Great Texas Wildlife Trails

Canyon Loop

Canyon Loop map

Canyon loop mapCircle Dot RanchCaprock Canyons State Park and TrailwayTexas 256 Scenic DriveBuffalo Lake National Wildlife RefugePalo Duro Canyon State ParkAmarillo Southeast ParkAmarillo John Stiff Memorial ParkAmarillo Medi-ParkWildcat Bluff Nature CenterAmarillo Thompson Municipal Park

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More information:

  • Quitaque COC, 806-455-1456
  • Floydada COC, 806-983-3434
  • Plainview COC, 800-658-2685, www.plainviewtex.com
  • Amarillo CVB, 806-374-1497, 800-692-1338, www.Amarillo-cvb.org

036.gif PHP 036 Circle Dot Ranch

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site access restricted. Fee charged.

The habitat and scenery on the ranch are superb. A canyon road takes visitors down into a beautiful wooded canyon bottom with a variety of trees around the water. Bald Eagles occur here in winter as do flocks of Mountain Bluebirds. Beavers occur on the ranch, as do a wide diversity of birds and other wildlife. The owners provide guided interpretive tours of both the ranch and the Caprock Canyon Trailway Park, which runs through the property. Picnics and chuck wagon meals are available.

806-983-3639, Call for directions.

037.gif PHP 037 Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Fee charged.

From the intersection of TX 86 and FM 1065 in Quitaque (pronounced “Kit-a-quay”), go north on FM 1065; the park is on the left after 3.0 miles. Lodging is available in nearby Quitaque at Kent Creek Camp B&B. Phone for reservations; 806-455-1193.

The red rocks of Caprock Canyons are stunning, especially at dawn and sunset. Vegetation communities vary from the sparse badlands, with their juniper, mesquite, and cacti, to the abounding bottomlands with tall grasses, cottonwoods, plum thickets, and hackberries. Wildlife in the park includes Mule and Whitetail Deer, Pronghorn, Raccoons, Coyotes, Bobcats, Opossums, Porcupines, Gray Foxes, and over 175 species of birds. The park is home to the largest herd of bison in the state park system. Get a bird checklist at the park headquarters, and take time to explore the trails that meander throughout this spectacular habitat A variety of shorebirds have been seen during spring migration, including Avocet, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet, Spotted, Least, Baird’s, and Pectoral Sandpipers, as well as warblers.

In order to truly experience solitude, hike, bike, or take a guided tour along the Caprock Canyons Trailway, a 64-mile route that cuts across three counties in what is one of the finest nature routes in the state. Bald Eagle, Deer, Coyote, and other wildlife may appear along this route, providing wonderful viewing and photographic opportunities.

806-455-1492, Caprock Canyons SP

038.gif PHP 038 Texas 256 Scenic Drive

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return to TX 86 East and go 10.1 miles to Turkey and follow TX 70 North 13.2 miles to TX 256. The scenic route continues until the intersection of TX 86 West.

The route follows the northern border of Caprock Canyons State Park, and when connected to TX 70 South and TX 86 East, makes a loop that terminates at the park entrance. The red rock scenery provides some of the best scenic views in the Southwest. Watch the juniper that dots the hillsides for flocks of Mountain Bluebirds in winter, and the similarly colored but larger and much rarer Pinyon Jay.

039.gif PHP 039 Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only. Fee charged.

Continue on TX 86 west to Tulia and I-27. Go north on I-27 13.4 miles to US 87/Exit 88B in Happy. Take US 87 North 13.4 miles to FM 1714. Turn left/west and proceed 10.5 miles to FM 168. Turn right/north and continue 1.5 miles to the refuge entrance.

The large lake and surrounding prairie provide excellent winter habitat for Bald Eagle, Prairie Falcon, as well as wintering geese and ducks. Common Raven has been seen on the farmland adjacent to the refuge. The refuge has a very good driving loop with interpretive signage that explains the ecology of the area. Golden Eagle, Osprey, Swainson’s Hawk, and Northern Harrier are common in Spring, with Cooper’s Hawk, Goshawk, and Mississippi Kite occasionally seen.

806-499-3382

040.gif PHP 040 Palo Duro Canyon State Park (SP)

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open daily. Fee charged.

