Fern Cave via South Prong Campground

An out-and-back to Fern Cave with two challenging climbs.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
8.7 km
Ascent
342 m
Descent
342 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
752 m
High Point
963 m
Gradient
17˚
VIEW ON MAP
Fern Cave via South Prong Campground Map

Description

Caprock Canyons State Park is arguably one of the best-kept secrets in Texas. Opened in 1982, this region has been home to cultures dating as far back as 10,000 years. Today, it is a refuge for a protected bison herd and a destination for some of the state's premier hiking.

Lubbock and Amarillo are both within two hours, and the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is less than five hours away. Despite the distance, the extensive network of trail and camping opportunities make this a popular weekend destination for the entire family.

This hike begins at the South Prong Tent Campground. Popular among hikers, this site is nestled between two canyons walls, with a remote feeling like no other. Leaving the campground, the trail parallels a riverbed, crossing it at many points. Unless there has been a recent rain, you will likely not find anything more than standing water.

As the trail progresses further into the canyon, it passes a primitive camping area—an excellent opportunity to spend the night under the stars. Shortly after, the path leads up a steep canyon wall, frequently switchbacking its way to the top. Several trail markers are there to keep you on track, but the rugged terrain can still make navigation difficult. Slickrock and large boulders make up much of the path and provide breathtaking views all along the way.

As the trail crests the ridge, it passes the Haynes Ridge Trail, known for its phenomenal panoramic views further down the ridge. Keep straight through the intersection following the Upper Canyon Trail as it begins a brief descent into an adjacent canyon.

At the bottom, the trail reaches a highlight of the park: Fern Cave. An overhanging ledge lined with ferns provides a relaxing and serene atmosphere to enjoy lunch. The ferns often drip water from their fronds, runoff from atop the caprock and nearby farmlands.

To complete the hike, retrace your steps back to the South Prong Campground.

Sources: https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/caprock-canyons/parkhistory

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly

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