Amarillo is the perfect destination for all things outdoors. Whether you’re looking to hike, mountain bike, or explore the Texas Panhandle there’s something for you here. Choose your own adventure in the photo-worthy Palo Duro Canyon.
Palo Duro Canyon, aka the Grand Canyon of Texas, is 120 miles long and up to 20 miles wide and is the nation’s second-largest canyon. There are more than 30 miles of biking, hiking, and equestrian trails to explore.
The best time to visit Palo Duro Canyon is generally April, May, and September through November. However, if you want to experience the Canyon's famous outdoor musical, TEXAS, the summer months of June through August are the best time to visit. The temperatures can reach over 90°F during the summer, so be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen if you plan to visit during this time.
Jump through the blog:
- Safety & Trail Etiquette
- Best Hiking Trails
- Best Mountain Biking Trails
- Best Equestrian Trails
- Best Off-Road & Jeep Trails
When venturing into the great outdoors for hiking, biking, or off-roading, safety and trail etiquette are important. Remember to bring the right gear, from sturdy footwear to a well-fitted helmet depending on your activity. Always let someone know our plans and expected return time, just in case.
Respect the Park
Please be sure to stick to designated trails to minimize environmental impact. Remember to leave the park as you found it and leave no trace behind. Respect the flora and fauna by observing from a distance and don't feed the animals. Potentially harmful plants and animals live here. Take only pictures and memories--help preserve nature. Leave all plants and animals in the park.
Don't forget to pack plenty of water and snacks, especially in the summer months. It is a good recommendation to bring a quart of water per person per mile.
Plan Your Route
Grab a PDC Park map at the entrance or view it online. The map will help you guide you through the terrain and highlight important landmarks, potential hazards, and points of interest.
Yield to others on the trail, whether they're fellow hikers or bikers.
Palo Duro Canyon offers over 30 diverse hiking trails, perfect for all skill levels. The trails vary from easy strolls for families to challenging treks for seasoned hikers. Difficulty is determined by factors like elevation, terrain, and endurance. Hikers can explore stunning rock formations, lush vegetation, and panoramic views, making each trail a unique adventure in this picturesque canyon.
The Lighthouse Trail
|Lighthouse Trail||5.8 mi (out & back)||2 hrs||Moderate|
Palo Duro Canyon's Lighthouse Trail stands out as a favorite for its iconic hoodoo rock formation resembling a lighthouse. With a moderate difficulty level, the well-maintained path leads hikers to stunning views, vibrant flora, and rugged canyons.
The Trail is the perfect blend of adventure with the beauty of the Texas landscape, making it a must!
The Lighthouse Trail is 5.8 miles out and back. Pro tip: get there early to beat the heat in the summertime. This trail is biking, hiking, and equestrian friendly.
Preview the Lighthouse Trail.
Rock Garden Trail
|Rock Garden Trail||5 mi (out & back)||2 hrs||Moderate|
The Rock Garden Trail stands out as an easy trail that offers unique views of Palo Duro Canyon and accessibility to a broad range of hikers, including families and beginners. Beginning at the Juniper Day Use Area, the trail spans 2.2 miles. Nearby are restrooms, picnic areas, parking, and restrooms.
The trail takes hikers to the Rock Garden, a geological marvel featuring vibrant red and orange rocks.
Cross four historic CCC bridges as you descend 500 feet through four geologic
layers from the canyon rim to the canyon floor.
Palo Duro Canyon features mountain biking trails catering to riders of all levels. The trails vary in difficulty, from smooth paths for beginners to rugged terrain with technical features for experienced riders. Difficulty in Palo Duro Canyon's mountain biking context includes factors like steep descents and challenging climbs, providing a dynamic and thrilling experience for riders seeking both leisurely rides and adrenaline-pumping adventures.
