Palo Duro Canyon Park – The Grand Canyon of Texas

Palo Duro Canyon Park 1While in Amarillo, Texas November of 2020, we decided to take a drive through the Palo Duro Canyon Park. It is not very far from Amarillo, about ½ hour, so definitely something to do while in the area, especially if you have pets and want to explore some nature.  It is a huge canyon, apparently the second largest canyon in the US (behind the Grand Canyon of course). Not surprisingly it is often referred to as The Grand Canyon of Texas.

Palo Duro Canyon Park 3It is roughly 120 miles long and has an average width of 6 miles across, however it does reach a width of 20 miles in some places. They state it is about 820 feet deep, but can reach 1,000 feet in some places. It is very large and sadly we only saw a very small portion of it while we were there.

Palo Duro Canyon Park - UsWe had to make reservations to get in and luckily they had a few spots still open for the day we wanted to go. Happily we made our reservations, paid the entrance fee, packed the car with lunch and a few snacks, and headed out with our fur baby Dolly to explore.

Palo Duro Canyon Park - WagonWe had an enjoyable ride to the park and made our way in. The first thing you can’t help but notice after entering Palo Duro Canyon Park is the Longhorns encasement or whatever they call it. Their descendants, known as longhorns, roamed Texas for 200 years. Early settlers rounded up the longhorns, prizing them because they were hardy and could survive on poor pastureland. While there were a lot of Longhorns, there was also plenty of deer in the area. We checked out the area a little bit (without the dog, lol) and took a few pictures before we made our way to the Visitor Center.

Palo Duro Canyon Park - LonghornsIt’s always fun to stop into a visitor center to learn more about the area or park and pick up a map or watch a short movie. This one had a bunch of displays where visitors can learn about the different types of rocks and minerals are in the area as well as plants, birds, as well as some history about the area. I think I will share a little of that here.

Palo Duro Canyon Park - VCApparently sometime between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago the area that is now Palo Duro Canyon Park was inhabited by Native Americans due to the proximity of water from the Prarie Dog Town Fork Red River. They also probably settled there due to the ample game, edible plants, and the protection from the weather provided by the canyon.

Palo Duro Canyon Park - IndianIn 1541 the Apache Indians living in the area were displaced by Comache and Kiowa tribes. The land remained under Indian control until a military expedition led by Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie was sent in 1874 to remove the Indians from their reservations. About 1,200 of the Indians’ horses were slaughtered in nearby Tule Canyon during the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon. The Comanche and Kiowa conceded and left the area soon after.

Palo Duro Canyon Park - TexasIn 1905 Charles N. Gould made a geologic map of the canyon and named the formations. The upper section of the canyon was purchased by the State of Texas in 1934 and turned into the 20,000-acre Palo Duro Canyon State Park. On a side note, Palo Duro is Spanish for Hard wood, which refers to the Rocky Mountain Jumpers in and around the canyon. ANother note of interest, that park opened to the public on July 1, 1934. Today the park is part of the Texas State Parks system under Texas Parks and Wildlife. Day entry in to the park is covered by the Texas Parks Pass. The Texas Department of Transportation has built bridges over Water crossings 1, 2, and 6 to allow motorists easier access during and after heavy rains. Campsites and pavilions have also been added, along with several hiking trails.

Palo Duro Canyon Park - DollyWe enjoyed checking out the Visitor center and learning about the area. Afterward we looked at the map and checked out some of the park looking for a nice place to sit and have lunch. We found a wonderful place at one of the camping areas and saw the beautiful view below. It was gorgeous and Dolly had a nice time walking around and sniffing everything, lol.

Palo Duro Canyon Park 2After a pleasant lunch we headed out to do more exploring and ended up at the Pioneer Amphitheater.  This outdoor historical and musical site is so gorgeous. It reminded me a little of Red Rocks here in Colorado. Since it was winter there were no live shows planned, but during the summer they have Texan singers, actors, and dancers performing live dramas each night. They are proud to claim that it is “the best-attended outdoor history drama in the nation.” I have to say I would love to see a show there if we are ever there in the summer (not likely since I am not a huge heat person, lol). Either way, it is a beautiful venue as you can see from the pictures.

Palo Duro Canyon Park - TheaterBy the time we left the amphitheater it was getting close to dusk so we took a quick look around the stables. There wasn’t much going on while we were there so we slowly made our way out of the park. We saw a couple of campsites but didn’t really check any of them out except to maybe use the restroom. They looked nice and would be great if you were going to a show.  Here is a link to their website with information about the campsites,  the park information, as well as where you can make reservations.  If you have been here, please share your visit in the comments. I would love to hear from you. Happy travels.

Palo Duro Canyon Park - Sign

Palo Duro Canyon Park Visitor Information


11450 Park Rd. 5 Canyon, TX 79015




Gates open Daily 7 am -9  pm


  • Adult : $8 Daily
  • Child 12 Years and Under: Free

Campsites prices vary. Check their website for specific amenities, pricing, and dates. Prices at the time of posting range from $16-$250.


The park is located about 12 miles east of Canyon on State Highway 217. From Amarillo, take Interstate 27 south to State Highway 217, and go east eight miles


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4 thoughts on “Palo Duro Canyon Park – The Grand Canyon of Texas

  1. Samantha, thanks for introducing me to this park, which I had previously not heard of. The longhorns are amazing and the scenery lovely and relaxing. The amphitheater is a great addition, but like you, I’m not headed over there in the summer! I meet my heat requirements here in Phoenix!

  2. This looks like a great place to visit – but I also can’t get over how adorable Dolly is. She looks like she enjoyed herself immensely.

  3. I’ve never heard of Palo Duro Canyon, but right away it feels like a place I’d love to visit! I’m getting all these “Wild West Vibes” 😉

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