South east of Amarillo you’ll find Texas’ northern-most state park. Amidst the flat-ish landscape there suddenly appears a valley that rivals the Grand Canyon. Filled with green, yellow and maroon, Palo Duro Canyon State Park has a little something for everyone. You can even stay and enjoy a showing of the park’s production of ‘TEXAS’ .
This is a CCC park, and you’ll see their design touches throughout the park including the main visitor’s center and various architectural structures like bridges.
Horseback riding, hiking and camping are some of the activities available here, or hop on one of the many trails that will give you views of a rich history of land formations and inhabitants.
On my last visit there were a handful of birders taking photos of some of the amazing species flying around. This park is really filled with things everywhere you look.
When you enter the park you’re merely pulling in past the check-in station. As the ranger put it, ‘the visitor’s center is still 2-miles down the road’. It is here where you’ll find El Coronado Lodge, also known as the main gift shop.
It features a small gallery of information, plenty of literature, and artwork. I picked up some pottery that came from nearby New Mexico. This is also prime location for some of the most amazing views at the park. Walk to the side and take in all of the beauty that this park offers.
Farther down the road will be the Trading Post. It is another gift shop, but with items reminiscent of a gift shop on the beach. More novelty-type items with tshirts, keychains, etc. But it is here where you can grab a bite to eat in the café. Pretty full menu of burgers, sandwiches and dessert.
Right around the corner from the Trading Post building you’ll find a wildlife viewing blind just to the right of the building. Great spot for some birding!
According to the park website, “The TEXAS Outdoor Musical runs Tuesdays through Sundays in the summer at the Pioneer Amphitheater in the park. Watch the stories, struggles and triumphs of early settlers. The family-friendly show has singing, dancing, fireworks and lots of Texas humor!
Come early for a barbecue dinner on our covered patio.
For tickets, visit the TEXAS Outdoor Musical website.”
Palo Duro Canyon SP has six camping areas and one section for cabins. (See my post of Texas State Parks w/ cabins)
Fortress Cliff and Cactus Camp are the primitive camping areas, but Mesquite Camp, Juniper Camp, Hackberry Camp, Sagebrush Camp all feature water and electric sites.
This park really has a trail for all levels of hiker. With 16 trails at Palo Duro Canyon State Park you’re going to experience almost every corner of this place.
The longest trail Lower Comanche Trail (4.4 mi. one way) and the shortest is the Pioneer Nature Trail (.5 mi. loop)
When I visited we did the Kiowa Trail which was 1.4 miles in one direction. But even on this shorter trail there was still some great views of the cliffs, amazing Permian formation, and an original CCC road bridge.
The park’s most popular trail is the Lighthouse Trail. This trail is 2.7 miles in one direction, but the reason people like this trail is it is home to the Lighthouse rock formation. This happens when the lower portion erodes faster than the top and carves out these amazing structures. According to the park, make sure you stay hydrated as most heat-related injuries happen on this trail.
I really don’t want to bore with how much is here in regard to trails, but know it’s fairly extensive. I recommend taking a look at the trail map before you head out to get an idea of what you’re capable of, and what you want to spend time looking at.
Overall this park is a definite gem. It’s out of the way for a day trip for most, but with the amount of camping available, and the fact that Amarillo is a quick trip, it should definitely be visited sooner than later.