Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Amarillo TX

Did you know that the second largest canyon in the U.S. is in Texas? Seriously, I never would have guessed. But once I found out I had to visit Palo Duro Canyon.

The panhandle of Texas is pretty flat. On our way there I started worrying we were in the wrong place or had gotten our information mixed up. There was prairie, prairie, more prairie, then suddenly The Canyon complete with red rock formations, junipers, and stunning vistas.

1:28 / 9:18 Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas

To add to our experience, the wildflowers were in full bloom. We visited a couple of weeks ago and this year happens to be an especially wet spring. Needless to say, the wildflowers were amazing. But where there is water there are mosquitoes. Most of the time bug spray took care of them. The one exception was when we were hiking. There were times we were running to get away from the mosquito swarms.

The Visitors Center offers the best views of the canyon and they have a free telescope. Kids didn’t want to leave. The Center is just down from the park entrance, but keep an eye out for the sign. It is set off the road so you won’t see the building driving by. We love learning about the ecology and history of the areas we visit so the Visitors Center is always a must for us.

2nd largest canyon in the US

If you have kids I recommend participating in the Junior Ranger program. It is pretty simple and about half of the questions are answered in the Visitors Center. My kids are young but they still learned about what animals live in the canyon and were able to name a few.

Mesquite campground

We camped in the Mesquite campground. We choose one that had showers, water, and electricity. We never used the electricity but it was nice being able to take showers after the long, hot days. There are primitive campgrounds just down the road.

We loved the Mesquite campground because it was at the back of the canyon, offered lots of exploring, and was relatively quiet. It was a little annoying driving the full 6 miles back to the campground at 30 mph. What made it worse for us was that a section of the road was closed so there was more traffic on our portion. Either way, I wouldn’t have changed it and definitely recommend camping there.

Lighthouse Trail

We hiked the Lighthouse Trail. The Lighthouse formations are the most recognizable in the canyon, they are on all of the park paraphernalia. It is about a 6-mile round trip and I didn’t plan for such a long hike so we didn’t make it all the way out. That trail is pretty easy, not much topography but there isn’t much shade either. There are benches scattered along the trail and many of them have shelters, which did help. Just make sure and bring lots of water, some snacks, and mosquito repellent. It is a long, hot and BEAUTIFUL hike.

Overall we loved our trip but there were a few things we overlooked when planning our visit.

  • In addition to paying camping fees, you also have to pay admission fees. They are only $5 per day per person. But I do hate unexpected costs.
  • Firewood was extremely expensive. We paid $6 for about 4 pieces. We even went into Canyon, the closest town, and the prices were about the same. Aren’t many trees around so I assume they have to ship it in.

If you are in the area or need a unique adventure, make the trip. You won’t regret it.

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