Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Guide

Introduction

Full of history and wildlife, Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon system in the United States. Palo Duro Canyon State Park is located at the base of the canyon, as a medium between nature and campers. The canyon is a 60-mile ravine with 800-foot cliffs. Within the valley, you can find a wide variety of creatures including the Palo Duro mouse, which lives within the walls of the canyon safe from predators; well, except for rattlesnakes.

There are nine camping areas, but only five of them are for RV users, and only one is meant for those who have horses. There are over 30 miles of trails for you to explore, whether on a dirt bike or a horse. Many of the trails offer backpacking options for those who would like to see the entire park on foot. The canyon walls are over 250 million years old and each layer tells a different story of the earth’s evolution.

Due to its location, the weather is normally hot during the day and a bit cooler at night. The park is busier during the summer months but the rest of the year, you can find the park filled with people from all walks of life, appreciating the beauty of the canyon and the art of the layered walls. With so much to discover, you’ll definitely want to bring your motorhome to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

While you are in the area you may want to drive down to Caprock Canyons State Park and Trail, which is about 90 miles southwest of the park. Enjoy sightings of the free-roaming bison as you explore some of the 90 miles they have to offer. This is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors and hike, bike, or roam on horseback if you aren't enjoying Lake Theo and the watersport activities it offers.

RV Rentals in Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Transportation

Driving

Palo Duro Canyon State Park lies about 40 miles southeast of Amarillo in the state of Texas. Canyon, the closest town to the park, has many stores, restaurants, and a gas station where you can pick up supplies on the way to the park. You can also pick up some supplies at the Trading Post in the park, if it's open during your stay.

You'll find the park 12 miles east of Canyon off of TX-217. State Highway Park Road 5, the road that takes you inside the park, is curvy and winding along the canyon. Take caution along hairpin turns and narrow sections, especially if you are driving at night. You will have to take it slowly while downshifting to compensate for the weight of your rig or trailer.

There may be a fire ban depending on when you go, so be sure to stay updated by calling the park ahead of time. If there is inclement weather the park may close to protect campers from getting caught in a flash flood near the low bridges leading to the camp areas in the back of the park. The park is busier during the summer months but is quieter during the fall. Nights can be very cold, but no need to worry, just bring a good jacket and you will be alright. If you are arriving at night, remember that most of the sites are first-come, first-served.

Parking

There are several parking lots dotted around the park including at the campgrounds, the Day-Use Area, and the Visitor Center.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Campsites in Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Reservations camping

Amarillo KOA

If you are headed to check out local attractions in Amarillo, Texas, the Amarillo KOA might be the perfect place to extend your stay. Accommodations at Amarillo KOA include cabins, studio lodges, and large RV sites that can host any camper or RV up to 90 feet long. RV sites also offer both 30- and 50-amp power with either full hookups or just water and electricity.

The campground is centrally located among a variety of attractions, as well as the Route 66 Historic District which offers dining, shopping, and more. Depending on the season, visitors to the region may enjoy outdoor musicals or adventure into the second-largest canyon for hiking and biking, as well as scenic jeep and horseback rides. Amarillo KOA offers a relaxing environment where you can take a dip in the heated pool or sit in the shade while your family dog enjoys the K-9 park. Other amenities include cable TV, restrooms, shower facilities, and bike rentals.

Equestrian Campground

This is a great park to explore on horseback and if you plan on camping like old cowboys of the Wild West, then reserve a site at the Equestrian Camping Area. It is located right next to the Mesquite Campground, where you can find restrooms and showers. There are two water faucets in this camp, but no electricity. Call ahead to arrange permission if you want to bring your own generator. This area has a few communal picnic tables and fire rings for relaxing meals after your day exploring the canyon.

There are 10 sites that can each accommodate eight, including your horses. If you plan on bringing horses, they must have passed a Coggins test in the last year. There are four pens available for horses on a first-come, first-served basis, and each pen can accommodate two horses. You are allowed to bring a portable panel for your horses. Horses are only meant to be ridden in the designated 1,500 acres and trails meant for horseback riding.

Hackberry Campground

This pet-friendly campground has 32 sites available with water and 30- and 20-amp electric hookups. There is not a sewer hookup, but a dump station is located just outside of the loop. Restrooms and showers are located within walking distance. The sites are well spaced, and RVs up to 60 feet will fit in comfortably. Some sites are paved, which provides easy access for parking your rig. There is hardly any shade and very little privacy so be mindful of your neighbors. You will find a picnic table and fire ring or grill at your site so you can cook up some delicious grub.

Sagebrush Campground

There are 29 sites available at Sagebrush Campground that offer 30- and 50-amp electric and water hookups. While it does not have a sewer hookup, a dump station is nearby. The amphitheater is opposite Sagebrush, so if you plan to go to the musicals during the summer, this is a great campground to be in. You'll love soaking in the wondrous views of the Texan hills all around you. This campground is best suited for RVs up to 60 feet long.

Amenities include hot showers, restrooms, picnic tables, and a fire ring. It is within a half-mile of the Old West Stables and the Trading Post, allowing access to some of the tours offered in the park and food as well. You can bring your pet with you as long as they are kept on a leash.

Mesquite Campground

There are 20 campsites at Mesquite Campground, which have 50- or 30-amp electrical and water hookups available. The sites are paved and are suitable for RVs up to 60 feet long. You'll find a picnic table and fire ring at your campsite where you can enjoy relaxing picnics. The campground has communal restrooms with hot showers.

You will enjoy the tremendous views at this campground, under the backdrop of sandy hills filled with brush. You'll also be close to the Equestrian Camp and the Youth Camp area. Pets are welcome but must be on a leash.

