While we were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in northern Texas, we asked several folks, “what is there to do in Dallas?” or “What are things to do in North Texas?” Often we were told about local parks. We did visit these local parks and were pretty disappointed. So began our search online to find things to do and places to go and adventures we could enjoy in North Texas. We discovered the panhandle area and the beautiful photos of that area. Amarillo was also in that neck of the woods, so we thought…
I can’t remember if it was my husband or I that found Palo Duro Canyon State Park, but the pictures online were absolutely gorgeous. We dug out some Best Western travel cards and found a pet-friendly Hotel in Canyon Texas. We prefer a Hotel to other accommodations. After we booked our room, packed our bags (and our dog), we hit the road.
My husband chose our route based on the less travelled. He knew it would take longer to drive from Dallas to Canyon Texas, but it would allow us to see smaller towns, avoid toll roads and several hours of bumper to bumper traffic where cars freely weave in & out on multi lane bridges like they’re on a Nascar track. (I’ll share those back road adventures in another article.) The total drive took us roughly 6 1/2 to 7 hours. Please keep in mind, we drove easy, stopped often and enjoyed the sites along the way. The drive from the DFW area to Canyon would have taken only 4 1/2 to 5 hours if we were more destination focused.
Arriving in Canyon Texas, a small town about 20 minutes outside Amarillo Texas, we immediately noticed it was a cozy place. Main Street literally being its main attraction, the people were very welcoming and the traffic was slow. The pace of life was much more easy-going. The weather was beautiful.
The entrance to Palo Duro Canyon is about 8 to 10 minutes away from the Best Western Hotel in Canyon Texas. The following morning we had coffee and packed a couple of bagels, various snacks & plenty of water for our adventure.
One of the most important thing to do in Palo Duro Canyon is stay hydrated. The weather there can be tricky and the canyon floor can easily reach over 110 degrees for several hours each day.
At the entrance we waited in line for about 25 minutes before we paid $5 per person. It’s important for any visitor to know that this park is highly populated as well as many of Texas’ other state parks. In the event the park is at full capacity, the Park Rangers pass out tickets to hold your place in line until they’re able to allow admittance (which can take up to 4 hours). I highly recommend being one of the first in line or you may not be able to visit the park on the day you arrive!
Palo Duro Canyon is very well-kept. The park rangers regularly patrol the canyon for exhausted visitors that may need a little aid. There were signs posted everywhere stating at least a gallon of water per person was recommended for each hour. We sweated this much or more and drank about a gallon an hour each on the trails.
Shortly after we entered there was a beautiful look-out point fabulous for taking photos! We also noticed the cabins located off to the right. The park rents these cabins out for overnight stays. They looked very nice, but we did not go inside any of them. Traveler tip: If you are looking to rent a cabin, do it well in advance – possibly several months out.
From that point we ascended down on a curvy road toward the bottom of the Canyon. We passed the theatre area where the Texas Musical Play was presented in the evening. Ticket were available for purchase, but we did not attend.
Next there was a store/deli/tourist shop. The prices were a bit higher there then if you weren’t inside a Texas State Park but not too terribly unreasonable.
What did they sell inside the Trading Post?
They made homemade ice cream which was absolutely delicious and I highly recommend you try at the grill! One serving was large enough to share but not knowing, we ordered two. Their french fries were absolutely great and my husband’s said their hamburger was totally delicious. They also sold water and gasoline for those who were low on fuel. This was also the place to find t-shirts, postcards, and any other tourist gift and memorabilia to commemorate a visit.
There were too many campsites to count. We saw primitive, modern, and large RV Park sites as well. There was also a section on the far side of the park for equestrians. The camping sorts available were numerous and we saw people from all walks of life on different budgets enjoying their stay.
There’s a small stream of water that normally runs through the bottom of the canyon according to the Trail Maps. The creek beds were mostly dry when we were there.
The many hiking trails were varied from super easy to extremely challenging. I loved hiking there because the brush and trees provided shade to cool off at different intervals.
The dirt in the Palo Duro Canyon is red. The rocks are many colors though. The contrast was beautiful and made for some gorgeous photos.
The flora in the canyon included small & large trees, several types of flowers and cacti, and many tumbleweed type bushes. The creatures we saw in the canyon include lizards, rabbits, roadrunners, turkey and other birds. Signs along the way read that it was possible to encounter other types as well, but we didn’t. I was a little afraid that we would be in contact with a rattlesnake, but we got lucky and never saw one.
Things to do in Palo Duro Canyon included:
Biking, Hiking, Camping, RV Park, Bird Watching, Horseback Riding, Caving, (we saw at least 3 caves for the brave to explore. I wasn’t one of the brave!) and much more.
It was a dusty adventure in the Palo Duro Canyon. We stayed for about 5 1/2 hours on the trip hiking roughly 10 miles that day. When we left we were covered in the dusty red dirt from the second largest canyon in the United States.
It was rather surprising that the Palo Duro Canyon was so little known to the various folks we spoke to in Texas area. I don’t understand how such an awesome place was so unrecognized by the locals.
Enjoy the slide show and leave me a comment about things to do in Texas. I love suggestions!