Palo Duro Canyon was our next stop between Texas and Utah. When Pat told me we should stay at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, I asked if she chose that site because she knew I had been there before. When I was 14 years old my dad attended a course at the Boy Scouts Volunteer Training Center at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. On our trip to Philmont we spent a couple of nights at Palo Duro Canyon and I always thought it would be nice to return there.
One of the fascinating things about Palo Duro Canyon is that as you are driving across flat prairie, suddenly this huge hole in the ground opens up in front of you! The canyon was settled in the 1800’s and has now been taken over by the State of Texas as a State Park. Even driving into the park is an adventure as you descend a 10% grade about 500 feet to the canyon floor. For those of you who have not driven in the mountains, descending a 10% grade with eight tons of trailer behind you is an exciting, white-knuckle experience. Fortunately it lasts only about a mile.
If you like hiking, this is the place for you. There are multi-use trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding throughout the canyon. When we got into our campsite it didn’t take us long to discover we didn’t have any cellular coverage, so our first hike was to the visitor center to see if we could get a signal. It was about one and a half miles and an ascent of almost 500 feet to get there, but it wasn’t too hard of a hike. We hiked to the top, had a trail mix lunch, checked out the visitor center, and let family know we would be out of touch for awhile.
The weather was generally cool in the mornings but the forecast was for warmer temperatures later in the week, so we planned to get our hiking in early in the week while it was cool. The next morning we hiked the Lighthouse Trail. No, there is no lighthouse in the canyon, but there is a rock formation that looks like one. We hiked out on the Lighthouse Trail, had lunch at the Lighthouse rock formation, then returned along the Givens, Spicer, Lowry Trail. It was a round trip of about eight miles. The terrain, especially at the formation, was challenging but fun to climb.
Our next hike was the Rock Garden. This was a short, but quite steep hike of five miles but quite steep to the rim of the canyon, a rise of 600 vertical feet. It was the toughest hike we had all week, but the view from the canyon rim was truly outstanding. On our way down we met a biker, riding to the top. As hard as the hike was for us, we couldn’t imagine how much “fun” it would be to ride a bike to the top and how terrifying it would be to ride it back down to the canyon floor.
Friday, April 11th, we headed down the road to Albuquerque, NM