Hiking Palo Duro Canyon – Texas

While Liberty was moored in Amarillo, Texas, we took a day to lace up our hiking shoes, stock our backpacks, and grab our walking sticks to head to Palo Duro Canyon which was quite a surprise considering its a big hole in the flatland of the Texas Panhandle.
First, a little about this great Texas wonder…

…early Spanish Explorers are believed to have discovered the area and subbed the canyon ‘Palo Duro” which is Spanish for “hard wood” in reference to the abundant mesquite and juniper trees.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park opened on July 4, 1934 and contains almost 30,000 acres of scenic, northern most portion of the Palo Duro Canyon.  The Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930’s constructed most of the buildings and roads still in use by park staff and visitors.

The Canyon is 120 miles long, as much as 20 miles wide, and has a maximum depth of more than 800 feet. Its elevation at the rim is 3,500 feet above sea level. It is often claimed that Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States. The largest, the Grand Canyon, is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and 6,000 ft. deep.
Palo Duro Canyon, located about 27 miles southeast of Amarillo, was formed by water erosion from the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. The water deepens the canyon by moving sediment downstream. Wind and water erosion gradually widen the canyon.

There is also some battle history that shaped Texas as well…

We stopped by the visitor center to pay our admission and get our trail maps.

Onto our day hike…

We parked our truck at a small parking area that was at the base of a small half-mile nature trail.  It was a bit boring to us; just walking on a small path that was meant for wildlife and bird watching but we saw neither.  It was all overgrown so it was just walking between a bunch of scrub junipers and a cactus here and there.  

We were very mindful for slithery critters that may cross our path.  Thankfully, we saw none but we did get to watch these little guys.

We relocated our truck to another set of hiking trails and made our way to the parking area near the very gentle one-miler Paseo Del Rio trail which ran along a dry creek bed which led us to a real 19th century Cowboy dugout; a small cabin built into the hill.  

Once we finished that Paseo Del Rio, we were ready for some more so we loaded up the truck and furthered into the State Park looking for more challenging trails.  On the roadway, you could see the vast differences in the layered sediments of the rocks; some grays and some reds.

Then we found this gem of a hike!  Actually, it wasn’t a trail at all.  We stopped at a pull-out and were admiring the bright red sandy rock formations and decided this was where our challenge should be; up those beautiful red rocks up to a cave.  This is what walking sticks are for.  

They help with stability and testing the ground we were about to step on…oh and to also poke in holes for a slithery creature that may be hiding from the sun…and us.  This climb was awesome and a bit of a challenge as the rocks and boulders were very loose.

 Once we got to the top, the view was outstanding!!  It was also a bit scary looking down and trying to figure out how we were going to task ourselves with the downhill descent through the loose rocks, sand and rubble…and whatever lurks beneath and between them!

The day was starting to grow shorter, so we relocate again but this time, just for short little jaunts.  This one overlook gave us a view of Lighthouse Rock.  It was there that we got to see some more colorful and pretty vegetation.

Our final leg of our hiking journey through Palo Duro was to this rock structure.  Being Lisa’s knee just about had it for the day, Dan challenged himself to one final climb.

What a fantastic day of hiking and sharing our time together.  The weather was spectacular; not hot and humid and not cold and rainy.  We totally enjoyed visiting another one of Texas’ natural gifts.

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