The Texas Palo Duro Canyon is located in the Texas Panhandle region about a half an hour from Amarillo, TX (all the way in North Texas). The closest town is Canyon, TX. I’ve been to Palo Duro a few times since I moved to West Texas seven years ago and would recommend a visit to anybody who is in the area. And that’s exactly why we took our family there when they visited us in May.
Since May is already kind of hot and we had a few people with us that weren’t great on their feet we decided on a jeep tour with the Elkins Ranch instead of hiking through parts of the canyon. That way, we still got to see quite a bit of the canyon and even learned a good bit of history from our guide in the process. Marco said the guide was really nice & knowledgeable. I kind of have to admit that I wasn’t really listening because I was goofing around with my sister in the back of the jeep 🙂 Oh well, we don’t see each other that often, so we have to use the time we have together to catch up 🙂 So, here are the facts about the Palo Duro Canyon State Park according to Wikipedia instead:
- The Texas Palo Duro Canyon is almost 200 km (120 mi) long, has an maximum width of 32 km (20 mi) and a maximum depth of 304 m (997 ft).
- It is sometimes referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Texas”.
- It is the second largest canyon in the United States.
- It is believed that the Palo Duro Canyon has been continuously inhabited since 10,000 – 15,000 years.
- There were quite a few ugly fights between native Americans and US military in the canyon (a fact I actually remember the guide talking about).
The Elkins Ranch offers different types of tours. We went with the shortest: one hour. I’m sure we missed out on some good spots, but it was enough to give everybody an idea of how large the Palo Duro Canyon is and the intense colors you can see in some spots – you wouldn’t believe how red the earth gets. We drove down into the canyon a little bit and stopped at a place with a huge cliff. Totally gorgeous! We got out and took lots of pictures of the vistas and the patterns the water had carved into the stone. We also checked out how it felt looking down the cliff by laying right on the edge. Pretty scary! After that we got back into the jeeps and drove through the canyon some more.
On the way back, our guide did what he called “a roller coaster”, i.e. really hitting the gas and racing down a really steep path and then up again on the other side. My sister and me almost fell out of the jeep! It was our own fault though 🙂 He kept warning everybody about the roller coaster, but the two of us were too busy chattering away. The fact that we never put on the seat belts didn’t help either. When he first hit the gas, we had no idea what was going on and just hung on for dear life. After we survived the roller coaster, we couldn’t stop laughing for about 10 minutes. I think it was the rush of still being alive 🙂
Here are some tips if you ever want to visit the Texas Palo Duro Canyon for yourself:
- Don’t forget to bring sunscreen – especially in the summer. The sky is usually a super pretty blue and the rays hit you without having to go through any clouds first.
- We haven’t tried it ourselves, but I’ve heard lots of good things about the cowboy breakfast offered by the Elkins Ranch.
- Wear decent shoes (not flip flops). The ground is kind of sandy and it’s easy to slip – even on the very short walks you take during a jeep tour.
- Bring something to drink. It gets really hot there in the summer and chances are the dust will make you even more thirsty.
- Make it a trip: I heard the Route 66 shops in Amarillo are pretty cute and can recommend the Big Texan (also Amarillo) for lunch or dinner. The Cadillac Ranch is another neat place to check out if you’re in the area.
And now, without further ado, check out some of the pictures we took on our latest visit to the Palo Duro Canyon. As usual, you can find a bigger selection on Facebook.
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