UPPER SOUTH/NORTH PRONG TRAIL
Arguably the best trails in the park, hiking the South Prong and North Prong Canyons as a loop is a fantastic way to go deep into the park and experience the rugged beauty of Caprock Canyons. Just as with Palo Duro Canyon, these canyons represent the break between the upper escarpment of the High Plains and the lower rolling plains of Texas. You’ll hike through time as you encounter exposed geologic formations and rock fins millions of years in the making, and spectacular canyon views.
Upper South Prong Trail (2.6 miles)
Starting from the South Prong camping area parking lot, head out from the Upper South Prong trailhead. The first 1.6 miles is generally flat and easy-going, and you’ll cross the South Prong Little Red River several times (some portions hold water year-round). After 1.6 miles in, ascend over 500 ft in elevation to top the Haynes Ridge. You’ll pass the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail junction before descending again 400 ft to the North Prong Canyon floor. Once you reach the bottom, take the very short spur trail to Fern Cave, and oasis of maidenhair ferns and natural springs, where water seeps through the overhanging rock, creating an ideal habitat for the delicate ferns. It’s shady and usually cool down here, making it the perfect rest stop halfway through your hike.
Upper North Prong Trail (2 miles)
From Fern Cave is where your second leg begins in Upper North Prong Trail. Like most of Upper South Prong Trail, hiking the floor of the North Prong Canyon is generally flat and easy-going too. For the first .5 mile the trail is more wooded and nestled between the narrow canyon walls before the canyon widens again. Just over 1 mile from Fern Cave, look to the rock formations along the canyon wall to the south and see “The Last Dance” — a hoodoo sculpted by erosion that resembles a couple in a dance-like pose.
North Prong Spur (1.3 miles)
As the final leg of this hike, this trail ascends up the “saddle” following a wide path of red rock and dirt. You’ll pass the other end of the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail and continue on to the North Prong parking area. Continue on for another .9 mile to reach the South Prong camping area parking lot where you started your journey.
Note: All trails in Caprock Canyons are multi-use trails except for the Upper South Prong Trail and Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail. When encountering bikers or horseback riders, know your right-of-way and get familiar with our Hiking Etiquette tips.
HAYNES RIDGE OVERLOOK TRAIL
The Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail is a challenging, but from the John Haynes Ridge — the highest point in the park — you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas of the North and South Prong Canyons and the Caprock landscape throughout the park.
From the Canyon Loop Trail Parking area, hop on the North Prong Spur Trail at the trailhead and hike .5 mile to the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail junction. From here, you’ll ascend 600 ft for approximately .5 mile. This portion of the trail is very steep and rocky but the footing is good. The remaining 1.8 miles are relatively flat once you’re on top of the ridge. Take in the scenic views all the way until it connects with the Upper South Prong Trail. From here, you can continue on to Fern Cave (as described in the Upper South/North Prong Trail section) or retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
EAGLE POINT TRAIL
Eagle Point Trail is lightly trafficked and takes you to a small natural bridge, through a small valley, and quite possibly bison sightings. You can access the Eagle Point Trail from the north or south as it connects with the park road at both ends. This section describes the north-south route, which gradually climbs 200 ft over the length of the trail.
From the small parking area along the park road near the north access point, find the marked trailhead and head south. In less than 1,000 ft from the trailhead you’ll reach a wooden bench. From here, use the small trail to walk underneath and through the Natural Bridge, where erosion has carved a natural “tunnel” underneath the trail. This is one of the hidden points of interest in the park. Continue down the trail and take in views of the creeks where water has chiseled its way down through the rock and has exposed veins of white gypsum crystals that are at a stark contrast from the surrounding red dirt. The south end of the trail will put you out near Lake Theo and other parking areas nearby.