SEMINOLE CANYON STATE PARK
If you’re thinking about visiting Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic site you’re going to need to know a few things before you arrive. In this guide, you’ll learn about camping, hiking, and some of the sites you’ll expect to see at this amazing park in southwest Texas.
The region of Texas just north of the Rio Grande is rich in history, politics, and culture.
Along highway 90 you can venture from areas close to the ocean, and make your way into the Big Bend Region. It’s really a gateway of the true west.
The Rio Grande is a mighty river that serves many purposes today, but the original inhabitants of Texas called it their home, and luckily for us, left some amazing relics for us to admire and respect to this day.
What to expect in the park
The park is relatively close to the highway, so you’re going to hear a little bit of road noise at night. You’re in a ranch environment, so there aren’t many trees to block out the sound. But pull off of the highway and you’ll drive down a narrow road towards the visitor center.
Here you’ll have your normal gift options, but stay a while and learn a little history of the park and the native inhabitants featured in the small museum and video room.
The vast amount of history was very helpful to grasp a better understanding of the area that included its original inhabitants, and how vital the ranching community was to this part of Texas. It also highlighted the significance of the railroad system that parallels Highway 90.
The back of the visitor center has a window with an epic view of the canyon that’s definitely worth checking out, but more on that in the trail section.
It’s worth noting that cell service here is almost non-existent. AT&T apparently works best, but Verizon was unreliable with the exception of a few spots that picked up 3G. If making a phone call is a must, the visitor center will let you use the landline, otherwise, you can drive 15 minutes to the nearest town, Comstock.
Camping at Seminole Canyon State Park
There are two main camping areas at the park. Roadrunner Flat Primitive Camping Area and Desert Vista Camping areas are the two you’ll read on the map, but the areas are broken into two different loops.
One look near the Roadrunner Flat area was better suited for RV’s, while the Desert Vista was better for both RV’s and campers.
For all of the campsites, there is only one restroom with a shower, but they were clean and spacious. The showers have one curtain that covers the entrance to the two showers, but each shower doesn’t have any covering individually. there’s also one light that controls each shower, and one bench that you can sit on to put your stuff down.
For as large as this park is the campsites were minimal, and because this park is such a special place that may be by design.
Hiking at Seminole Canyon State Park
Right off the bat, you can hop onto a fun trail right behind the visitor center. The Windmill Nature Trail (0.5 mi.) takes you through some of the typical landscape you’ll find throughout the park, but off in the distance, you get a glimpse of the canyon that gives this historic site its name.
Before you get too lost in the landscape you’re greeted by “Maker of Peace”, an amazing sculpture created by Bill Worrell to document and tribute the Desert Archaic people as a way to give back the art they gave to us.
It’s a remarkable piece of work that forces us to take a moment and appreciate those that have come before us, and whose lands we are enjoying today.
There are six trails in total at Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site:
- ADA Birding Trail, (0.1 mi.)
- Canyon Rim Trail (4.9 mi.)
- Middle Fork Trail (1 mi.)
- Presa Overlook Trail (0.6 mi.)
- Rio Grande Trail (2.3 mi.)
- Windmill Nature Trail (0.5 mi.)
A quick note on the geography here; there are two canyons that you’ll view at this park, Seminole Canyon and Presa Canyon. Presa feeds into Seminole which then feeds into the Rio Grande.
Also- Rio means river, so you don’t need to say Rio Grande River. Ahem.
If you’re feeling adventurous then you must hike the Canyon Rim Trail. Start at the trailhead for the Rio Grande Trail and about.45 miles down the trail, you’ll see the intersection for the Canyon Rim Trail, and also be able to viewpoints of interest number 3 & 4.
Railroads were a very important part of this area, and you can see remnants of an old railroad bed crossing here and in other sections of the park. And continue on to number 4 on the list “Bridge to the Past”.
This bridge gives travelers a little safety walking over the rim, but also keeps you from disturbing some amazing relics just below. If you look closely you can see two rock rings that may have been used for preparing food or making baskets.
The trail here is fairly rustic, so there will be times when you won’t see a trail marker or feel like you’re going the right way. Because of the nature of this trail, you’re hiking mostly on rocky limestone terrain, so stay along close to the canyon and you’ll be fine. The trail markers are there, so keep an eye out.
The Canyon Rim Trail one way is 4.9 miles, so if you don’t feel like making your way to the Rio Grande, you can opt for a shortcut on the Presa Overlook Trail.
Here you’ll find Point of Interest number 5: The Presa Canyon Overlook.
The intersection of the two canyons is a geological wonder and a great place to pause and catch your breath. Water through the canyon isn’t always reliable, but you’ll definitely be in awe of the carved rock, and the views of the inner canyon. If you’re lucky you may see some sheep traversing the rocky terrain.
This is a great connector trail if you want to do a shorter loop, but if you’re looking for a medium-sized loop then make your way to the Middle Fork Trail.
This will take you back to the Rio Grande trail and you can take that south to the water, or back up to the original trailhead.
Rio Grande Trail & Panther Cave Overlook
The Rio Grande Trail is fairly flat, but this is the main trail to take to the river. It does intersect with the Canyon Rim Trail which can be a little confusing, but just continue hiking to the canyon. There will be multiple rest areas along the way, and two relatively close to another as you approach.
The ranger at the visitor’s center noted a new pathway from each of the covered sections, and it was a great place to walk around and take in the views of the water and points of interest 6 & 7.
POI seven is the view of the Rio Grande, and its amazing to look at and imagine the different cultures that utilized this water, but six is another artistic sight.
Across from the Seminole Canyon is the Panther Cave. A section only accessible by boat, this is a historic cave painting of a panther with a curved tail. You have to stare a bit past the trees, but you’ll see it towards the top of the cave.
Spend some time and walk around up here and admire the ecosystem below. The green plants, the water, the animal tracks in the mud. A glorious site to sit and admire.
Fate Bell Pictograph Site
Fate Bell isn’t a trail, but this pictograph site is a huge part of why visitors come to this park.
The cave drawings are only visible by reserving a guided tour and times vary.
Sept 15-May 15 tours are Wednesday-Sunday at 10 AM and 3 PM.
May 16-September 14 tours are Wednesday-Sunday at 10 AM only. It’s definitely hot in this part of Texas during the summer.
There is a fee for the tour, but the guide will give plenty of information about the area of the park, the cave art, and the inhabitants of the area.
You will be taken to two different sites that feature what’s still visible, but there are parts of the art that have stayed intact.
For a long time, these shelters were unprotected, so over the years amateur historians and artists would visit to see the works up close, but this also allowed vandals to visit as well.
Overall Impressions of Seminole Canyon State Park
The rustic terrain, the history of the lands, and the number of trails make this park visit-worthy. There’s plenty to see at the park, but also the Amistad National Recreation areas nearby. This entire region is rich in its landscape and culture.
The park is a true gem to enjoy some outdoor space and soak up the vastness of the geological wonders that are throughout.