“Wandering through the canyons was exactly what I needed.”
Date: Saturday, January 19, 2019
Location: Palo Duro Canyon State Park - Canyon, TX
Distance: 10.4 miles
Trails: Givens, Spicer, Lowry Trail, part of the Lighthouse Trail, Little Fox Canyon Loop
Miles from Home: 359 miles
Weather: Sunny, 30-40s
Equipment: Apple Watch, iPhone, Olympus TG-5 camera
Very few people at the park
Clear, sunny skies
Trails are well maintained
Park location is quiet and secluded
No cell service down in the canyon
Beautiful, varied terrain
Plenty of trails throughout the park for all skill levels
The few people who were there were mostly nice, though some were too loud
Was a long drive from home
Half the park was closed for a Texas Parks and Wildlife sanctioned hunt, limiting trails
This park is a great option for anyone in Texas, or the surrounding areas, who want to experience red rocks and big canyons. If you love the Four Corners area, you’ll likely enjoy this park. I’ve visited before, check out that experience here. The plan was to leave around midnight for Big Bend National Park, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I had been speaking about avoiding NPS sites during the shutdown and exploring public land alternatives so I followed my own advice. I was going to wake up at 2 AM and begin the 5 hour drive to Palo Duro, but I slept on until 5AM instead. I finally hit the road at 8 AM and arrived to the park about 1 PM. Once I made it down into the canyon, there was hardly anyone at the trailhead parking.
I started my hike on a trail I had never been on and I was so excited for the unknown. When I set out that morning, it was frigid enough for a down puffy jacket, but I had settled on a hoodie and a t-shirt for the hike. Since I had visited two years prior, I had an idea of what to expect as far as terrain and conditions. What I didn’t expect, were the views. I mean, I knew I’d see some red rocks and green vegetation, but you never know how the light will dance around the canyon until you’re there. Red rocks soothe my soul and there is just no way around that fact.
As I made my way down the trail, I had a new view around every turn. There were plenty of great views but my favorite parts were when I was hiking right along the massive canyon edges, up close and personal with the rocks. I made my way to the next trail, one I hiked before, and out towards the iconic Lighthouse rock structure. The Lighthouse trail was much more populated, despite having a closed parking lot, and I moved quickly because it was relatively flat comparatively. By the time I made it to the end and back to the GSL, the people had vanished and I had the place mostly to myself again. I encountered several mountain bikers, but they were mostly courteous and polite passing quickly. I took a little offshoot trail called Little Fox Loop which led to a hill and great views in the canyon. As the afternoon ended and I was making my way back to the car, everything looked different in the setting sunlight. The beauty of the desert, the canyons, the red rocks, and even the forest is every trail can seem like a new trail as the light shifts around during the day.
These red rocks were worth the five and half hour drive each way. My day in the canyon, where it was silent and free from city noises, was exactly what I needed.