Texas is a place of magnificence. The towering hoodoos are proud accents to the blue sky. The caves, meanwhile, are as attractive as the views outside. The canyon is like a world on its own, with its lowest point and highest peak offering nothing but grandeur.
That’s the Palo Duro Canyon: a panorama of nature’s best. Dubbed the ‘Grand Canyon of the South,’ this Texan masterpiece offers tourists a chance to be out there. Campers, hikers, and equestrians will have a satisfying time in this welcoming place. It’s like a giant playground for thrill-seekers. Come one, come all – the canyon awaits.
What To Know About visiting Palo Duro Canyon
The second-largest canyon in the United States is located in the Texas Panhandle. It is part of the Palo Duro Canyon State Park – an easily accessible area that’s always eager to welcome guests.
- The state park is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- The entrance fee is $8 for ages 13 and up (free of charge for 12 years old and below).
- Tourists are encouraged to reserve passes online for guaranteed entry.
Best Things To Do At Palo Duro Canyon
People who love the outdoors will have a field day exploring the canyon. Whether it’s leg day or just a laid-back picnic session, the park has them covered.
The Palo Duro Canyon is an ideal site for campers, thanks to its open areas where they can try outdoor activities. A weekend trip to this destination is one for the books.
- There are more than 100 campsites scattered in various areas of the park: Juniper,
- Mesquite, Sagebrush, Hackberry, and Wolfberry (group camp). The nightly rate starts at $26.
- Hikers and Survivor fans can choose from four primitive campsites where they can sign off after a day of trail adventure.
- For those who want a solid roof while they sleep on their overnight trip, there are seven cabins in the area. The nightly rate starts at $60.
- Visitors who want some luxury while outdoors can try glamping.
Hikers can have a whole day taking on the challenge of Palo Duro’s trails. There are 16 trails, which provide trekkers with the opportunity to experience why the canyon is so unique. Listed below are some of the trails where visitors can take an easy hike or go for a challenging climb.
- One of the easiest, the Sunflower Trail, is perfect for families who want a mellow and shady trek. The trail length is 1.2 miles (one-way), and the hike will take an hour, on average.
- Another beginner trail, the path of Juniper/Riverside will take tourists to the colorful Spanish Skirts rock formations. The trail length is 1.1 miles (one-way), and the hike will take about an hour.
- Hikers should not miss the chance to visit the area's most famous attraction: the Lighthouse rock formation. The 2.8-mile Lighthouse trail will lead tourists to this icon, and it will take around two hours to finish.
- For a moderate trek, hikers can navigate the scenic Rojo Grande trail and check out the Quartermaster geologic formation. The trail length is 1.2 miles (one-way), and the hike will likely take an hour.
- For those who want a challenge, the CCC trail awaits. Thrill-seekers will cross four historic bridges and descend 500 feet through geologic layers from the canyon rim to its floor. The trail length is 1.4 miles (one-way), and the hike will usually take 1.5 hours.
- For those who want to up their hiking game, they can conquer the 4.4-mile Lower Comanche trail, which will take around four hours to finish. Trekkers will be welcomed by majestic scenery, but not before they hike the craggy face of Fortress Cliff.
Mountain bikers will have a fun time navigating the rocky trails of Capitol Peak. This MTB wonderland will take tourists to the scenic canyon area.
The 3.5-mile trail will take 1.5 hours to finish, and there are routes available for everyone ranging from beginners to pros.
Equestrians, meanwhile, can take their hoofed companion on a 1.6-mile journey from the former grazing area of the historic JA Ranch into the heart of the canyon country. The trip will take two hours to finish.
There are 1,500 acres of land dedicated to horseback riding, plus a campsite for equestrians where they can rest together with their four-legged pal.
From the get-go at the visitor center, tourists will be welcomed by amazing photos of the canyon’s best offerings. And what better way to see them but firsthand.
Naturally, Palo Duro Canyon’s main offerings are wonderful geological formations. The canyon, which has four geologic layers, is 120 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 800 feet deep. Aside from rock spires, other formations in the area include the rustic red Quartermaster, the multicolored Tecovas, the solid Trujillo, and the spectacular Ogallala.
Aside from plant species like paper flowers, blackfoot daisies, sunflowers, and prickly pear cacti, birds and four-legged critters consider the area home. Lucky tourists might be able to spot wild turkeys, deer, bobcats, roadrunners, lizards, Bullock’s orioles, or even Mississippi kites. The threatened species of Palo Duro mouse and Texas horned lizard also live in the park.
It’s easy to fall in love with the Palo Duro Canyon. Firstly, the breeze is comforting even if tourists are engaged in an action-packed activity like biking or hiking. Second, the views are unmatched – a sight for sore eyes. Lastly, this place is Mother Nature’s work of art, made possible by the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River and the wind’s artistry. Just being there is special enough.