December 22, 2014

Wild Texas Parks: Palo Duro Canyon State Park - Canyon, TX

Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Canyon, Texas (Randall County)


Get Campsite & Facility Reservations   Download a Park Map from TPWD

About the State Park

The Lighthouse formation
Lighthouse formation
Copyright © Justin W. Moore
Located about an hour's drive from Amarillo lies the stunning grandeur of Palo Duro Canyon, a 60-mile-long and 800-foot-deep canyon carved out of the Texas High Plains. Visitors to 16,402-acre Palo Duro Canyon State Park are treated to towering cliffs layered with bands of red, yellow, purple and white. Patches of juniper, mesquite, sunflower and prickly pear cacti adorn the canyon slopes, while red clay and veins of white gypsum blanket the ground. Thanks to efforts by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and conservation groups, an additional 2,036 acres of this beautiful canyon country were added to the park in 2002.

Sixteen miles of scenic drives wind through the canyon, crossing the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River at six locations. The Red River, although small in appearance, is responsible for forming the impressive canyon. Park activities include birding, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, wildlife viewing and geologic study. The park's stone shelters and cottonwood grove provide good picnicking opportunities. Two rental cabins, as well as developed and primitive campsites, are available.

Most of the park trails lead to the famous Lighthouse formation, a 75-foot-high shale and sandstone pinnacle towering high above the canyon floor. The 5-mile round trip Lighthouse Trail serves hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians; the rugged 9-mile round trip Givens, Spicer & Lowry Running Trail serves mountain bikers, hikers, and runners. Plan to start your activities as early as possible, especially during May-September, as temperatures in the canyon are brutal by mid-day.

On summer evenings, the Texas Outdoor Musical Drama is, itself, worth a visit to the park. Palo Duro Canyon's walls make a spectacular backdrop for this fun and entertaining family show. You won't want to miss it!

Park Ratings

Explanation of Symbols
Campsites/Overnight Facilities**** 4 star
Leashed Pets Permitted?Animated Running Dog YES
Picnic Areas/Playgrounds** 2 star
Solitude*** 3 star
Trail System**** 4 star
Water Recreation 0 star
Wildlife** 2 star
Ratings are based on a scale of 0 (low) to 4 (high).

Wild Texas Notebook

Justin, his family and I hiked the Lighthouse Trail during a typical late summer day. The hike is easy up until the 2.3-mile marker; the rest of the hike is steep and can be a challenge to negotiate if you don't have your hands free. The resulting view of the Lighthouse and the strong breezes make the scramble up the trail worthwhile, however. I highly recommend carrying at least two liters of water per person for summer hikes.

For more information, read our trip reports:

  • "Two Miles from Hell" at Palo Duro
  • Location

    From I-27 in Amarillo, travel seventeen miles south to the TX 217 exit on the east side of Canyon. Take the exit and proceed east for approximately ten miles to the park entrance.

    The nearest major Texas cities are: Abilene, Amarillo, Lubbock

    Maps for Palo Duro Canyon State Park

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    Coordinates for GPS Users:

    34.9855657° Latitude    -101.703186° Longitude (WGS84/NAD83; decimal degrees)
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    Hours

    Open 7 days a week year-round from 8 AM to 10 PM for day use activities.

    Check for restricted park access before any trip. When controlled public hunts are in progress, general access is not permitted.

    Fees

    A park entrance fee is charged per day -- $3 per person for adults 13 years of age and older. (Texas residents age 65 or older pay only $2 per person.)  NOTE: Listed fees may not be accurate year-round due to seasonal changes. Contact the park directly to confirm fees.

    Campsite and other facility fees are in addition to the park entrance fee.

    Note: Learn about the $60 Texas State Parks Pass which exempts passholders, and the passengers in their vehicle, from the entrance fees at all Texas State Parks.

    Reservations

    Reserve Now for campsites or other park facilities.

    Reservations can also be made by calling TPWD's Central Reservation System at (512)389-8900 from 9 AM to 8 PM Monday through Friday, 9 AM to noon on Saturdays.

    Canyon, Texas Weather

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    Volunteer Opportunities

    Contact the Partners in Palo Duro, the officially recognized non-profit support group of Palo Duro Canyon State Park, at Rt. 2 Box 285, Canyon, TX 79015.

    Official Contact Information

    The State Park is managed by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

    Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Palo Duro Canyon State Park
    11450 Park Road 5
    Canyon, TX 79015

    Telephone: (806)488-2227
    TPWD Park Info: 1-800-792-1112

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