15 Best Things to Do in Palo Duro Canyon, TX (2023)

Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States, behind only the iconic Grand Canyon in Arizona.

You can find it in Randall County, Texas.

Hailed as “The Grand Canyon of Texas,” Palo Duro Canyon also has stunning geological features, colorful rock layers, and sheer walls within.

Located 30 minutes from Amarillo, this is one of the popular destinations for residents and tourists visiting the city.

With more than 28,000 acres of natural wonders, here is a list of the best things to do in Palo Duro Canyon, Texas.

Take the Lighthouse Trail

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One of the most iconic structures in Palo Duro Canyon is the Lighthouse, an impressive 300-foot-tall rock formation.

Although the Lighthouse has been captured on postcards, souvenirs and photographs, it is best to see this formation in person by taking theLighthouse Trail.

Rated as a moderate trail, it takes about two hours to reach the lighthouse depending on your pace.

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There are benches for breaks mid-hike, but bring plenty of water and start as early as possible to avoid the crowds and beat the heat.

If you don't have the time or fitness to hike the Lighthouse Trail, you can still see the rock from the parking lot.

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Begin your adventure at the Canyon Gallery & Visitor Center

Theit is one of the essential parts of visiting Palo Duro Canyon.

The facility sits atop the canyon and offers stunning views of the surrounding area, giving you a bird's-eye view of the state park, its trails, and other points of interest.

At the visitor center, you can also find out about available interpretive programs and the condition of the hiking trails.

Then get park maps and ask for help creating the perfect one-day or multi-day itinerary.

On the other hand, the Canyon Gallery & Visitor Center features various authentic Native American crafts, including vintage rugs, paintings, pottery, and more.

Before or after visiting the state park, stop by the Canyon Gallery and purchase a souvenir or two to bring home.

Camp under the Stars στο Palo Duro Canyon Campground

Make the most of your trip to Palo Duro Canyon and spend the night atCamping in Palo Duro Canyon.

Palo Duro Canyon Campground is located in Palo Duro Canyon State Park and includes several campsites.

Most campgrounds offer electricity, picnic tables, fire rings, RV hookups, restrooms with showers, water hookups, nearby water sources, and more.

There are also primitive campsites, group campsites and sponsored youth group campsites.

Once the sun sets, look up at the stars and see twinkling stars and other celestial bodies.

Don't forget to bring your binoculars, telescopes and cameras to capture the night sky like you've never seen before.

Please remember that if you wish to camp at Palo Duro Canyon Campground, you must inquire about campsite availability in advance.

Drive a jeep into the canyon with Palo Duro Creek Ranch

Experience the stunning canyons on a jeep tourPalo Duro Creek Ranch.

Guided by entertaining and informative guides, you will discover the beauty, history and diversity of the canyon as you pass giant rocks, steep slopes and hills.

Visit Palo Duro Creek Ranch and choose from three tours ranging from one to three hours.

The one-hour Black Hawk Tour is the perfect introductory tour, highlighting the famous Lighthouse monument and passing through a plateau, waterfalls and a wildflower meadow.

Meanwhile, the two-hour Hidden Spring Canyon Tour offers a historical tour where you'll learn about the daily life of cowboys as the Jeep passes through prairies, an old windmill, and the main canyon.

Finally, the three-hour Spirit of Palo Duro Canyon Tour explores the canyon's unique geological features, with photo stops on the bluffs and up-close views of the rock formations.

Drive around the Palo Duro Canyon Loop

If you want to experience the beauty of Palo Duro Canyon without hiking long distances, drive itPalo Duro Canyon Loop.

This scenic route takes you through scenic locations and spectacular canyon and cliff views in the comfort of your vehicle.

The Palo Duro Canyon Loop is about 16 miles long, goes to the canyon floor and ends at the Visitor Center.

In addition, the scenic drive can take 45 minutes or more, depending on whether you stop for photo ops and a quick snack or lunch break between drives.

See canyon cliffs, colorful sandstone formations, hoodoos and other natural scenery as you drive around the loop.

Ride your bike along the Capitol Peak Mountain Trail

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Enjoy breathtaking views of Capitol Peak on an exciting loopCapitol Peak Mountain Bike Trail.

Mountain biking along Palo Duro Canyon is one of the best things to do in the area, as the rocky and rugged terrain challenges bikers.

Biking around the trail takes about an hour and a half and spans 3.5 miles, traversing the scenic canyons around Capitol Peak.

The Capitol Peak Mountain Bike Trail is also famous in Palo Duro Canyon because it offers three levels of difficulty, accommodating both beginners and experienced bikers.

The trail also connects to the Lighthouse Trail, so cyclists can combine these two trails and kill two birds with one stone.

Grab a bite at the Palo Duro Trading Post

For your souvenir, camping and food needs, head toPalo Duro Trading Post, conveniently located within Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

The family-owned restaurant and store has been serving visitors to the canyon since 2001, providing visitors with delicious food, souvenirs, camping supplies and propane fire ring rentals.

It is also the only gas station in Palo Duro Canyon.

Looking for a quick meal after your hike?

Try the sandwiches, burgers, fries, hot dogs and other snacks at Palo Duro Trading Post.

If you need last minute camping supplies, buy firewood, gas and groceries and rent a propane fire ring.

Some memorabilia sold in the shop include fridge magnets, medals, mugs and clothing.

