Palo Duro Canyon is the "The Grand Canyon of Texas." Opened on July 4, 1934, the canyon is still open daily for family fun and special events. The actual canyon is 120 miles long and as much as 20 miles wide and has a depth of 800 feet. The canyon is often claimed to be the second largest canyon in the United States. The Grand Canyon being the largest is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and 6,000 feet deep.
The Palo Duro Canyon was formed by water erosion from the Red River. The water deepens the canyon by moving sediment, dirt and rock downstream. The harsh West Texas wind slowly widens the canyon. The head of the canyon lies 15 miles southeast of Amarillo, Texas in Randall County and extends into Armstrong and Briscoe counties. The canyon was once home to many Native American tribes because of the canyon's abundance of shelter, wild animals, edible plants and the hardwood juniper and mesquite trees. Native Americans would gather at the canyon to trade with other tribes. In 1876, Charles Goodnight ran about 100,000 head of cattle in the canyon and opened the JA Ranch. The ranch still remains today, running cattle and breeding foundation-bred registered American Quarter Horses.
Today in the Palo Duro Canyon, there is great Texas camping. There are cabins that are available for rental as well as many tent sites with views of awesome vistas. There is also RV sites with electric and water hook-ups that make your Texas camping a little less rough. There are public bathrooms placed throughout the park as well as many picnic sites complete with tables and grills. At the entrance to the canyon there are horse rentals available for guided tours through the canyon.
During the summer at the Palo Duro Canyon, there are nightly showings of the play "Texas" in the outdoor amphitheatre. The Lone Star Interpretive Theatre is used by the park staff to hold wildlife exhibits that are scheduled throughout the summer. There is also a Bar-B-Q dinner that is held prior to the show for guests. They even give an award to the people who have traveled the farthest to visit the Palo Duro Canyon.
Daily entrance to the Palo Duro Canyon is $4.00 with children 12 and under free. School groups from kindergarten to college are admitted free as well. There are many overnight options available from backpacking sites to equestrian sites. There are also two vintage cabins that may be rented for overnight stays as well. Showers and bathrooms are located near most of the camping sites. The canyon also has many bike and hiking trails that may also be used during the day.
Annually in October, the Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers a Palo Duro Trail Run. The race is held on the dirt floor of the Palo Duro Canyon and offers a 50 mile, 50K, and 20K Fun Run/Walk. The race is a Western States Qualifier race.
The Palo Duro Canyon features paved roads throughout the canyon with all trails and camping sites marked. It is very easy to travel through and is a must to see if you travel to the Amarillo/Canyon area. The Palo Duro Canyon is just 30 minutes from Amarillo and about 20 minutes from the West Texas A&M University campus. The Palo Duro Canyon offers fantastic views as you look at a historical monument and stand in a place where Charles Goodnight and other famous cowboys and Indians once stood.