Travel Guide: Hiking Palo Duro Canyon

Nov 21, 2017




Three days, two nights, 21 miles and as I soak my feet, I type and rub my nose with Kleenex. 26 degrees. 26 Degrees, Y'all. That's how cold Palo Duro Canyon got at night. I suppose this runny nose is an indication that after darn near 15 years it's time for a new sleepin' bag and tent.

Each Travel Guide I love to link the full #TravelinTexan bucket list so Y'all can see the entire list. Palo Duro Canyon crosses number 37 off the list. Shall we get into this quick little trip? And hang until the end to see what Kleenex and Viva toilet paper has to do with the World Wildlife Foundation and bein' the Travelin' Texan.

Over the last year or so I've found myself fascinated with Native American Culture and it's roots. It's speculated for years that my family has Native American, but it can't be proven, and I have yet to take one of the many DNA tests. Nevertheless, it doesn't stop me from enjoyin' the rich history and the few remnants left of the Old West in Texas. Palo Duro Canyon, located in Canyon Texas just thirty minutes from Amarillo in The Texas Panhandle is abundant with Native American History. You'll find the giftshops and signs lined with information on Quanah Parker, the Comanche Tribe, and the Red River War.

Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the US next to The Grand Canyon. Home to roadrunners, rattlesnakes, lizards, wild turkeys, bobcats, mule deer, and coyotes. While we only saw roadrunners a few times, we did hear the coyotes as they lulled us to sleep. Under the Panhandle stars.

We arrived at Palo Duro Canyon, late Sunday night after a quick 6-hour drive from Dallas. The park closes the front gates at 10 pm, so if you are goin' to show past then make sure to call ahead so you can be left with the code and told where the late check-in box with your temporary pass is. We found our camp area and quickly pitched our tent. The cold night was an understatement even bundled to the high heavens.



We woke the next morin' and drove up the Canyon to the Ranger Station to check in and receive our permanent pass. The drive up and down the Canyon is breathtakin'. Texans often joke about the majesty and vast differences in Texas, but until you travel around the state and see for yourself, you really can never put it into words.

Warm coffee and oatmeal was a must. Anythin' to stay warm and fill our bellies before we hiked. Palo Duro Canyon has some more than 40 miles of trail, and those are just the ones marked on the trail map.

Hiking Trails:

The two most popular trails in the State Park are Civilian Conservation Corps Trail (CCC Trail) and the Lighthouse Trail. The CCC Trail is touted as the most challenging trail in the park because it is the only trail that descends all the way down to the bottom of the canyon. And as Mr. Brandon who was working the gift shop told me when I asked about the trail, "Just remember honey what goes up must come down. You hike down if you want but you gotta come back up." I chuckled not realizin' how right he'd be two days later.

The lighthouse Trail is by far the most popular and colorful trail of the park. Touted as moderate the trail not only goes through parts of the canyon but ends at the base of the famous Lighthouse rock formation. Once the trails end, you can climb to the top at an elevation change of about 600-900 feet, but other than the optional climb to the top the trail is flat and smooth. The moderate ratin' by the state park is because at six miles round trip if you don't have water you'll struggle.


We set out on Monday to embark on the Lighthouse Trail. The plan was to take the smaller Paso Del Rio Trail that travels along the main road in Palo Duro Canyon to Lighthouse Trail and then see where the day led us. Quickly plans changed, after we drove to the Chinaberry day use area to drop off our car and get hikin'. We immediately followed the path that a camper told us would lead to the "Cowboy Dugout" and take us on the trail. I suppose that was our first mistake. Trustin' someone who swore they knew the area instead of findin' out for ourself. After a good 2 hours of hikin' uphill, we quickly realized there was no way we were on the "family friendly" Paso Del Rio Trial. We found ourselves stopped for lunch and I must say thank goodness for the mini Kleenex packs we packed because with the constant elevation change and wind my nose could not stop runnin'.


After a good rest and cool down we found ourselves at a crossroads. I could see other hikers above us, and I could see the road below us. The problem was the trail poorly marked. Moments later a middle-aged couple came upon us and informed us we were just a fourth of a mile from the Rock Garden Trail lookout. "I knew it," I shouted. Avery looked over at me puzzled. I hadn't told Avery as not to alarm him but when I realized we were still goin' up, I pulled out my phone and opened my compass app. I looked at the longitude and latitude coordinates and saw they were identical to the ninth point of interest on the map the Park Guide had given us. That had put on us in between the Juniper/Riverside Trail. We weren't off the trail. We'd never been on the right trail, to begin with, and should have never trusted that camper. After a little arguin' with Avery, we agreed that he would rest and I would walk the last fourth of a mile up to the lookout to take a few photos and video.

We eventually made the mile down usin' the well-marked Rose Garden Trail. Again we pulled up my compass app, and I spun into a circle until the red arrow pointed north. North, we begin to walk. We walked quickly upon a map kikos that showed we were goin' in the right direction and were never on the side of the canyon we wanted to be on to begin'. A good hour or so later the sun began to set as we saw the car in the distance. The only one left in the day use lot. Avery dramatically fell on the floor after he pulled out his GPS app to see we had hiked near 13 miles. Well over the six we had intended to hike. I pulled up the map and stood near the car tryin' to see where we had gone wrong. I quickly realized the reason the trail we were on seemed poorly marked was that we had hiked the strenuous bike trail. Bikers look down when they ride so the flags were the markers and the x's we saw on the ground at the fork in the trail were not indicating that that path closed. It was lettin' bikers know that section wasn't safe and to stay right. I chuckled as the cold set in, and we drove our tired bodies back to camp.

