My first hike in Texas, and the first stop on a 2-week sightseeing and hiking excursion through the southwest. Palo Duro Canyon, just south of Amarillo, is billed as the second biggest canyon in the U.S. The State Park encompasses only a small part of the canyon but it’s still pretty big, with about 45 miles of trails open to hikers.
I arrived in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day sightseeing and setting up camp in the Fortress Cliff campground, where my site came with a complementary pair of Meleagris gallopavo. One of the other campsites had a turkey and a roadrunner. It was interesting to hear the turkeys “talk” to each other but roadrunners are more fun.
I set out to hike the Lighthouse Trail (6 miles round-trip) early the next morning. This is a wide and badly-eroded multi-use trail (hike/bike/horse) with little elevation change and ample evidence of use of the Park’s rescue ATV (the literature says “…most heat-related injuries and deaths to people and pets occur on this trail”). This is not a place to spend a summer afternoon!
The Lighthouse is the iconic rock formation for the canyon and is visible off and on once the trail wraps around the back of Capitol Peak. Oddly, the trail stops before getting to the Lighthouse though at least 3 social trails then lead off toward it (I didn’t follow any of them). This was my first time in a desert-type landscape so I enjoyed the opportunity to inspect the very different geology, flora, and fauna of the area.
The road through the canyon crosses Palo Duro Creek 6 times and along the way are piles of soil and brush that were obviously pushed off the road after a flash flood. I think I’d avoid being down there during heavy rains.
I’d like to go back when I can spend more time and hike the Lower Comanche, Upper Comanche, and Fortress Cliff trails. It’s probably a great winter hiking destination.