Monday, November 25, 2019

An Easy Loop Hike in Lower Canyon, And Just In Time

If you only have time and/or ability for one moderate hike in Caprock Canyons State Park, the  2.9 mile Lower North Prong Trail, teamed up the the 2.2 mile Lower South Prong Trail and connected together at their west ends by the 1.3 mile North Prong Spur makes for a decent hike along the North and South Prongs of the Little Red River.

Note, make sure you have the 2019 version of both the paper and electronic trail maps.  Between the 2013 version and now, the trail names have been changed. On the older map this route is the Lower Canyon Trail connected on the west by the Canyon Loop Trail.

The trail designations have been changed on the new map as well. For instance, the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail used to be designated as Trail B. On the new map it is Trail HR.

And to add to the excitement, the actual trail markers out in the field have not yet been changed over so the old B markers are what you will find along Haynes Ridge. If it helps, which doesn't seem very likely, for some reason the 2019 version of the Park Facilities map still uses the old trail names and designations. . .


Whatever you want to call them, this set of trails will take you along both the North and South Prongs of the Little Red River,

sometimes dipping down into the river bed, other times climbing up to the flats above, but always staying down in the canyon-floor

and avoiding those serious climbs up the encircling ridges. (Unless you take a detour up the Mesa Spur Trail, which is a shortcut to the Mesa Trail, to check out the view from the mesa top like I usually do.)

The Mesa Trail, a balloon trail, is designated as an easy hike, but it doesn't connect to any drive-up trailheads so getting there requires hiking the Wild Horse Trail which is designated as moderate, leaves from the equestrian camping area, and covers about 1.6 miles (One way) before you can start the 3 mile Mesa loop.

It was 38 degrees when I set out this morning so I was wearing my over-shirt (Hard to see since it's nearly the same color as my shirt), a skull-cap under my usual straw hat, and gloves.

The canyons here are all about erosion, to which this tree has nearly fallen victim.

Obviously, when it sprouted it did so on reasonably level land, but over the years that land has been washed away. (For an idea of how far above the river-bed this tree is go back up three photos and check it out.)  Fortunately by that time the tree had strong enough side-roots to hang on, but for how much longer can it last out there in mid-air?

This hike gives you plenty of chances to get up close and personal with the geology of the canyon-floor.

And because it is along the lower canyon

where it's has more time to collect, you're more likely to see surface water here than you are in the upper canyon.

The point where the Mesa Spur takes off from the Lower North Prong Trail is well marked. In fact, too well marked.

There were two markers here today, the old, laying back there on the ground in the background, and the new. Only thing is I couldn't see that there was anything wrong with the old marker at all.

The lettering and arrow were identical on both, and nearly as crisp and clear on the old as the new. The wood cross-piece and steel legs of the old were in excellent shape. The only thing missing were the caps on top of the legs.

I would have thought the money could have been better spent on putting up trail-posts with the new designations instead of replacing a sign that didn't need replacing, but then again, nobody asked me. . .

It's a bit of a scramble up the spur trail,

but the view from up here,

out across the entire canyon, makes a little bit of climbing worth it.

And being just about the halfway point of today's hike, a good spot for lunch.

It was a Thursday when I made this particular hike and my timing was fortuitous.

The trail had obviously just been flagged by something called the American Volkssport Association.

Having never heard of them before I looked them up later and found that they are a club dedicated to health through nature walks.

So, by deduction, I assumed that on Saturday this trail would be inundated by chatty AVA members.


Dodged a bullet there, or at least a plethora of walking sticks.

But I was impressed by how they use wooden clothes-pins to put up their trail-markers.

Now, after the event is over, the flagger can come along and easily remove all trace of their presence.


  1. That looked like a great hike. I didn't see anyone else around either.

    1. Yeah, I got lucky on the timing of this hike and missed the rally crowds by one or two days. I like it when I have a trail to myself!