We made quick work of dinner and camp bedtime rituals. Much of the meal spent laughin' over the day's hike and what would become of the mornin' before we left. Avery insistin' that he wasn't goin' on the CCC Trail with me. We compromised. I'd make the short trail in the mornin' before he woke.

That next mornin' I rose frozen beyond belief. Avery rode along as I drove to what I assumed was the trailhead, parked the car on a side indention and readied myself to hike informin' Avery that if I wasn't back in two hours to follow the map and come lookin'. The sun rose over the canyon as I made quick work of the short path in the bush that lead to the trail. A fork in the trail approached, and I chose to go right to continue along the path. Moments later I realized I was again only goin' up, but determined not to stray from the trail I forged. Thirty short minutes later I found myself at the top of the trailhead. I tried not to look annoyed as kids and parents bustled around me. What was it with the poorly marked areas in Palo Duro Canyon. Why have a sign that says the CCC Trail this way in one-fourth of a mile when the actual start of the trail was up the top of the canyon? I sat for a second gulpin' water debatin' what I wanted to do next. I looked at my phone's and decided for safety and time I'd abandon gettin' to the bottom of the canyon. I'd accidentally seen most of it the day before anyway. I'd just Take the top of the trail back.

Halfway through takin' the trail back, I found myself lookin' up to see the trailhead and all the people and lookin' down to see there were no more trail markers. To go back to the last marker I'd seen or not? The smart decision would have been to turn around, but I opted not to. I could see the road and realized I wasn't far into the bush. I forged forward off the trail until about thirty minutes later I saw the canyon road. I walked the canyon road down until I saw Avery holdin' a water bottle filled with coffee. He was jumpin' and wavin' to get my attention. He saw me comin' and wanted to make sure I remembered which direction the car was.

We arrived back at camp to see that the disrespectful Texas wind had blown our tent across the park and stakes were strewn every which way. We made quick work of breakfast and packin' anxious to get on the famous Lighthouse Trail before we headed back to Dallas. Appreciative of our Viva paper towels, Avery had hung them from the side of our picnic area for easy access and reach.


I made a massive groan as we approached the trail at noon only to realize what we saw on the map was one way. Avery smiled hopin' that would change my mind, and we'd just head out. "Not a chance," I hollered. I climbin' the top of the lighthouse.

Avery bowed out at the end of the trail. Optin' not to climb the 600 feet up to the top. I found myself sad as I climbed alone. Not a soul to in sight who would take my picture I selfishly thought. I reached the top as the wind threatened to topple me over. Once on top a family with small children cautiously made their way on the narrow rock child by child. The mother looked at me and went, "Want me to take your picture? Ohh, lemme scoot back so I can get angles and everythin' in view." I smiled and mutter a very appreciative thank you before sittin' and takin' in the vast canyon. I could see the Panhandle for miles.


I always joke with people it's not campin' that I love. If I'm bein' quite honest, I do not get a thrill from sleepin' outside in a tent or cookin' over campfire or stove. I enjoy hikin'. I appreciate the feelin' of pushin' myself.  Of bein' on the side of a canyon holdin' on for dear life as I continue to climb up. I never did understand those who like to run on a treadmill or stationary bike as you are goin' nowhere. I camp because that's how I get to hike. I need to be outside seein' Texas.

With that bein' said one of the many selfish things I love about bein' able to partner with Kimberly-Clark Cooperation is that I purchased all the Kleenex and Viva Choose-A-Sheet Paper Towels from my laptop and had them delivered next day.  Easy convenience so I could focus on other fun parts of campin'. And Y'all know I love a good coupon or deal; I get it from my Daddy, or so I'm told. You can save $2.50 off in coupons and up to %15 with the subscribe and save on Amazon. With the holidays comin' up and items such as these bein' a staple in households, you can't beat that deal. You can also get the same deals with Cottonelle and Scott.

But, the best part. Yes, the best part is that from now until 2020 the Kimberly- Clark Cooperation is partnering with the  WWF and Forest Steward Council to raise awareness on the importance os usin' products that have fiber that comes from managed forest responsibly. As someone who has not only made Texas my bucket list but I spend much of my time when I'm not brunchin' outside in Nature, I'm on board. It also helps that I went to a college that is one of the top Foresty and Agriculture Colleges in the state of Texas.


All, you have to do is make sure when you shop  the package has the Forest Stewardship Council label and you're all set. I like the idea of doin' good and findin' a way to "Heart Your plant."  Somethin' so simple but will have such a huge impact.



1 comment

  1. Palo Duro Canyon is a neat place to visit. We used to go there frequently to camp when we lived in Lubbock. The play they put on is neat too.

    Just got to be careful and watch for snakes. We saw rattlesnakes in the road and a coral snake on a trail.

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