Date: February 11, 2017 Time: 7:50 AM
Place: Lighthouse Trail - Palo Duro Canyon State Park - Canyon, TX
Distance: 6 miles
The Lighthouse Trail was the main hike of the weekend. I decided, on a whim, to pack the camping gear and head west for a night. I have been wanting to branch out, see new things with this hiking challenge, and I accomplished that goal on Saturday. I got home from work Thursday, prepped our food and packed our stuff, went to bed. I awoke Friday and did the work and commute thing, took a nap, and we left around 1:20 AM. I drove all night and into the morning, arriving at Palo Duro State Park around 7 AM. The park has been called "The Grand Canyon of Texas" and it was definitely a surprisingly large canyon full of beautiful red rock. It's nowhere near the size and inspiring beauty of the actual Grand Canyon, but it was a nice change of scenery for this boring, flat panhandle of Texas.
The park sits in the bottom of the canyon. The trail is roughly halfway into the park, and was mostly empty when we got to it. We packed the water and set off. The trail is a multi-use trail for hikers, mountain bikers, and horses. We saw hoodoos, red canyon walls, dried up streams, various desert flora, and very few other people. We got about 1.5 miles in, and we had a few runners go past. We got to the end of the trail and realized to see the lighthouse hoodoo we'd have to climb some rocks or find a way around said rocks. All routes seemed okay for humans, but not with a pooch. We decided to head back to the trail head. The temperature had climbed and the wind increased. As we made our way back, I saw everything from a different perspective. A simple directional change and different angle of sunlight really made me stop and stare a few times. Foot traffic was very heavy on our way back and mountain bikers were riding in large groups taking up most of the trail width. The trail got crowded and uncomfortable, so reaching the car was a relief. The once empty parking lot was full to capacity, with cars spilling over along the roadways.
We hiked a few other small trails that day, and wandered the park overlooks. It reached 90 degrees with intense sun and wind. I welcomed sunset for relief from the temps and the crowds.
This park has miles and miles of trails. They have trails following the cliffs of the canyon, trails through the canyon, and trails everywhere else. There is so much to see that a one night trip only left me wanting to return. If you enjoy the desert, or just need a change of scenery, take a look at Palo Duro State Park just south of Amarillo, Texas. I will never call it "The Grand Canyon of Texas" but I can appreciate the sentiment.