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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 range land, fields of cotton and wheat, canyon vistas, and juniper trees. Although unpaved, the trail has a gentle grade for hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding.
From South Plains to the Clarity Tunnel (about 13 miles), the trail is quite rocky, but the tunnel is spectacular and home to thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats. Other animals you may see on the route include badgers, deer, hawks, turkeys, snakes, lizards, and rabbits.
The trail experience is very remote; be sure to pack plenty of water for the journey.
Parking lots and trail access locations are (from west to east): South Plains, Monk’s Crossing, Quitaque Depot, Turkey Depot, Tampico Siding, Parnell Station, and Estelline.
Note that there is a nominal daily entrance fee for the park. Camping is allowed anywhere along the Trailway for a small additional fee.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
My daughter and I just attempted the Caprock Canyons Trailway. The 5-mile segment from Monk's Crossing to the Clarity Tunnel has been resurfaced and is very nice. South of the tunnel looks decent, at least as far as we explored. Unfortunately, we attempted to start from Quitake and were completely flatted by Goathead thorns within a few hundred feet. This section of the trail has not been maintained and was full of thorns. Maybe there are steel-belted mountain bike tires that can survive Goatheads! Lacking those, we ended up backpacking from Monk's Crossing instead of riding the mountain bikes. The area is beautiful and it was a wonderful hike; we camped by the tunnel and watched the bats fly off in the evening. Very scenic and quiet. Also be aware that there is no longer water on the trail. The pumps at Clarity Tunnel and John Farris Station are no longer maintained, so you must carry what you need. All in all a beautiful place, but I think state budget cuts have taken a heavy toll.
3 of my 60-year-old buddies and I have completed the full 64 miles of the trail. The segment from South Plains to Monks Crossing is very scenic as it drops off the caprock and into the rolling plains, canyon breaks, and creek crossings. We have camped overnight at the Clarity Tunnel after an hour of 3 tornadoes, wind, rain, hail and intense close-in lightning; a typical West Texas weather sampler. The segment from Monks Crossing to Quitaque is slightly uphill and feels deceptively long. The segments from Quitaque to Estelline are varied, but mostly cut through red dirt farmland. We encountered very difficult red mud in places after the storm up at Clarity. The segment from Tampico Siding to Parnell station is fairly pretty, but Parks and Wildlife needs to mow it as of May 5, 2012; the dead sunflower stalks were too hard to pedal thru. Cactus and mesquite are growing up on the trail, so mowing is badly needed for that too. It was very special to see a large 4-5 pound bass in a creek pool under one of the crossing bridges on the Tampico-Parnell segment; also a very large mud turtle. The Parnell to Estelline segment was prettier than expected, with Grundy Canyon making a beautiful view down to the Red River. Also several tree "tunnels" over the trail were welcome shade and wind brakes. A baby rattlesnake along this segment made it known that the trail was his, not ours : )
All in all, this trail is a workout on the crushed rock rail bed. Once you git the hang of "surfing" the ruts it's not too bad. We figger we burn 4x calories over riding on a concrete path, so that's good.
The state park people are great, and even sent out a rescue ranger to git us after the tornado storm, just in case we were in trouble ... but he got stuck in the mud and had to be rescued himself. We were fine; just hunkered down with our bike helmets protecting us from flying rocks and small hail. A true West Texas experience !!!
I hiked the Trailway from South Plains to the Clarity Tunnel and back on Thursday, October 6, 2010. As noted in another review, the first few miles are pretty rough. In fact, the first 2.5 to three miles is like walking across a pasture with rocks. After those first three miles, however, it becomes pretty much a dirt road (still with quite a bit of rock) that appears to be used fairly frequently. Here, it also begins to parallel the canyon, providing regular views from right along the side of the canyon. From South Plains, it is about 12.8 miles to Clarity Tunnel, and mostly all down-hill, a fact I didn't truly realize until I turned around to go back to the truck.
