After two long days of driving across 1400 miles, we were ready for some adventure. It may have been a tad out of the way, but we decided on an overnight stay in Palo Duro Canyon State Park (27 miles southeast of Amarillo, Texas).
The canyon is thought to be the 2nd largest canyon in the United States. It is not nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon (only approx. 800 feet deep as opposed to 6,000 feet deep), but it is an impressive 120 miles long and as wide as 20 miles. Driving towards the canyon it is completely flat and you can see for miles. We never would have suspected that a canyon lies there and were astounded by the sudden beauty that unfolded.
We arrived about a half hour before sunset and had no problems getting a campsite (however reservations are highly recommended during their busy season). Note: You do have to pay the state park entrance fee in addition to the rate for the campsite. Still, with 2 adults and 6 children, $34 for a night of camping in such majestic surroundings is worth it!
All of the campgrounds are down in the canyon, which is awesome because every direction you look you see the canyon walls. We stayed in Sagebrush Camp Area which is approximately 2 miles from the front gate. I'm not sure that we would have wanted to navigate the steep drive down to the campground in the dark, but it sure is beautiful. The Sagebrush Camp Area offers 30/50 amp service, a picnic table, a fire ring, and is in close proximity to the Pioneer Amphitheater and Trading Post.
A trail from the campground connects to the Nature Trail, but we found that the trails were poorly marked so we just did a little exploring on our own and then returned to camp to enjoy a warm campfire. The temperature sure drop quickly once the sun goes down!
We awoke early the next morning to watch the sunrise. Pictures do not capture how breathtakingly beautiful it is. Once the sun was up it was time to hit the trails before getting on the road.
We pulled off our site and drove another few miles down the road and parked near Hackberry Camp Area.
We decided on the Paseo Del Rio trail, an easy 2.06 miles (there and back) trail that follows the river.
Approximately 1/8 mile into the hike you pass a Cowboy Dugout. Peak inside for a look into how the cowboys lived in the 1880s.
We saw a lot of wildlife along this trail, including turkeys and a roadrunner.
It was the perfect length for a quick morning hike before another day in the car. We would love to return to Palo Duro Canyon State Park for a longer stay and hike some of the other trails, especially the Lighthouse Trail that leads to the iconic Lighthouse rock formation.