Dear Hiking Lady,
I am interested in a 1-2 night backpacking trip in Palo Duro Canyon state park in Texas. Most of the info I can gather online involves small day hike trails around the State Park. Can you refer me to any web sites or literature regarding more extensive hiking in the canyon?
Thanks in advance.
Dave, Grand Prairie, TX
You’re going to have a great time in the Grand Canyon of Texas: Palo Duro Canyon! I haven’t been, but I’ve heard a lot about it. Palo Duro Canyon is 21 miles south of Amarillo, TX, and 362 miles northwest of Dallas in the Texas Panhandle, and is known for being a badland of breathtaking rock formations. With 29,000 acres to explore, there is a lot for both day hikers and backpackers to enjoy.
You sure are right that there isn’t much information about backpacking at Palo Duro. I even called the park and they couldn’t point me to any guides or books!
A book you should take a look at is The Story of Palo Duro Canyon. It was published in 2001, and there are limited copies available, but it has a detailed review of the history, geology, and hiking in Palo Duro Canyon.
Backpacking is allowed in Palo Duro Canyon, as long as you hike in for at least 30 minutes (kind of a funny rule because everyone hikes at a different speed)! The starting point is the very end of the park, circled in red on the map to the right:
If you do find any backpacking trip reports, please share them! Also, you can use the USGS map of Palo Duro Canyon to plan out routes. Keep in mind that it was last updated in 1977!
Popular Day Hikes in Palo Duro Canyon
While you’re there, you may want to check out some of the popular day hikes in Palo Duro Canyon:
- Lighthouse Trail. The most popular day hike in the park, where you can see the famous Lighthouse Rock. It is a 6 mile round-trip hike.
- Givens, Spicer & Lowry Running Trail. This is the longest trail in the park at 11 miles RT, that passes through the badlands and various parts of the canyon.
- Paseo Del Rio. An easy 2 mile RT hike along the Red River.
- Triassic Trail.
- Fortress Cliff Primitive Camping. For car camping. This is a drive up camping spot that is close to the 2 mile RT Sunflower Trail.
Palo Duro Canyon vs. Grand Canyon
For those of you who love facts, here are some that I’ve dug up about Palo Duro relative to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Both are impressive places that are worth exploring!
- Length: Palo Duro is 120 miles long, while the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long!
- Width: Palo Duro Canyon is 20 miles wide in some spots; the Grand Canyon is narrower at just 18 miles wide!
- Depth: The Grand Canyon is far deeper than Palo Duro Canyon. Palo Duro is just 800 feet deep while the Grand Canyon is up to 6,000 feet deep!
Be sure to watch out for snakes and flash floods, and always take a lot of water! Hope this info helps, and you’ll likely want to get the book I mentioned above, The Story of Palo Duro Canyon, before you go. Have a great time exploring Palo Duro Canyon.