Review: Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the US, is an amazing state park, even though it’s more than just a day trip. Whether you drive or fly, this should be on your must see list, as there is some breathtaking country to explore in the canyon, including the famous Lighthouse Pair it wth a trip to nearby Caprock Canyon, and you’ve got a great outdoor adventure trip!
Distance: More than 30 miles of trails
Area of The State: Just ouside of Amarillo, in West Texas
Facilities: Restrooms, camping, playgrounds, etc
Suitable for: Hiking, Biking
Type of Trail: Natural trails
Shade: There isn’t much shade in West Texas, and it can get very warm. Bring water and plan ahead
Where to Park: There are multiple trail-heads in the park, check the map below
Official Website: Palo Duro Canyon State Park Homepage
Nearby Trails: Caprock Canyon State Park
Like the write-up for Caprock Canyon State Park, this is a trip I took a few years ago, so my memories are less specific about which trails we took or how we appraoched our visit. We didn’t drive the 5 hours and 45 minute way from Dallas to Palo Duro, instead we flew (about 45 minutes) into Amarillo, and from there it was a very short 20 minute drive to Canyon, TX where we stayed. Canyon is located 14 minutes out of the state park, and is a great place to set up your home base. The town has several hotels to stay at, and has plenty of restaurants to choose from after a long day in the park. Several were excellent, which was impressive given the town’s small size.
Driving to Palo Duro Canyon State Park from Canyon, you’d have no idea that the canyon even exists! This is flat land, until the road begins to descend and the canyon opens itself up to you. As you descend into the canyon, it’s easy to wonder what the early explorers must have thought when they encountered such a marvel.
Palo Duro Canyon is massive, so make sure to get a map when you check in at the ranger station to enter. There are many trails to choose from, and even if you spend a few days there, you won’t see it all. The main trails offer alot of variety, from trails that stay on the valley floor, to others that climb to the rim and allow spectacular views. I’ve also seen videos of people who have gone off-trail and explored slot canyons and gone far deeper into the park. For those looking to do that kind of hiking, look online for guidance on where to find them!
The trails here are very exposed to the elements, so dress accordingly. We went in early spring when it was still relatively cool, some days were chilly, but others were quite warm. If you visit in the summer, make sure to protect yourself against the sun. No matter when you visit, water is key. You are out in the middle of nowhere, be prepared!
The most famous trail here is the Lighthouse trail, which brings you to the most iconic part of the park. The Lighthouse is a hoodoo, which is basically a column of softer rock which has eroded over time, supporting a more durable rock on top of it. You’ll see many of them throughout the park, some photos below show hoodoos we encountered.
This is a great park to visit, and worth a drive or flight out to Amarillo. The scale of this park is just massive, compared to the parks we have in North Texas, and there is no way you can see all of it in one visit. Also, remember that Caprock Canyon is about an hour and a half away, and not to be missed! My pictures below don’t come close to capturing the beauty of the canyon, but the official TX Parks site or Google images can give you a better idea of what is awaiting you in West Texas.
Where to get a beer: This one is easy, the Imperial Taproom in Canyon is a great place for a post-hike beer and a meal. The food and selection of beers was amazing!