Palo Duro Canyon State Park encompasses the second largest canyon in the United States. The beautiful red rock and sandstone canyon is also much more accessible than it’s big brother the Grand Canyon. Palo Duro Canyon campgrounds are actually on the floor of the canyon, and it’s a short 5-10 minute drive from the entrance and Visitor’s Center on the rim down into the canyon. Once in the canyon, you’re surrounded by hiking trails and other activities, as well as some awesome scenery. It was really cool to be able to camp right in the red rocks at the bottom of the canyon.
There are more than a dozen hiking trails on the rim and at the bottom of the canyon. These range from some short, easy ones to the Lighthouse Trail a 6 mile out and back to a scenic point of interest. It is very hot depending on season at the bottom of the canyon. The Ranger told us that it can be as much as 30-40 degrees hotter than the ambient temperature. So make sure you plan accordingly and take a lot of water! We visited in June, so the ambient temp was already almost 100 degrees.
Several of the trails were also open to equestrians, and we rode the one that was open to mountain bikes. It was a short 3-mile trail, but great scenery and lots of red rocks and cacti.
We explored several of the hiking trails on foot, and especially enjoyed the Juniper Riverside trail an easy 1-mile hike along the river.
We also enjoyed hiking up to the small cave overlooking the mountain bike trail head.
It was a short hike, but had a great view from the top.
The park itself was very well run and maintained. There are four campgrounds with more than 300 sites available, most with power and water. Each campground also has a nice bathroom/shower house, dumpster, and overflow parking. There is a large visitor center which features several informational displays as well as a souvenir shop. There’s also a great little restaurant/shop down in the canyon that features “World Famous Burgers” amongst a pretty wide menu, including staples like ice, fire wood, and gas.
Overall Palo Duro Canyon State Park is an outstanding place to visit for camping, hiking, and other activities. Very highly recommended!