About 6.8 miles from South Plains is the first official rest stop, the John Farris Station. Here you find a toilet and water supply. Although the printed literature for the trailway says not to count on finding water here, it was available when I went through. There is an additional toilet at Clarity Tunnel. On this hike, I did not encounter any other person. My total distance was 25.4 miles and it took me 10.5 hours.
Do not expect to find any trash containers on the trail. I picked up some trash others had left, but found no place to dispose of it.
On October 13, my 10-year old son and I hiked from Monk's Crossing to Clarity Tunnel, a distance of about 4.5 miles. The path here is very well maintained, with a crushed rock type surface. The bridges have recently been redone as well, though I'd be careful on a bike since some of the screws used are not completely flush with the surface of the boards. Although we saw a water container at this end of Clarity Tunnel, it did not have water in it.
I intend to continue hiking the Trailway to Estelline if possible, and will update my findings in later posts.
I recently drove from New Mexico to the Texas Panhandle specifically to ride the CCSPT. When I arrived, I learned that instead of the 64 miles listed on Websites, only 32 miles were available, as the 32 miles from Estelline to Turkey is not maintained. At the Turkey end it appears completely overgrown with grass. So I went to South Plains to ride to Turkey, but I bailed out after half a mile. The surface--large chunks of cinders and slag and tufts of grass--was all but unridable, even on my tough, fat-tired touring bike. It was like riding over RR ties. Later I was told at the Hotel Turkey (a great place) that other riders have complained about the trail being too rough. After I bailed, I had a great ride to Turkey on the rural roads--all paved, good shoulders, light traffic, and courteous drivers. But the trail itself was a bummer.
As a child growing up near the FW&D switchyard in Lubbock I am well familiar with the rail history
behind the Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway. The Ft. Worth and Denver railroad ran freight trains
from Lubbock to Childress via this line for years. My favorite steam engine #404 ran this line regularly
carrying freight and cotton from the Plains Co-op Oil Mill in Lubbock. I have often dreamed of walking
the old rail line and now have the opportunity to walk/ride at least part of it. There were only 2 or 3
railroad tunnels in the whole state of Texas and 2 are on the FW&D line to Childress.
"We’re very new to this bike-riding hobby so were a little wary of our ability with a rural ride. It was wonderful! The caprock scenery was beautiful with an awesome blue sky, the weather very pleasant, and the trail condition good. On Memorial Day morning, we rode from Monk’s Crossing to the Clarity Tunnel and back (approx. 10 miles – gentle incline up to the tunnel – “downhill” back from the tunnel). After a picnic lunch, we rode up the trail from Monk’s Crossing to the bridge. This trail is an easy drive over from Caprock Canyons State Park, one of Texas’ best kept secrets, a true beauty! The trail is a 90 min. drive from Lubbock and Texas Tech University, a perfect day trip. "
"We did an early October ""Harvest Moon"" night ride on this trail (probably in 1995) with a group mostly from the Dallas/Ft Worth area, and had a very nice ride. We rode about 30 miles of the trail, one way, in the Quitaque and Turkey area. I remember riding thru a tunnel with a bend in the tunnel. With the full moon, the tunnel was the only place we really needed lights. It was one of the most enjoyable rides I can recall. Fat tires are probably still the recommendation to do this ride. Unfortunately, the trail is probably very under-used, due to its rural location, with the Amarillo area, at about 1 1/2 hours away, being the nearest metro area."
Be sure to call the CapRock Canyons State Park and talk to a Ranger for conditions & to insure that the trail is open. I called today and was told that the trail is closed indefinitely from Turkey to Estelline/US287 (almost half the trail!) due to lack of funding / budget cuts from the State of Texas.
"Important note: The trail not currently maintained nor supported by the TXPWD from Turkey to Estelline due to budget cuts.
Anyone interested in hiking this trail should seriously evaluate the times listed on length of completion. Based upon that information I planned a three day hike from South Plains to Quitaque. I ended up day hiking from South Plains to Monk Crossing (17 miles) in 11 hours; what should have taken 16-20 based on TXPWD information. Information can provide for some logistical errors.
