100 million years ago an ancient river carved its way through the Southern High Plains, slowly exposing the previous 150 years of geologic stories in vast, panoramic canyon vistas. Today the Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, Texas is the second largest canyon in the country at 120 miles long and 600-800 feet deep.
Home to abundant wildlife, wild grasses, hardwoods and evergreen junipers, the canyon also holds the memories and artifacts of 12,000 years of human habitats. A little over 200 years ago the native Southern Plains tribes were decimated and relocated to reservations in Oklahoma. Wild buffalo were slaughtered to make way for a few white barons and their herds of longhorn cattle.
In 1933, private owners deeded 27,173 acres to national parklands. Over the next year companies of young men and military veterans working for the Civilian Conservation Corps created roads, a visitor center, cabins, shelters, bridges, and trails throughout the park. Today visitors to this Texas State Park can camp in tents, RV’s, and cabins. Visitors can explore canyon rim to floor on miles of hiking, horse and dirt bike trails.
This is a great state park in winter, spring, and fall. (Summer heat and humidity can be a bit much.)
The Hackberry Campground offers the perk of electricity, water and showers without the annoyance of massive RV’s stacked on top of each other. This camp has 30 amp hook ups and attracts folks with smaller RV’s and tent campers. There is vegetation for shade and privacy. Abundant wildlife gathers at the creek running along the cliffs at the back of the canyon.
Electric and water hookups are $22/night. Camp sites on outer loops back up to the creek and offer more privacy. Reservations can be made online, as walk up, or by phone (512) 389-8900.
The Texas State Park Annual Pass is accepted in Palo Duro. The $70 pass provides unlimited free entry to 90 state parks and discounts at campsites, park stores, gift shops, and recreational equipment rental.