Capitol Peak Mountain Bike Trail
|Capitol Peak Mountain Bike Trail||1.8 miles (one way)||12 min||Moderate|
Capitol Peak Mountain Bike trail in Palo Duro Canyon stands out for its thrilling features and scenic views. Ideal for seasoned riders, it offers challenging technical sections and rewarding climbs against the stunning backdrop of the canyon. Don’t forget your helmet!
This trail stands out as the sole mountain biking exclusive route in the area. While featuring technical sections, it remains accessible to intermediate riders, ensuring a challenging yet achievable for every skill level.
Upper Comanche Trail
|Upper Comanche Trail||3.2 miles||30 min||Moderate|
Looking to escape the crowds and conquer the full length of the canyon? Warm up with the gentle Upper Comanche section from the Mack Dick Group Pavilion, cruising through the canyon floors and ascending along a narrow ledge. Conquer dips, climbs, and sandy spots. The real thrill lies in navigating the blind corners and drop-offs. Up for more? Middle Comanche is next.
Palo Duro Canyon offers about 16-18 miles of designated equestrian trails. Riders can explore the canyon's stunning landscapes at their own pace. Saddle up for a ride along the picturesque Equestrian Trail, the captivating Juniper Cliffside Trail, or the iconic Lighthouse Trail.
|Lighthouse Trail||5.8 mi (out & back)||Moderate|
The Lighthouse Trail is known for its scenic beauty and moderate difficulty level. The trail is known for its diverse terrain, blending flat stretches with occasional inclines and descents. This trail is the widest but offers the least amount of shade.
The Equestrian trailhead and campsite can be found on the park's southwest side, just south of the circular turnaround. To reach it from the park entrance, follow Park Road 5 as it winds down into the Canyon. Be careful during the two-mile descent, there are a few low waters. For those with larger rigs, be mindful when turning into the trailhead.
The Equestrian Trail's diverse conditions and length mean completion time can vary widely, from a few hours to a full-day journey. Riders should assess terrain comfort, and horse fitness, and plan carefully for a safe and enjoyable canyon exploration.
Juniper Cliffside Trail
|Juniper Cliffside Trail||4 mi||Moderate|
The trail offers a mix of terrains, including relatively even stretches along the canyon's rim and some sections with moderate inclines and rocky patches. Riders can expect some changes in elevation, providing panoramic views of the canyon below. While not as long as some other trails in the canyon, the Juniper Cliffside Trail still requires a moderate skill level due to occasional rugged terrain and some uphill sections.
MERUS Adventure Park
For adrenaline junkies, MERUS Adventure Park is a private adventure park located in Palo Duro Canyon. Enjoy over 50 miles of world-class off-roading, overlanding, camping, hiking, and more.
In contrast to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, where off-roading isn't permitted, Merus Adventure Park in Texas stands as a haven for off-road enthusiasts. Merus Adventure Park in Texas offers an extensive array of off-road trails designed for various skill levels and preferences.
These off-road trails cater to different skill levels, ranging from beginner-friendly paths with smoother surfaces to more advanced trails featuring rugged terrain, steep inclines, and technical obstacles. Trail difficulty ratings are clearly marked, allowing riders to choose paths that match their skill and comfort levels.
There is a wide variety of terrain at MERUS that you can’t access through Palo Duro Canyon State Park which varies from mild to wild. No worries if you came without a jeep, you can rent one on-site!
Know Before You Go
Before embarking on your outdoor adventures in Amarillo, there are a few points to consider.
Make a Reservation
Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers various campsites, but reservations are highly recommended, especially during peak seasons. As always be sure to check the weather and trail conditions before your trip.
Where to Stay in Amarillo
As for places to stay in Amarillo, there's an array of options, from hotels and inns to charming bed and breakfasts, catering to different preferences and budgets. View our hotel listings.
Plan your Trip Today
Embark on an outdoor adventure in Amarillo and plan your trip with ease! Explore our website, your go-to source for trip itineraries, maps, accommodation choices, local events, and a wealth of additional resources. Start crafting your ideal experience and dive into the array of outdoor adventures awaiting you in Amarillo.