Palo Duro Canyon

Slowly, slowly we continue to push east.  We are currently in northern Texas, near Amarillo, and spent the day today at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

According to the state park website, Palo Duro is the second largest canyon system in the United States, though it doesn’t specify in what way.  Is it the second deepest, second longest, second widest??  Who knows, and we weren’t able to find much information to clarify.  What we did learn is that it is about 120 miles long, has an average width of six miles, though it can be up to 20 miles wide in places, and is 800 to 1,000 feet deep depending on location.  At any rate, it is a big canyon and since we were in the area it seemed a shame to not check it out.

If you have ever driven through the panhandle of Texas, you know that it is flat.  Really flat.  Driving toward the park you begin to think that there is no way there is actually a canyon in this landscape, and then suddenly, there it is!  It is totally unexpected and definitely a little shocking!

We loved that in this park, you start on the rim of the canyon with an overlook down into it, then have the opportunity to drive down into it and explore from the bottom! Like we said in our last post, it is always great to be able to see things from many different angles and perspectives!

The feature that this park and canyon are known for, and the one that is always shown in park literature is The Lighthouse.  This is a large hoodoo set in the middle of the canyon floor.  There is a relatively easy 6ish mile hike (the park says it is 5.6 miles, but our GPS said 6) to get to it and once there, you are able to climb up and walk around the base.  This is one of the most popular hikes in the park, so we were worried it would be super crowded – and while there were always people around – it wasn’t as bad as we expected.  There are wide open views all along the trail, too, so we were able to enjoy gorgeous views of the canyon the entire hike.  It wasn’t a problem for us in November with highs in the 50s, but we can imagine that this trail would be baking in the summer with no shade when temperatures here regularly exceed 100 degrees! 

Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River

We also took a short trail to the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River which helped create this massive canyon.  This is not a large river.  In the area we walked to, it could almost be more appropriately called a stream, so it is hard to believe that it had a role in creating such a massive canyon! 

A few facts you might want to know if considering a visit…

  • There is an entrance fee of $8.00 per person to enter the park.
  • This park is very popular and at certain times of year will reach capacity so they have to turn people away.  During those times, it is essential to have pre-paid/reserved your admission online.
  • The campgrounds in the park stay super busy.  Since we don’t typically plan much in advance, we were not able to get a site in the park, even in mid-November.  We tried several days in advance with no luck.  If you are coming this way and it is important to you to stay in the park you will want to plan more in advance than we did!
  • If visiting in the summer, keep in mind that it gets super hot here and there isn’t a ton of shade in the canyon.  Bring lots of water and plan to take breaks!
  • We had no Verizon cell service in the canyon.

We hope everyone has a fantastic Thanksgiving on Thursday!  This will be a very different holiday for us as we won’t be with family and friends, but we will be thinking of you all!

Until next time!

2 thoughts on “Palo Duro Canyon”

  1. Really cool place!

    I had never heard of this place.

    Maybe we can do the rim to rim to rim hike there instead of the Grand Canyon.

    Sounds like a much easier hike!

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