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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.
The Lighthouse formation Copyright © Justin W. Moore
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!
Explanation of Symbols Campsites/Overnight Facilities 4 star Leashed Pets Permitted? 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 NotebookJustin, 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
The nearest major Texas cities are: Abilene, Amarillo, Lubbock
Check for restricted park access before any trip.
Campsite and other facility fees are in addition to the park entrance fee.
Visit parks often? Learn about the $70 Texas State Parks Pass which exempts the passholder, and the passengers in their vehicle, from the entrance fees at all Texas State Parks.
Reservations can also be made by calling TPWD's Central Reservation System at
|Palo Duro Canyon State Park
11450 Park Road 5
Canyon, TX 79015
TPWD Park Info: 1-800-792-1112