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Old 02-13-2014, 08:11 AM   #1
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Texas panhandle - Palo Duro Canyon

Our favorite local haunt, Palo Duro Canyon magically appears as you drive across the plains. The park entrance is only a 20-minute drive from Amarillo - to the South, then East. Activities there include camping, horseback riding, hiking, nature study, bird watching, mountain biking and scenic drives. Wildlife such as deer and wild turkeys make frequent appearances through the campgrounds. Coyote cries are often heard, as are their feet as they chase rabbits in the middle of the night. We have even heard a Native American flute being played - its music drifting hauntingly through the canyon. There is a Trading Post with a restaurant, bagged ice, some grocery items, gift shop, etc. located close to two of the campgrounds.

There are three campgrounds, all with electricity and water. Dump stations are conveniently located. For us, Sagebrush campground has an "RV park" feel to it, Hackberry is more wooded with each spot feeling comfortably isolated from the next, and Mesquite has the more "open plains" feel to it with fewer shade trees. Sagebrush and Mesquite have up to 50 amp service, while Hackberry just has 20/30 amp. Our favorite is the Hackberry site. If you want to bring your horses with you, there is also a fourth equestrian/camping site.

The park is open year 'round, but the road going down into the canyon may be temporarily closed in Winter when ice or snow makes the ascent/descent hazardous - only until they get it cleared, of course. Doesn't happen very often.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Park Map
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Old 02-13-2014, 06:39 PM   #2
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Next time we head that way, we'll check it out. When we headed west, we stayed at Cap Rock Canyon in May of '09. Lovely place, very few campers. Of course, it was my first experience with canyon country, and I was loving it!
Tom
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Old 02-13-2014, 08:48 PM   #3
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Next time we head that way, we'll check it out. When we headed west, we stayed at Cap Rock Canyon in May of '09. Lovely place, very few campers. Of course, it was my first experience with canyon country, and I was loving it!
Tom
Rattle our cage when you do, Tom. Maybe we can catch a spot, too.

Caprock Canyon is really nice. We've been there once (last year) and will go back. Out of the way a bit, open skies and free ranging bison. Night skies are awesome down there! (It's only a couple hours away from me.)
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Old 02-14-2014, 02:13 PM   #4
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Palo Duro Memories

You’ve triggered some old and very good memories for me. Our family camped at Palo Duro the first week of March, 1987. Karen and I have been there twice subsequently. This might get lengthy, but it’s a brutal winter and we’d all rather be camping—at least look at the photos. Palo Duro Canyon is right up there in the top half dozen or so places we’ve camped. It’s “only a SP” and gets lost in the abundance of spectacular scenery in all the western NP, but PDC is a place you can actually camp in that scenery.

I had a sabbatical year from teaching in 87 so we took the kids out of school and headed for AZ in March. We still had 3’ of snow—yes, we’ve all forgotten the brutal winters of the 80’s—but there was no snow and good camping our first night out at Big Bone Lick SP in KY and I thought spring camping was pretty good. I was young and naive in those days and didn’t watch the weather channels. Remember, we’re talking March 2, in KY. Second and third nights out at Mammoth Caves we caught some of the massive spring thunderstorms the south is famous for. We were camped in the woods in the NP and I expected a tree or branches to come crashing down at any minute. The 4th night we were in Ft. Smith, AR and another all night thunderstorm with inches of rain as we still weren’t out of the front. Now that I’m an old retired guy, I watch TWC and TWN and I know all about those kinds of systems. The next day, traveling through OK, we finally break out of the front and head into TX, but we're now on the backside and it gets cold and begins to snow… but I’m from the north and scoff at 1–2” of snow, even with a popup in tow, but this is TX, and everything is big in TX, even 2” of snow. So we’re a couple of hours behind schedule crawling into Amarillo as it’s getting dark and suppertime. PDC is at least 30 min. away and we need to setup a pup in the dark and cook supper for 3 hungry kids. I’m under considerable pressure to eat in a restaurant and get a motel. We can’t afford both, plus breakfast in a restaurant the next morning, so we compromise with supper in a restaurant—that way I know I won’t be cooking, but I’m still pretty unpopular otherwise. It’s pitch dark and still snowing when we leave Amarillo for PDC. This part of TX is as flat as a table and I’m white knuckling it down the road not really watching for signs—the road only goes to PDC, who needs signs? PDC is in the background of this photo.




All of a sudden the headlights are shining out into space and we’ve driven off the edge of the table into the canyon. Did I say everything is big in TX? I hit the brakes thinking we’ll never get out of here before May, but there’s no place to go but down. Part way down the snow changes to rain and half a dozen switchbacks later we’re 1000 ft. down looking for our campsite in the dark and wet.

The good thing about traveling with a family of 5 is that those who wanted to stay in a motel can sit in the truck while those of us still having fun can set up camp. I have one loyal son who holds the flashlight while I’m playing with a pup in the dark and a cold rain. I get up first in the morning and this is what I see outside our door:



This is just a little further down the road.



Suddenly even the motel crowd likes camping again and I’m a hero for picking this spot off a map!—it’s 1987, no Internet. We immediately decide to stay an extra night—we never made reservations in those days—we take a scenic drive, a hike and head into town for some steaks and cowboy hats.



Did I mention it was snowing the day before.



The next day we continue on to Carlsbad, various National Monuments and Parks in NM and AZ, including the Grand Canyon and PDC doesn’t take a back seat to any of those. It’ unquestionably the nicest campsite of that trip… but don’t take my word for it… stay in a KOA… or a motel… that will leave more space for the locals and us the next time we’re in west TX

Henry
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Old 02-14-2014, 06:20 PM   #5
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.... but it’s a brutal winter and we’d all rather be camping—at least look at the photos. ....
Those pictures just took the edge off the last storm. Thanks.
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Old 02-16-2014, 05:02 PM   #6
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Glad I could help, Henry! It looks like you were at Hackberry that time, too. I think it's the best of the three.

If you recall, there were some low spots in the road where it went over the "river"? Well, they are building bridges over those low spots now.

I love your PDC story. I have no doubt you were here with the detail and description.

Come on back sometime. We'd love to have ya!
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Old 02-16-2014, 06:14 PM   #7
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Henry,

Sharing your adventure with us. A real nice place. Thanks and great pics! I can see it coming down that way.... While I have never been there, yet, will some day, have had other situations like that. Amazing how a little warm sleep, some food and then a great campsite melts away all the gloom only 12 hours before... These "events" make great campfire stories years later... And the kids will remember these times all their life.

Thanks

John
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Old 06-18-2019, 10:00 AM   #8
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I had NO idea when I booked Palo Duro Canyon that it would be the highlight of our trip. It was just a park in the right spot! We were in site 98 in the Mesquite Campground. We’d both love to go back.
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