Palo Duro Canyon

The Lighthouse

Palo Duro Canyon cuts through the High Plains of the Panhandle of Texas, in the southern United States.

Understand

Palo Duro Canyon is 120 miles long, up to 20 miles wide, and up to 820 feet deep, making it the United States' second largest canyon.

History

Archaeological findings indicate that humans inhabited the canyon as many as 12,000 years ago. It was long home to various native American tribes as well, including Apache and Comanche. The JA Cattle Ranch was established there in 1876, after the expulsion of the natives.

Landscape

The canyon was formed by erosion from the Little Prairie Dog Town branch of the Red River.

The park is home to many unique geological formations, including many hoodoos-- thin, irregular columns of sedimentary rock sticking up from the canyon floor, capped with a harder rock which prevents further erosion.

The Lighthouse is the most famous of these in park, and is one of the quintessential postcard shots in the state.

Prominent features:

Flora and fauna

Climate

Summer temperatures are often at or near 100°F, winter temperatures can drop below freezing.

Get in

By car

By air

Amarillo's Rick Husband International Airport is served by American, Continental, and Southwest.

Fees/Permits

Entry is $5 for adults, free for children under 12. Ranger station - +1 806-488-2227

Get around

A road winds down into the floor of the canyon where you will find the visitor center and the amphitheater. The road continues on to some campsites, but many areas of the park can be reached only on foot or horseback.

It is possible to rent horses for exploring the park, and some of the campsites allow horses. Inquire at the visitor's center.

See

Geologic eras etched in the cliff face

Do

The park has over 30 miles of marked trails for hiking, mountain biking, or horse riding.

Buy

There is a small novelty shop near the entrance to the Canyon.

Eat

Chuckwagon meals of smoked ribs and chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, beans, and cowboy coffee. Available at Elkin's Ranch or Old West Stables-- see the listings under the Do section above.

Sleep

Lodging

There are a few cabins available for rent with nice views of the canyon. Reservations can be made with the Visitor Center.

Camping

There are many campsites throughout the park, all of which charge $12 per four persons. Amenities range from sites with electricity and public bathrooms and showers to those with only a picnic table and fire pit. The following campsites are accessible by car:

Backcountry

Simple: go to the end of the road, park, and walk for a half-hour or so until you find a spot suitable for your tent (or bivy). Some trails are intended for horses and intersect streams. Ask for specific directions from a ranger if you don't want to get wet.

Stay safe

Go next

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