Seminole Canyon is a Texas State Park in the west with a main attraction being the preserved Native American pictographs. Along with this the park boast beautiful trails that either follow the canyon rim out towards the Rio Grande River or leads you through the desert to the same final destination. With 46 drive up campsites that are all close to water and restroom the park is very family friendly.
The ancient art on the walls of the caves in Seminole Canyon are breathtaking and awe worthy. These pictographs are only accessible by a guided tour at 10am and 3pm so you should plan to drive to the park headquarters to participate.
With your guide you’ll progress down a steep path down the canyon floor to the ancient shelters that once housed some of the first humans that roamed North America. The cave art spans the walls and extends unimaginably high which cause you to wonder how these early humans were able to reach these heights to paint. You’ll see that these cave painting represent how the early humans lived and that they were very spiritual people. Along with the paintings, the cave itself have been preserved to reveal how the humans lived and the activity of past people who have discovered the area. Some of the cave floor has been dug up by grave robbers and there is some graffiti from past explorers who first documented it. The guided tour is a must if you are visiting and the guide will bestow upon you what each painting represented and the importance of each.
Preparing for Trails
Seminole Canyon is a desert so to prepare for the hikes you should keep a few things in mind. The most important thing is water. You should bring a substantial amount of water with you into these hikes. Two liters per person is a good amount depending on how long you are going to be hiking. Second you should bring sunscreen unless you want to be like my friends who became lobsters by the end of our hike. Third and final you should bring some snacks to keep you going through these long hikes.
Canyon Rim Trail
This is the most challenging trail in the park but the most rewarding. As you hike along the canyon rim you’ll see awe worthy sights. The trail takes you to the Rio Grande and also grants you a view of Panther Cave which you need binoculars to see the cave art across the river. The trail is 7.5 miles long and should take you about 3.5 hours but if you’re like me you’ll take more time to detour and enjoy the sights as they come. The beginning of the hike the canyon will be dry and as you hike along you’ll notice that the rocks make an unusually hollow sound. This is where you can take a detour and play some rock drums as you notice each rock has a different pitch. About a mile deep into the trail you’ll hike over this cave which is a great pit stop for shade and a snack break. However, the cave is quite hidden so you have to keep an eye out for it.
Eventually the you’ll see the canyon become a river. The river glistens in the sun and has a green tint to it but it stays pretty clear. Great place to stop and admire the view of the simple beauty of a river in the desert.
Along the trail there is an abundance of plant life. There are beautiful flowers blooming from cacti or plants such as the one pictured. However, there is plenty of thorny plants out to get you so watch your step and be careful.
Rio Grande Trail
Once you reach the Rio Grande from the Canyon Rim Trail you can get back to camp from the Rio Grande Trail since its only 6 miles long and a much easier hike. This trail is flat and has several shade shelters along the way to retreat from the scorching desert sun. Of course, if you don’t want to take the challenging Rim Trail you can take this trail to the Rio Grande as well as Panther Cave.
Seminole has very family friendly campsites and I noticed a large amount of kids riding their bikes around. The campsites located on the ridge are water only campsites as well as RV hookup campsites, so they are a bit noisy from the generators. But, these campsites are located closer to the restrooms and have a shade cover. This area tends to be where the families with kids are so if you don’t like kids I advise against it.
These campsites are the primitive campsites but are still in walking distance of the bathrooms. This is where most of the tent campers as well as the camper van campers are. They are spaced farther apart from each other compared to the Upper campsites which is always preferable.
The Night at Seminole Canyon
When you come back from your long hike and watch the sun descend into the horizon you’ll see an amazing sunset full of vivid colors. I’ve never stood around so long just to admire a sunset but I did here and it was worth every moment. After the sun sets the sky will slowly become lit up with the stars. At the peak brightness and under the right conditions you’ll see the haze of the Milky Way. You’ll bathe in the starlight and the night sky going forward will never be as beautiful as it was here. If you’re lucky you’ll see several shooting stars which will make your experience even more memorable.
Seminole Canyon is definitely a gem in the rough. Although the park is small compared to others, the park has so much history and beauty to offer. I highly recommend visiting this park on a lone trip or along your trip to a park farther out west such as Big Bend National Park. The memories I made here were unforgettable and the sights I saw were uncomparable.