Trail has some great scenery and wildlife along with a few interesting facts. I saw more rabbits than I could count, several mule deer, biggest bull snake I've ever seen, lizards, numerous hawks, bats.
Three animal highlights were: 1) was priveleged to witness a hawk with his recently killed rabbit enjoying his meal in the middle of the trail. Flew off with it after about 5 minutes. Guess he didn't want to share ;) 2) Had the crap startled out of me by a mule deer that was 20 yards away that blended into Canyon wall so well that I didn't notice him while I was enamored with how squash covering the same incline got there. After gathering my wits I got to watch him bound up the 45 degree incline and cough on his dust 3)the bats in the Clarity tunnel.
A portion of the trail between Clarity Tunnel and John Farris provided a surprise that is not mentioned in any of the material in the internet. I'll let you discover it for yourself. If you're able to appreciate it ;)
Although it was June, there was a constant breeze. Wasn't until 2-3:30 PM that it got to be ""hot"". The breeze could mislead some to not realize the amount of water that is actually being evaporated via perspiration. I went through 2 liters of H2O between SP and JFS. Water is very important.
Ended up terminating the trip early due to injury at Monk's Crossing. The folks in the area are incredibly friendly and helpul. Two older couples out for a drive after dinner took me back into town and then onto the home of the folks that run the Caprock Home Center. The owner drove me back into town to open up the gated area to get my truck. 1st class people. You strongly recommend for shuttle service.
Feel free to contact for any suggestions on hiking the trail or information."
My husband and I biked 30 miles on this trailway. It wasbsolutly great. I hope more people will go there and understand what I mean.
"In the spring of this year, my friend Clark and I biked the whole trail in two days. The first day, we traveled the 32 miles from South Plains to Turkey. Our wives met us at Turkey where we stayed overnight in the historic Turkey Hotel Bed and Breakfast (the Internet special is $99 for dinner, lodging and breakfast).
The next morning we biked on to Estelline while the women slept in and then enjoyed the antique stores.
This is a great trail -- it's rougher than most. The Turkey to Estelline portion is not well traveled, but well worth the effort. We've seen badgers, deer, bats, turkeys. Watch out for the rattle snakes. I've run over more than one."
My wife and I rode this trail in mid-October and thoroughly enjoyed it -- even in a light mist. The scenery is great and it was a relatively easy ride for us. We are in our early 60's and have just started biking.
Carry a spare tube or a patch kits; there are some thorns along the trail.
This is an excellent trail. I rode from Quitaque to mile marker 292 (just pass the tunnel) and the next day from S. Plains to the Tunnel. Make sure you put the Slime in your tubes before you leave. An excellent place to stay is Hotel Turkey. The rooms are great and the price is excellent. I will be back to do the entire trailway.
"This was a fun and memorable ride! My wife, our 6-year-old son and I rode the Caprock Canyons State Park Trailway during mid-July 2004 while camping at the Caprock Canyons State Park campground. We rode our bikes south from the Monk's Crossing access station to the Quitaque Tunnel (9 miles round trip) one morning and north from Monk's Crossing to the Los Lingos Creek bridge (3.5 miles round trip) one afternoon.
We found the trailw in both directions to be well maintained and the crushed rock riding surface more than adequate for easy travel. We were concerned about the endurance level of our 6-year-old son, but he did superbly on a 20-inch, 6-speed mountain bike. It was pretty hot, however, so I carried a small rope in my backpack and I did have to pull him the last few miles of each ride. But even that was fun, for he fancied that his bike was a caboose and mine was a locomotive. After all, we were riding on a former railroad line.
I would recommend this rail-trail to any outdoor enthusiast, especially those with an interest in railroad history. I appreciated the interpretive panels that included historic photos. I only wished there were more.
