Wow - you've got to visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park at least once. The scenery and unusual rock formations are stunning, the miles of multi-use trails are fantastic and offer everything from easy to strenuous, and the campsites are some of the best in the Texas State Park system.
Palo Duro State Park encompasses over 29,000 acres in the northern section of Palo Duro Canyon which is 120 miles long, as much as 20 miles wide, and has a maximum depth of more than 800 feet. Elevation at the rim is 3,500 feet above sea level and it is often claimed that Palo Duro Canyon (aptly named "the Grand Canyon of Texas) 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 was formed by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River which over millions of years has carved and created some unbelievable scenery and interesting geological rock formations. The rock formations are a multitude of colors including bright red claystone, white gypsum, plus yellow, gray, and lavender mudstone.
Palo Duro State Park is very well maintained and offers primitive, tent, and RV sites as well as cabins.
You have several choices for for camping in four different camping loops. There are three areas and 80 sites with water and electricity - Sagebrush, Hackberry, and Mesquite. Sagebrush is 30/50 amp with covered picnic tables and a fire pit. The sites are short, level, and relatively close together. Hackberry Creek sites have 30 amp service, a mixture of covered and not covered picnic tables, and a few pull throughs - the sites are a little more isolated but not quite as level. The Mesquite camping area has 30/50 amp service, crushed gravel pads that are fairly level, more open space between sites, and great views. Fortress Cliff is tent camping with water only.
For the hikers, there is a half to three quarter mile hike to a primitive area for camping and another area with some backpacking campsites which are a half to 2 miles from the road. The equestrian area has water and pens for horses and tent camping but no tables or fire rings.
If you don't want to camp, there are 3 cabins with two rooms (2 single beds, 1 Queen bed, linens and towels furnished) and 4 limited service cabins at Cow Camp with AC and heating, 2 bunk beds, table and chairs, picnic table, and a large patio with great views of the canyon - but no towels or linens and the restroom and showers are across the road. The Cow Camp cabins are all stone with wood beams, very spartan and rustic and most have fantastic views - they are pretty cool, kids will love them, and you'll feel like real pioneers or cowboys!
In addition to good campsites and unbelievable beautiful scenery, Palo Duro Canyon has a number of amenities, some of which include:
One of those special events are plays held from June to September in the beautiful outdoor Pioneer Amphitheater with the towering canyon walls as a backdrop. This family-friendly show's fictional characters bring to life the stories, struggles and triumphs of the settlers of the Texas Panhandle in the 1800's. Song and dance abound - and a generous helping of good ol' Texas humor too - with spellbinding lighting, special effects and fireworks. If you get there early, you can enjoy a bar-b-que dinner served on the covered patio.
We start the day with a hearty breakfast and then try to make a decision on whether to hike or bike the trails and which trails to start with. For an easy ride, we like the Sunflower, Rio Grande, or Del Rio trail, each of which is about a 2 mile easy ride or hike along the base of the canyon with portions following the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. The signature tail is the Lighthouse Trail and it's a must do if you're into hiking or mountain bikig. It is a moderately difficult, 5.75 mile round trip multi-use trial that climbs 940 feet through some stunning rock formations, beautiful scenery, and to the parks hallmark lighthouse hoodoo.
After a day of hiking, sitting around the campfire, enjoying a cold drink, and the starlit sky is a perfect end to the day. We have also enjoyed one of the horseback trail rides. And Comanche Trail Golf Course in Amarillo is a pretty good course.
Canyon and Amarillo are the closest towns and Amarillo (about 25 minutes north) has a number of things to see and do. Other nearby activities include Caprock Canyons State Park, Storyland Zoo for Children, Nielsen Memorial Museum, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, West Texas A&M University, Wildcat Bluff Nature Center, and Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Texas Outside uses a tough rating scale and it’s difficult for a campground to get a “10”. Each park is rated on: