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Hiking Caprock Canyon State Trailway to the Clarity Tunnel, Texas

Path between two rocky inclines
Canyons at Monk's Crossing at the Caprock Canyon State Trailway

Hiking or biking the Caprock Canyon State Trailway in Texas to the Clarity Tunnel

I only biked the trail from Quitaque [pronounced "kitty-kay"] to the Clarity Tunnel and back. But there is WAY more to explore and I'll be doing that throughout the years. This is the most scenic trail in the entire state of Texas, at least in my opinion.

Trail entrance points:

Caprock Canyon State Park; Ranch Road 8 north of TX 86 and northeast of Turkey; Turkey Depot; Quitaque, Monk's Crossing at Ranch Road 689 southwest of Quitaque; South Plains.

Distance that I biked:

20 miles (Quitque to Clarity Tunnel and back). If I were to hike, I'd park at Monk's Crossing and walk to the Clarity Tunnel and back, which would be 9 miles.

Complete hike/bike:

From the state park to South Plains, it's 28 miles one way, or 56 miles round-trip. From Turkey to South Plains, it's 32 miles one way, or 64 miles round trip. Bring your tent if you want to attempt a through trip so you can camp next to the water stations. There are places to eat in Turkey and Quitaque, and there's always an Alsup's, but South Plains has NOTHING.

Civilization factor:

This is one of the loneliest places I've been to. It was heaven. I encountered cows, not people. However, this also means to make sure to have plenty of water and food on hand.

Does your cellphone work:

Mostly, no, unless your plan is better than mine, which it most likely is.

I really, really like this trail, although I did not care much for the initial trail bed south of Quitaque. As a former ROW for the Forth Worth and Denver Railway, the trail builders left a lot of the large rocks on the path, making for a precarious ride. But the path got better a mile or so southwest as I rode towards the tunnel. There isn't a way to get lost on this path, either, although in some spots, it will feel like you're only person left on earth.

The scenery comprises beautiful, craggy hills populated with cactus, red rock, mesquites, and yuccas. The historical marker at the Lingos Creek bridge haunts, but the Clarity Tunnel is the star of the ride. My son and I replenished our waters at the station by the tunnel. I was a bit creeped out by the many bats in the tunnel, fluttering and trying to keep cool, but I walked through it, all the same. It's very sandy and guano-y in there, so you can't really bike through the tunnel.

The trail can begin/lead into the state park where there are a number of other, shorter trails around the canyon, but the actual ROW continues into Turkey from Quitaque. After our bike ride, I drove to the state park to hike along the canyon trails. Unfortunately, my tiredness prevented us from really exploring, so another visit is desperately needed.

When we began the ride at about 8 am, it was about 75F. The temperature quickly rose to 110F. On the way back, I passed by a desiccated cow carcass, and I believed I was going to suffer a similar fate. In other words, this is not a late Spring or Summer ride, and there is woefully little shade. I think a good hike is from Monk's Crossing Parking Lot to the Clarity Tunnel and back. That's 9 miles along even terrain and is do-able if the forecast stays below 100F.

Dark tunnel with wooden supports.
A bit creepy inside the Clarity Tunnel, no kidding.
A longhorn and three other cows on a trail in rough terrain.
We found bovine friends along the trail, but they didn't want the visit and scattered. We helped the rancher get the herd back behind the fence.

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