Palo Duro Canyon State Park

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  • Website link: Palo Duro Canyon State Park
  • Cost: $8.00 per day per adult – free for children 12 and under
  • Tent and RV camping, cabins – various fees
  • Hiking on trails and backcountry, biking, backpacking, seasonal horseback riding stable or bring your own horse – equestrian campground available
  • Visitor center/museum
  • Nature interpretive center
  • Trading post with gasoline, fast food, groceries
  • Large group/event pavillions
  • Summer musical “Texas” in the amphitheater and catered dinner available
  • Wildlife watching/birding
  • Additional accommodations/restaurants in Canyon, Texas and Amarillo, Texas (see our Amarillo post)
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View from the CCC Overlook near the visitor center. One of the red “Spanish Skirts” is seen at the center of the photo.

Our favorite place to camp, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is the crown jewel of the Texas park system. That’s our opinion, anyway. The canyon is not only breathtakingly beautiful, it is the second largest canyon in the US. The name Palo Duro comes from the Spanish phrase meaning “hard wood”. The park is located about 30 minutes south and east of Amarillo, Texas. IMG_5244 (1)The sun was in the right place at the right time for this shot. That usually doesn’t happen for us – we just got lucky this time. No filters. Look at those spectacular colors!

Highlights…

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Can you see him? Well camouflaged, he blends in with his surroundings. The Longhorn Pasture is next to the park entrance.
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El Coronado Lodge. Built in the mid-1930s by the CCC, the lodge now serves as the visitor center and museum. Three CCC-built cabins on the rim of the canyon, just west of the visitor center, can accommodate four people each and can be reserved through the Texas State Parks website.
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This fireplace is all that remains of the CCC camp recreation hall which served as a place for the men to socialize and relax after a hard day’s work.

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The summer musical “Texas” has been performed at the Pioneer Amphitheatre since 1966! The production features outstanding music, singing, dancing, and special effects, all while telling the story of ranching in the Texas Panhandle in the late 1800s. “Texas” is a treat for the entire family. Tickets can be ordered online.

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The cave is a popular destination for those who are brave enough to climb the rocks up to it.

Hiking Palo Duro…

Lighthouse Trail, the most popular hike in the park, is just under six miles round trip, and it’s our favorite! Below are some scenes from Lighthouse Trail.

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Interesting geology
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The Lighthouse
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Capital Peak from Lighthouse Trail. We love the hoodoo at the far left side of the picture.
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Rojo Grande Trail – moderate, although we thought it was easy. About 2.5 miles round trip.
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Kiowa Trail. Easy, peaceful, pretty. About 1.4 miles one way.

Palo Duro has many miles of trails with varying levels of difficulty. Some trails are multi-use, some are for hiking only, and some are for biking only. Mountain biking is very popular in this park. Check the website for all trail details.

Wildlife…

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These deer were about 50 feet from our campsite.
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Looking for love in all the wrong places. Apparently he was hoping for a date, but she totally ignored him.
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Roadrunner

Campgrounds and cabins…

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One of the campsites at the picturesque Mesquite campground.
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Sagebrush campground. This is our favorite campground, and it is within walking distance of the Pioneer Amphitheatre. (How about those dumpsters?) Okay, ignore the much-appreciated dumpsters and check out the gorgeous scenery!
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Cow Camp Cabins. Yep, you guessed it…these were built by the CCC, too.

Palo Duro Canyon has several campgrounds for tent and RV camping, day use areas, and an equestrian campground. This park is also pet friendly, but pets must be kept on a leash and are not allowed in the park buildings. See the website for details and reservation information.

Cool stuff nearby…

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West Texas A&M University wind turbine. It is the tallest (653.5 feet from the ground to the tip of its most upright blade) wind turbine in the US. Located east of Canyon, Texas, south of Texas Highway 217 off of Osage Road. It’s hard to miss this behemoth on the way to the park!

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Charles A. Smith sculpture about a half mile west of the park entrance. These arrows mark trails all over West Texas.
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Tex Randall – 1400 N 3rd Avenue, Canyon, Texas.

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Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum – 2401 4th Avenue, Canyon Texas. This is one of the best museums we have visited. Exhibits include Texas oil production, ranching, art, and paleontology, just to name a few. A visit to this museum is well worth the time and entry fee.
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T-Anchor Ranch Headquarters at Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. Its Texas Historical Commission marker is below.

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Parting shots…

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Another pretty scene in the park.
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Old barn, silos, and attached living quarters (?) found on FM 1541 east of the city of Canyon.
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Randall County Courthouse – centerpiece of the delightful town square in Canyon, Texas
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Meandering river – Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River – on an overcast day in the park
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Another amorous Tom

Well, that covers our overview of Palo Duro Canyon State Park, folks. Please join us next time for another great road trip, and become a follower so you never miss a post!

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

Badwater Basin

As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

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4 thoughts on “Palo Duro Canyon State Park

  1. Susan Kincaid

    Mike and Kellye, this is absolutely fabulous, “top notch “and very well written with great photographs. Thank you for sharing, I always look forward to your next chapter.

    Like

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