails and see you down the road.

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Father and son backpacking trip

July, 2014 by mountain dew

We started at the western terminus, South Plains, and did about 18 miles in two days. We saw deer, snakes, hawks, lizards, frogs, and other wildlife along the way. It was my sons first overnight backpacking trip and he had a blast. We camped on the east side of Clarity Tunnell at the water station. The bats at the Tunnell were pretty cool to see. Hopefully I will be back in September to do the entire 64 mile trail with my wife. This trail is nice and flat. There are more views of the canyon than you'd expect. Happy trails and see you down the road.

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Monks Crossing/Clarity Tunnel

October, 2013 by deb_bai

Camping at Caprock Canyon State Park and we were looking for something beginner friendly as most of the trails at the State Park are more technical. We drove over to Monks Crossing and rode out mountain bikes down to Clarity Tunnel. Trail was well maintained with nice crushed granite or gypsum or something similar. The ride down to see the bats at the tunnel was definitely beginner friend,y and well worth the trip.

We had such a good time, we looked at continuing from Monks Crossing up to Quitaque Depot. Trail was not maintained and it was like riding thru someone's pasture. Take heed to precious reviews about thorns and trail conditions, we found them all to be true.

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Too rough for me, and what a shame!!

May, 2013 by garyrbradford

My son and daughter-in-law accompanied my husband and me (both in our 60s) in April for what we thought was going to be a really fun experience. We planned to ride from South Plains to Turkey the first day (32 miles), spend the night at the Turkey Hotel, and on from Turkey to Estelline the next day for the last 32 miles of the trail. As they say - "best laid plans" and all that! We did start out on our mountain bikes at South Plains, and after 2 miles of constant pounding over clumps of grass & weeds, large rocks and what seemed like riding through a freshly plowed field, I couldn't take any more. The others said they could handle it, but either my bike didn't fit my "contours" or I have been totally spoiled by riding my recumbent bike! I turned back and pushed my bike back to the truck, which was not exactly easy over that terrain and against the 10-15 mph wind! Later, they told me that after another 1/2 mile or so, the trail DID get a little better, and there was actually a fairly flat surface to ride on. That's okay - I don't think I could have taken that 1/2 mile further and then continued to ride! I drove the truck to Monk's Crossing and met them there. Unfortunately, I missed going thru the tunnel, but they got video of it, so I feel like I was there. The trail from Monk's Crossing to the Clarity Tunnel is great, with what looked like a caliche base with a very fine gravel surface. Even a road bike could handle that without a problem. However, that is the only section of the trail that is maintained like that - the rest is the red cinder bed with some areas with larger rocks, and that first 2 miles is a killer! My husband joined me in the truck at Monk's Crossing, but the two "youngsters" in our group rode on 5 more miles to the Quitaque Depot. When they arrived there, we were waiting for them, wondering if they had run into many goathead stickers, as we could see quite a few of them at the trailhead. When they pulled in, they had 4 or 5 in each tire, but since we had put heavy duty slime tubes in, they sealed off when we pulled them out. Our son decided to take a "test run" on the next section, which would have been another 9 miles on into Turkey. He went about 1/4 mile, turned around and came back shaking his head. His tires were absolutely COVERED in goatheads! Even those slime tubes couldn't hold up to that many. Thus ended our trail ride, and it was a good thing I had turned around at the beginning and we had the truck available. Otherwise, we would have been calling Albert at the Turkey Hotel to come and get us!! While we had a lot of fun on our trip, and staying at the Turkey Hotel was a very unique and enjoyable experience, it is really a shame that the drastic budget cuts to the Parks & Wildlife budget have resulted in little or no maintenance to this trail. If the entire trail could be more like the 4.5 miles from Monk's Crossing to the Tunnel, a lot more people would come back to ride the trail again and again. The rangers at the State Park told us that the trail from Turkey to Estelline was not maintained at all, and they would recommend that NO ONE attempt it, but we felt sure we could at least make it to Turkey. Even with our heavy duty slime tubes, when that many goatheads are embedded in a tire, they don't stand a chance! Hopefully, other trails have not been affected as badly as this one has, as we would love to experience some of them. But we will definitely be checking them out closely before we commit to another disappointing ride.

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

South Plains to John Farris via horseback - December 2012

December, 2012 by patlox

The trailhead at South Plains is easily spotted and well marked from HWY 207. The drainage ditches are steep, so angle a long trailer to avoid catching when turning in the parking area. The house to the north has noisy, yet friendly dogs that kept their distance and did not bother the horses. If you ride with a dog, you might need to keep it up until time to hit the trail.
The initial section of the trail is rocky, so unshod or tender footed horses may need a bit of guidance to find a path along the trail. The first couple of miles are along cotton fields and near some buildings, with gates and a single file walkway to cross two caliche roads. The trail bed is raised and steep in some areas with wooden bridges that have high railings.
Our group of five riders enjoyed the calling of the migrating cranes as we walked along the trailway. Signs of wild hogs were present all along the trail, and the herd of 12 plus scampered up the hills as we progressed towards John Farris. We did not find any water on the trail and had come prepared with water for both horses and riders.
The vistas were well worth the trip - with cedar clumps and a variety of grasses on the dry hills. One bridge crosses a very high gorge - neat view in all directions!
Animal trails criss cross the hills, and the footing improves along the trail after about 1.5 miles. All of the bridges were easily crossed single file, some have broken boards, but the bad areas are small and are easily avoided.
We did not find the John Farris marker or any out buildings, but may not have gone far enough before breaking for lunch and then returning back to the trail head.
Our group plans to try more of the trails - and we would go back to this one!

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Monk's Crossing to Clarity Tunnel on horseback November 2012

December, 2012 by patlox

Excellent day ride starting at Monk's Crossing through the Clarity Tunnel for lunch and then back. The parking at Monk's Crossing was in great shape, easy for unloading and tacking up. The rest room at the trail head was clean. The trail itself was easy on barefoot horses. The bridges had nice high rails and even the inexperienced horses crossed them with ease. Some of the bridges had some rough spots, worn boards and/or low spots on the transition from trail to bridge, but there was always a single file way to safely cross. The scenery varied from high walled rail beds to sweeping vistas. The tunnel curves with filtered light half-way through. We enjoyed watching what we think was a great horned owl hunting on the tunnel entrance. Water was not in any of the tanks along the trail. We had come prepared with our own for the horses, along with a portable bucket.
There are benches and another restroom after the tunnel that made a nice spot to rest and have lunch. The trail footing changed after the tunnel to what appears to be lava rocks - a bit rough on the barefoot horses, but doable.
All in all, would highly recommend the trail for a day ride - we are pretty pokey on pace and enjoyed the views, company, and easy level going.

Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway

Not Impressed

October, 2012 by grcolts

Having bicycled many rails to trails over the years I would rate this one as not good for bicycling. It is fine for hiking and horse back riding but for bicycling I would pass. I drove up from central Texas to ride the trail and found it overgrown with prickly plants causing one to have flat tires within the first mile. In my opinion it should not be labeled a trail for biking. I was very disappointed in this trail, especially after reading so many positive reviews of it. I ended up riding back roads in the area instead. If you do decide to ride this trail, have your bike tires replaced with puncture proof tires and take along a tire repair kit. You will need it.

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