Hike the Givens, Spicer, Lowry Trail

For those looking for a challenge, conquer new ground and go for itGivens, Spicer και Lowry Trail.

The trail is named after the avid runners who helped develop the canyon's trail system.

Stretching about eight miles, this trail is the perfect workout. challenge yourself and enjoy the thrilling and exciting view of the gorge.

The trail also connects to a portion of the Lighthouse Trail, so hikers can take a side trip to see the beauty of the iconic Lighthouse rock formation.

The Givens, Spicer and Lowry Trail hike takes approximately three hours to complete one way.

Start your trip as early as possible to avoid extreme heat.

Try Glamping with Palo Duro Glamping

Experience a unique overnight stay in Palo Duro Canyon on a spectacular trip withPalo Duro Glamping.

Unlike traditional camping, glamping sites come with air conditioning, refrigerators and basic kitchen appliances, a propane fireplace and grill, linens, towels and water.

The location also features a covered patio with rocking chairs and patio swings, perfect for relaxing and enjoying some peace and solitude after a busy day.

Reserve a cabin or tent with Palo Duro Glamping and enjoy a luxurious and comfortable stay.

After a restful night, watch the sunrise with a freshly brewed coffee and enjoy a complimentary breakfast before heading to one of the nearby hiking trails for another day of adventure.

Sign up for a Ranger-led Program at Palo Duro Canyon State Park

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To better understand the history of Palo Duro Canyon, join a ranger-led program atPalo Duro Canyon State Park.

The park offers various programs about its history, natural features and other interesting facts that will make you appreciate the beauty of nature.

Learn about resident and migratory birds in the canyon and the history behind the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon.

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Otherwise, join a ranger-led Palo Duro Canyon State Park driving tour.

You can also hike the canyon on a full moon or ring in the new year with a hike on one of its trails.

Call the park in advance to schedule a group schedule for larger groups.

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See the outdoor musical TEXAS

Located at the outdoor Pioneer Amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon, theTEXAS Outdoor Musicalit's a must-see show every summer.

The theatrical production details the history of the Texas Panhandle region focusing on ranchers and farmers with themes of romance, struggle and conflict.

In addition to singing and dancing, TEXAS Outdoor Musical includes light humor, making it a family-friendly production.

In addition, the lighting and special effects, combined with the dramatic landscapes of Palo Duro Canyon, are simply a sight to behold.

Before the show, don't miss a Texan BBQ dinner, which includes chopped beef brisket, smoked sausage, potato salad, coleslaw, bread, dessert and beverages.

There aren't many state parks in Texas that have outdoor musical performances, so this is one of the only activities in the canyon.

Fly over the canyons with the Palo Duro Zipline

See Texas' iconic Palo Duro Canyon from a different perspective on a ziplining tripPalo Duro Zipline.

Perfect for families, thrill seekers, and those looking to try something new, ziplining is one of the most memorable ways to spend time at Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

Start with a ten-minute fun wagon ride on your zip line trip before taking a leap of faith and traversing the state park.

Although it does not go over the gorge, you can see amazing views.

Passage on the Palo Duro Zipline is also available for people under 65 pounds.

On the other hand, join the Chicken Tour and ride the fun wagon without a seat belt.

You can admire the scenery while watching everyone zip through the sky.

Old West Stables Horseback Ride

In addition to exploring Palo Duro Canyon by foot, car, and jeep, horseback riding is another popular way to get around the canyon.

Located in Palo Duro Canyon State Park,Old West Stablesprovides hourly horseback riding tours and trail rides that can accommodate up to 12 riders.

The trail ride will take you through canyon highlights such as Sad Monkey Mesa, Catarina Caves, and Spanish Skirts.

You will also see hoodoos and caves and walk along the canyon walls.

During your ride with Old West Stables, you can see animals such as mule deer, wild turkeys, road runners, coyotes and feral hogs in their natural habitat.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rider, you should have an unforgettable time exploring Palo Duro Canyon.

Geocaching is a fun outdoor activity where participants use GPS trackers or smartphones to search for geocaches, metal boxes or canisters that hold a journal, marketable items, and other exciting finds.

It's a modern treasure hunt that kids and kids at heart can enjoy.

You can find variousgeocaching sites in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, some are in the park and along the trails.

Most geocaching sites are approved by park staff.

Not only will you enjoy exploring Palo Duro Canyon State Park, but you'll also do some research to find the geocache.

Check out the Texas Longhorns

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The Texas Longhorn is a type of American cattle recognizable by its large and long horns and is also one of the symbols of Texas.

For those who haven't seen one of these mighty animals, Palo Duro Canyon is home to a part of itOfficial Texas State Longhorn Herd.

Along with other state parks, Palo Duro Canyon State Park works with the Texas State Parks and Historical Commission to manage the herd.

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Visit the meadow near the park headquarters and have a chance to see one of the famous Longhorns.

On the prairie, learn more about the origins of the Texas Longhorn, how it helped the Spanish in the early years, and how the United States Forest Service saved the breed from extinction.

Final thoughts

While most people head to Arizona to see the colorful Grand Canyon, Texas offers a natural wonder as fascinating as the World Heritage Site.

Palo Duro Canyon has postcard-perfect scenery, fascinating flora and fauna, and a rich history.

Visitors can enjoy many outdoor activities, from camping and hiking to adrenaline pumping Jeep tours and ziplining.

If you're itching for your next weekend getaway, visit Texas and enjoy the best things to do in Palo Duro Canyon, TX!

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