Concerning wildlife, we didn't see any sheep, but we did see quite a few hawks and road runners, as well as a variety of lizards. We also saw an occasional stray cow.
It was a great family outing. We hope to return again in the future when we will perhaps be able to do more of the trail.
"Don't attempt to ride this trail with a skinny-tired road bike! I rode the section from Quitaque to South Plains and back on a Vision R-40 recumbent with 2 inch knobbies at about 40 PSI. This set-up was adequate, but I really could have used a recumbent or MTB with full suspension. The trail surface is mostly this dark red gravel, and it is quite large in places (3 to 5 inch rocks!) This large gravel looks like the original railroad bed stuff, and is found especially around approaches and departures from the bridges. A few places had washboards, but mostly the surface wasn't too bad if you stay in one of the two main tracks.
The grading of this rail trail is near-perfect. From Quitaque to South Plains you gain about 600 feet in altitude, but the climb is so gradual, you hardly feel it. All the old railroad bridges are still intact, so there are no low water crossings.
The tunnel is full of deep wind-blown sand, not to mention hundreds of bats roosting on the rafters...but they won't bother you if you don't bother them.
At road crossings there are these narrow gates you have to go through, which are made more bothersome by the fact that they are way off to the side, where the goatheads are!
The last few miles near Quitaque are somewhat overgrown with thorn-bearing weeds. I stopped several times along the route to yank thorns from my tires, but none penetrated my thorn-resistant tubes. This is rough country--bring sturdy bike.
Finally, the views of the caprock escarpment are spectacular, and there are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife. I saw a bunch of large deer (antelope?) along the way. Bring a camera, and plenty of water, and a cell phone. This can be a very lonely trail."
"My 12-year old nephew and I recently completed the portion of the trail from the western end at South Plains to Quitaque. (A big thanks to an earlier reviewer who posted the name and phone number of the folks at Caprock Home Center who shuttled us to South Plains.)
Even with a steady headwind, the gentle downward slope made it a relatively easy, enjoyable ride -- a perfect outing for my pre-teen companion.
The red rock formations of the caprock canyons were spectacular, and we sighted lots of wildlife, including mule deer, turkey, and a golden eagle (near mile marker 292). The Clarity Tunnel was a real treat. We could hear the chirping of the bats as we walked our bikes through the tunnel.
In the summer months, get an early start to avoid the heat. Park Rangers advised us that temperatures reached 105 the day before we arrived although only reaching 90 on the day of our ride. The water tanks along the route were stocked but take plenty of your own just in case. The portion of the trail that we biked was in excellent condition.
You certainly don't have to worry about crowded conditions. Other than a rancher tending his cattle, we didn't see another soul on the trail the entire day. We thoroughly enjoyed the day and are planning a return trip to camp near Clarity Tunnel to watch the daily bat flight.
In a nutshell, the portion of the trailway through Quitaque Creek was beautiful and the biking was easy to moderate. This is an underutilized gem. As a side note, we also spent some time biking the trails in the nearby Caprock Canyons State Park. The Canyon Rim Trail near the Honey Flats camping area was a fun, non-technical single-track with some great scenery. The camp sites in the State Park were very nice and well maintained.
We'll be back!"
The section to visit is the 24 miles from South Plains (western end) to Quitaque. This passes through TERIFFIC Texas Rough Canyons. Call Roland at the Caprock Home Center in Quitaque (806) 455-1193 and he will shuttle you to South Plains so you can ride one way downhill back to Quitaque.
This section of the trail is very well maintained and water tanks are stocked.
"The amazing caprock, mule deer and aoudad sheep, sandhill cranes, 46 bridges, and a railroad tunnel - what's not to like?
Well, both of the times I've been on the trail ('97, '99), the state park system was only maintaining about 20% of it's length: from the parking lot at Quitaque over Los Lingos Creek and thru the tunnel to the horse trough & restroom. They were allowing the remaining 50 miles of trail to grow up in waist high vegitation and sandburrs. It might be enjoyable if you were riding a camel. "
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