Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.
Seminole Canyon with the Rio Grande and Mexico in the background.

I dropped my day pack with a thump and sat down on the smooth, warm, gray ground. I hung my feet over the edge of the United States and looked down to the turquoise water below, then up on into Mexico. Day hiking in Seminole Canyon State Park in South Texas, I and had just hiked all the way to Mexico.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.
The Rio Grande and Mexico

OK, I know I just made it sound like I finished a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. My hike “all the way to Mexico” was really only about 2.5 miles. But it was beautiful and pretty amazing that my lunch view was of another country.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

I unwrapped my sandwich and took in the color that was all around me – deep evergreens, cobalt blue, muted yellows. It was a cool day on this New Year’s Eve hike, but the slate rock reflected the warm sun rays, which soaked into my skin. When I was full, I took advice from my dog and leaned back on my pack for a short nap.

Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site

I was not the first person to find the peace and solitude of this soothing area. Human beings have inhabited the Seminole Canyon region since prehistoric times. Their evidence is left across the canyon walls.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

Seminole Canyon State Park is also a Historic Site. Early canyon dwellers left their mark on the land through pictographs, which are still visible today.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

To see the pictographs up close, you can take a guided tour into the canyon. Seminole Canyon State Park offers many guided tours; however, I had my dog on this trip and dogs are not allowed on the tours. So I simply viewed them from afar with my zoom lens.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

The park hosts guided tours into the canyon that show hikers the rock art. The Fate Bell Shelter Tour, the most popular tour, is offered Wednesdays through Sundays. From Sept. 1 to May 31, the park gives tours at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and from June 1 to August 31, it offers them at only 10 a.m.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

The Presa Day Hike explores Seminole Canyon’s tributary Presa Canyon, and the Upper Canyon Hike, explores the upper portion of Seminole Canyon. Hikers can learn of the park’s railroad and military history on the Upper Canyon Hike.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.
An oven from the time when they were building the railroad, that is now gone.

The only access to the inside of the canyon is through a guided tour. I assumed it was to protect the prehistoric and historic artifacts. Costs for the tours range from $8 to $25.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

For more information, visit the park’s website. For a map of the park, click here, and for a trail map, click here.

Windmill Nature Trail

If you decide to opt out of the guided tours like I did, there is still plenty to see and do at Seminole Canyon State Park.

The Windmill Nature Trail is 0.75 miles and takes hikers through beautiful scenery and back in time to a spring that has been used by inhabitants of the area since prehistoric times.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

It leaves from the Visitor’s Center and drops down into the canyon, just a little bit, before turning and heading back toward the road through a tributary, where the spring resides. Along the hike there are several informative placards telling about the biodiversity of the area.

Being from Arkansas and not the desert, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the flora and fauna of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Landscape of Seminole Canyon

Seminole Canyon State Park flora and fauna is a mixture of the Chihuahuan Desert, the Edwards Plateau and the South Texas Plains. Seminole Canyon lies right on the eastern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

Rio Grande and Canyon Rim Trail Loop

To take in the full aspect of Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site, I chose to hike the Rio Grande Trail and loop it with the Canyon Rim Trail. Seminole Canyon is a tributary to the Rio Grand River, the border between the United States and Mexico. The loop takes you to the confluence of the two rivers.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

The total milage for the two trails combined is about 7.5 miles. To trailhead is located at the entrance to the Roadrunner Flat Primitive Camping Area.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

The Rio Grande Trail takes hikers through a relatively flat terrain along an old ranching road. It is interesting to see how far you’ve traveled as the campground grows smaller behind you in the flat treeless terrain.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

Right around mile 2, the Rio Grande Trail veers to the left, while the end of the Canyon Rim Trail continues strait. I chose to go straight on the Canyon Rim Trail here because it follows the Rio Grande River more.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

At mile 2.5 the trail turns to the right and heads toward the west and then to the left toward the cliffs over the Rio Grande. This is where I stopped for lunch.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

Follow the trail along the cliffs over the Rio Grande to the confluence of Seminole Canyon. At mile 2.9 there is a short spur trail to an overlook of the Panther Cave Pictograph Site. If you bring binoculars or a telephoto lens, you can zoom in and see the panther pained on the wall.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

From there I followed the Rim Trail, which zigzags around the rim of Seminole Canyon. At mile 5.75 there is another short spur trail to the confluence of Presa Canyon. The multicolored cliffs are beautiful and are an amazing reminder of the power of water.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

At mile 7.25, you meet back up with the Rio Grande Trail and follow it back to the trailhead.

Camping at Seminole Canyon State Park

There are two great campgrounds at Seminole Canyon State Park – Desert Vista Camping Area and Roadrunner Flat Primitive Camping Area. Both areas are quite nice.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.

Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site might be a small park, but there is a wealth of exploring to do. It wasn’t until I began looking for a place to go over the New Year’s holiday, that I discovered Seminole Canyon and I’m so glad I found it.

It’s an extremely unique, beautiful and interesting place to explore.

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Seminole Canyon State Park & Historic Site is a wonderful hidden jewel in South Texas along the United States/Mexican border.
The Rio Grande Trail/Canyon Rim Trail loop, as well as some directional notes

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