Today is June 1, and this entire month is Great Outdoors Month – a month-long celebration of the outdoors and the benefits of being outdoors doing whatever you enjoy – hiking, biking, fishing, boating, camping, playing, gardening, etc. Today is also the first Saturday of June, making it National Trails Day – a great day to get outside and go for a hike during Great Outdoors Month!

If you live in the Texas Panhandle, then here’s a suggestion for an interesting place to visit this month.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is in Texas about 30 miles from Amarillo.  It is the second largest canyon in the United States.  (Can anyone guess which one is the largest?  Anyone? Bueller?) Palo Duro is about 120 miles long and up to 20 miles wide in places, and 800-1000′ deep.

Palo Duro means “hard wood” in Spanish – I’m not sure what that has to do with a place known for its mesas, caves, and hoodoos, though.

The canyon was carved by the Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River.  Which is its proper name, and it should not be called “Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River”, “Prairie Dog Town Fork of Red River”, or “South Fork of the Red River.”

I’ve never been there, but my friends Kristin(e) and Matt visited recently, which is why I’m writing this blog.  It really looks like an interesting area – but not a place I’d want to be on a summer day. My friend Bill HAS been there in the summer – he’s told me about the 95-degree NIGHTS.  Yikes.  Kristin and Bill both shared photos for me to use in this blog, as well as some of their thoughts and observations – thank you to both of them.

One of the interesting things about Palo Duro is that, unlike Grand Canyon, visitors actually drive down into the canyon to get to most of the trail heads as well as campgrounds and picnic areas.  So a lot of the hiking is relatively flat.   This photo was taken from the Visitor Center, which is on the rim.  The formation is appropriately named “Spanish Skirts.”

Palo Duro Canyon – Spanish Skirts

While there are a number of hiking trails, the signature hike is the Lighthouse Trail, which goes to the most iconic feature of the park, called (wait for it) The Lighthouse.  Bill took this photo on one of his trips there.  It’s an almost 6-mile round trip, on a mostly flat trail with one small steep hill at the end.

Palo Duro Canyon – The Lighthouse

There are lots of nice views of colorful mesas from the trail.

Palo Duro Canyon – Capitol Peak

They take heat safety VERY seriously here – a gallon of water per person or animal is recommended.  At this time of year Kristin said they should have worn bug spray due to biting flies.

Hikers, dogs, horses, and mountain bikes are allowed on this particular trail.  There are other multi-use trails in the park as well, but also some that are restricted to hikers only, bikes only, or horses only.

Kristin sent me these photos with the message: “Channeling my inner Laura…I don’t typically take pictures of flowers…”  I’m glad she did – very pretty!


Another interesting fact about the park…for the last 54 years an outdoor musical has been staged during the summer in the amphitheater.  It’s called “Texas” and it tells some of the history of the area.  It is also the official play of the state of Texas.  Bill mentioned it to me – it’s how he knows that it can be 95 degrees at night!  He said: “almost everyone in town remembers when they were high school/early college students and either acted or helped out.”  You can read more about the musical  here.

Have you visited Palo Duro Canyon State Park?


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