Juniper Campground

Juniper has a total of 18 campsites with water and 30- or 50-amp electric hookup for RVs up to 50 feet long. The sites are paved, making it easy to park your rig. There is not a sewer hookup, but there is a dump station nearby, opposite the Mesquite Camp Area. Amenities include restrooms, a picnic table, and a fire ring. One of the sites is also ADA-accessible. Two cars are allowed per site and extra cars will cost a fee per night.

The closest shower is in the Mesquite Camp Area, so be prepared to walk half a mile to the shower. Your pet is welcome to stay with you provided they are kept on a leash.

Cabins

If you want to enjoy some rustic country living and sleep indoors for a night or two then book yourself a cabin at the park. There are seven cabins here, four of which are grouped together at Cow Camp and three that are on the Rim Cabin Loop near the main entrance of the park. The cabins are rough stone structures, which have wonderful views of the park and offer basic amenities. They all sleep a maximum of four people on wooden beds.

The four cabins at Cow Camp do not have bathrooms but are right opposite Mesquite Campground where you will find restrooms with hot showers. The cabins have a refrigerator, microwave, space heater, and air conditioning so you could easily spend a few days here in any season.

The three cabins on Rim Cabin Loop each have a fireplace, refrigerator, and microwave and a bathroom with a toilet and shower. An added bonus is that linens are provided when using these cabins.

First-come first-served

Hike-in Primitive Camp Areas

If you are into primitive camping this state park offers opportunities for backpacking and camping in the country. Permits for using the hike-in primitive camp areas are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. You'll need to hike at least a half-mile from the parking area in order to access the camping area. Make sure to bring your own drinking water and a containerized fuel stove for cooking as no fires are allowed. Restrooms and showers are located a quarter-mile from the trailhead. Up to four people are allowed in each group, and this area can accommodate as many as 40 people. The use of these sites is dependent on the weather, so make sure you check with the park rangers before heading out.

Tent Campground

Between them, Fortress Cliff and Cactus Camp Areas have 14 campsites suitable for tent camping. These scenic sites have a lovely panoramic view of the cliff line and are peaceful. Here you can enjoy some rustic camping with wonderful opportunities for stargazing and enjoying the coyote calls at night time. The campsites are spacious and have gravel parking with a 20-foot long driveway. There aren't many trees in this area but the picnic table at each site is shaded. The campgrounds have a communal water spigot, but campers have to use the restrooms and showers at Juniper campground.

Seasonal activities in Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Off-Season

Shopping at the Trading Post

The Trading Post is the equivalent of a camp store, but with a few more items for you to purchase. You can get camping supplies, firewood, jewelry, souvenirs, groceries, and even fuel. The store also provides meals and snacks if you are feeling hungry or just peckish. You can find guide books about the canyon, as well as the animals and the plants found in the canyon. You may also want to stock up on sunscreen if you forgot to bring yours along.

Attending Nature Walks

Palo Duro Canyon State Park has a lot of historical significance that you may have never heard about. The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon was a major loss for the southern Native Americans who had to surrender and move to a reservation in Oklahoma. Along your nature walks you will find a few interpretive signs that provide a brief history of the canyon. Be on the lookout for hoodoos, which is a certain rock formation found in the canyon where a larger rock is found balancing on a smaller base. Remember to bring your camera in your rig, and be prepared to come across some amazing sights full of history and the beauty of nature.

Birding

Birding in the Palo Duro Canyon State Park takes on an entirely different meaning than in other parks. There is a wide variety of birds that live in the park. You can find wild turkey, but they are not for your consumption. The park provides a bird guidebook that you can pick up at the Trading Post on your drive in. On your birding adventure, you can turn it into a game and see who can spot some of the park’s natives like the Golden-fronted woodpeckers, the Mississippi kites and western meadowlarks

In-Season

Attending a Show

Each summer the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation puts on a set of musicals to tell the history of Texas. These started in the 1960s and have continued to draw large crowds ever since its first premier. You can order your tickets online if you would like to attend, but you can also buy them at the door. They perform from Tuesday through Saturday, every week during the summer. If you want to come a little early to the show, you can enjoy a delicious dinner hosted by Feldman’s Wrong Way Diner.

Horseback Riding

You are allowed to bring your own horse to the park, but if you do you will have to stay at the Equestrian Basic Campground. There are 10 sites available with a stable for you to keep your horse comfortable. Over 1,500 acres of land have been put aside for horseback riding. You can also ride on three horseback riding trails: the Lighthouse Trail, the Equestrian Trail, and the Juniper Cliffside Trail.

There are guided tours available by the Old West Stables. They have been in operation since 1998 and offer a wide range of activities. You will need to make a reservation if you wish to participate in the tour.

Hiking

There are over 30 miles of trails for you to explore during your RV trip to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The majority of the trails are marked with signs to help you stay on the right path. The most popular trail in the park is the Lighthouse Trail. This moderate six-mile round-trip trail will greet you with stunning views of rock formations, such as Capitol Peak and the Lighthouse rock.

If you want to get a picturesque, panoramic view of the Texan hilly valley below, try the over two-mile-long Rock Garden Trail. Keep in mind that this trail is difficult due to steep climbs up the canyon. If you're looking for trails the whole family can enjoy, try the easier and shorter Juniper Trails.

Remember to bring a water bottle and sunscreen in your Airstream as it can get very hot on the trails. You will see an abundance of wildlife around you, but please leave them as you found them in order to keep their habitat intact.

Find the perfect campsite.