From Buffalo Lake NWR, go north on FM 168 for 1.9 miles to US 60. Turn right and go 10.5 miles into Canyon. Upon entering Canyon exit south on US 87, go 0.4 mile and turn east/left on TX 217. Go east for 12.5 miles to Park entrance.

This is the second largest canyon in the U.S., and truly a world-class destination. Few places in North America are as beautiful and ecologically rich as this canyon, a fact recognized by Native Americans, who used its shelter and abundant resources for thousands of years. Diverse habitats in Palo Duro Canyon support many species of wildlife, including the rare Texas Horned Lizard, and Palo Duro Mouse. Other species include Wild Turkey, White-tailed and Mule Deer, Barbary Sheep, Coyotes, Cottontail Rabbits, Roadrunners, and Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes. Look for Townsend’s Solitaire in the wooded area along the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, as well as kinglets, woodpeckers, flycatchers, and other woodland birds. The rim of the canyon is considered part of the short grass prairie, while the elevated moisture of the canyon floor supports a greater diversity of plants including medium and tall grass species along with shrubs and trees. Common plant species include sideoats grama, big bluestem, Indian blanket, star thistle, paperflower, black-foot daisy, tansy aster, fragrant sumac, mesquite, and cottonwood. The rustic Visitors Center, built by the CCC in 1934, houses a museum and store, with an excellent selection of books on birds, plants, and Texas history.

806-488-2227, Palo Duro Canyons SP

041.gif PHP 041 Amarillo Southeast Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: All Seasons

Site open for day use only.

Return on TX 217 West 8.3 miles to FM 1541. Go north 12.5 miles to 46th St. East and turn right. After 1.0 mile the road runs directly into the park.

At the back of the park there is an extensive marsh accessible on foot over a dike, which leads to a small thicket. These constitute three major habitats for birds: lake, marsh, and woodland. During summer and migrations, look for rails, bitterns, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, and a variety of raptors. In winter look for Prairie Falcon, and a variety of sparrows in the reeds.

042.gif PHP 042 Amarillo John Stiff Memorial Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migrations

Site open for day use only.

Return to 46th St. and go straight 0.5 mile to Bowie Street. Go north one block to 45th St. and turn left. Follow 45th St. 2.7 miles under I-27 to Bell St. Turn south for 0.2 mile and the park in on the right. Parking for the lake is at the back of the park, and access is on foot.

This ephemeral playa lake provides excellent habitat for water birds, and is an important stopping point for migrants. The lake is in the middle of an urban setting, yet has habitat in which to see sparrows, geese, gulls, and migrating shorebirds.

043.gif PHP 043 Amarillo Medi-Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migrations

Site open for day use only.

From John Stiff park return to 45th St. and head west 1 mile to Coulter St. Turn north and follow Coulter 2.2 miles under I-40B, turn right at Wallace Blvd. and proceed into the Park.

Medi-Park has a playscape, a lake, and numerous wintering geese. Look here for three races of Canada Goose, Ring-necked Duck, Ring-billed Gull, and American Wigeon. This site is good for photographing waterfowl up close, and for exposing children to birdlife.

044.gif PHP 044 Wildcat Bluff Nature Center

Suggested Seasons to visit: Migrations, Summer

Site open for day use only.

From Medi-Park turn left/west on 9th Ave. for 1.5 miles to Soncy Rd. (Loop 335). Turn right/north on Soncy Rd. for 2 miles. The Wildcat Bluff Nature Center on the left.

Enhancements will ultimately include handicap access, interpretive materials, and trail stabilization. The nature center has two trails of 0.7 miles and 0.8 miles in length. They provide good views of the open mesquite woodland, lead hikers through native prairie habitat, and terminate at large, stately cottonwood trees. The center’s habitat includes a small wetland and bluffs.

806-352-6007

045.gif PHP 045 Amarillo Thompson Municipal Park

Suggested Seasons to visit: Winter, Migrations

Site open for day use only.

Return to Loop 335, go east 3.5 miles to US 87 South. Turn right and the park is on the right after 0.7 mile at Hastings St. Exit. Parking for the park is on the west side of the highway.

The park has two large lakes that attract an assortment of wintering waterfowl. It also has excellent wooded habitat for migrants and woodpeckers.


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