Plains, prairies and Palo Duro

Entering the panhandle of Texas, there is an unbroken horizon. The prairies and plains are dotted with cattle, a few crops and scattered windmills. The town of Canyon changes all that. Palo Duro State Park is the second largest canyon in the US. It is extra-surprising considering it is surrounded by flat plains. The canyon is 120 miles long and between 600 and 800 feet deep. Although the canyon is less than half the size of the Grand Canyon, it still offers great opportunities for outdoor activities. The CCC developed the roads, trails, cabins and visitor center during the 1930s. It is filled with flora and fauna including mule deer, wild turkey, lizards prickly pear, mesquite and more. The park is named for the hard wood of the Rocky Mountain Juniper (Palo Duro, ‘hard wood’). There are over 30 miles of multi-use trails. The hiking trails are often shared with the mountain bikers but not the horses. We explored trails along the water, through the trees and around hoodoos. A nice touch by the park and local sponsors are the sunscreen stations at each of the trail heads. The most famous hike is the Lighthouse Trail. This trail reaches a large red outcropping hoodoo that looks like…a lighthouse. This hoodoo has become the symbol of the park. From a distance, it looks man-made. We found a lizard relaxing on a warm rock as we made our way down the trail. On another trail we located a cowboy dugout from the late 1880s.Palo Duro Canyon continues to be sculpted by wind and water making it an ever-changing place to hike, bike and relax.

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