Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyon


Everyone's heard about the Grand Canyon...but what about the second largest canyon in the country?? Well it's right here in Texas...The Palo Duro Canyon!! Palo Duro Canyon is about a 7.5 hour drive from Austin and about a 6 hour drive from Dallas....the perfect spring break trip!! Anything under 8 hours is an easy road trip in my opinion...after 8 hours and it starts to get unbearable. We broke up the drive a little by stopping in Abilene for a quick lunch at Lucy's Big Burgers (yummy) and a caffeine refill at Monk's Coffee Shop (super cute coffee shop).
Mural Outside of Monk's Coffee Shop

After our quick stop in Abilene, we headed to Caprock Canyon and camped for a few nights. We loved it!! When you ask people which is better...Caprock Canyon or Palo Duro Canyon?? 50% of people will say Caprock Canyon and the other 50% will say Palo Duro Canyon. The truth is they are both great parks...so why not just visit both since they're 1.5 hours apart?!?!

Hiking in Caprock Canyon...definitely worth the stop!

We did a lot of reading in preparation for our trip and decided to camp in Little Red Tent Camping Area....definitely the best campsites in Caprock Canyon!! I'd recommend camping in site 58, 59, or 60.  All 3 have great views of the canyon!!

view from our campsite

On our first night in Caprock Canyon we set up our tent, cooked some dinner, and enjoyed a nice campfire.  The next morning we went for a hike, which was recommended by several travel bloggers and the park ranger.  We started off on Haynes River Overlook Trail (B) and then looped back around on Upper Canyon Trail (C). It probably took us 4 hours to complete...gorgeous views!! I'm not sure the Haynes River Overlook Trail (B) would be good for little kids though. It was a little steep in some areas...I'd suggest hiking Eagle Point Trail instead (recommended by the park ranger).

Top of the Haynes River Overlook Trail

After our nice day of hiking, we drove around the park to find the buffalo. Yes...that's right...buffalo!! They have a heard of buffalo just wandering around the park...it's amazing!! They're such beautiful animals!! Every time we saw the buffalo (which was basically every morning and afternoon) we'd pull over and just watch them for a few minutes. We'd also stop by Prairie Dog Town and watch the little prairie dogs just run from tunnel to tunnel chirping at each other. So cute!!

Buffalo at Caprock Canyon

The next day we packed up camp and drove to Palo Duro Canyon for a short hike. I wish we would've done the Rock Garden Trail, which I didn't read about until after our trip. I completely forgot to check the www.alltrails.com website for suggestions. According to the reviews the Rock Garden Trail is the 2nd most scenic trail in Palo Duro Canyon....I'm a little bummed we missed it!! We did the Lower Comanche Trail which was pretty...but I wouldn't necessarily do it again.

Palo Duro Canyon

After our short hike, we checked into our hotel in Canyon. Canyon is a small town about 15 minutes west of Palo Duro Canyon. There's camping available in Palo Duro Canyon but we were dying for a nice shower and a good night's sleep. I would suggest staying in the cabins at Palo Duro Canyon...but you have to book them super far in advance!! Definitely worth looking into though...they have amazing views!!

Palo Duro Canyon

The next day, we woke up early and hiked the Lighthouse Trail in Palo Duro Canyon. The Lighthouse Trail is definitely the best trail in Palo Duro Canyon. It's actually a pretty easy hike...except for the last section.  You'll be hiking for about 2.5 miles and then come up to a picnic table and bike rack on the left side of the trail. Here you'll see a trail to the left and a trail that goes straight...go straight!! The trail to the left is actually just a runoff trail that people have taken by mistake. We did both...and I can definitely say the trail that goes straight is 10 times easier!!!  Go straight!! Go straight!! Go straight!!

Hiking up to the lighthouse

The views at the top of the Lighthouse Trail are amazing!! We hiked around the top for a bit and enjoyed all of the scenery before hiking back down.  After our hike, we stopped by the Visitor Center to learn about the history of Palo Duro Canyon. Super interesting to learn about the different layers of the Canyon and how the state park was built (part of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s).

Neil just chilling next to the lighthouse

After our long day of hiking, we cleaned up at the hotel and drove to Amarillo for some dinner/beer. We went to Six Car Pub and Brewery for some food and a flight of beer. Great way to end the trip!! If you have some extra time (and energy), I suggest checking out Cadillac Ranch.  We didn't get to go this trip but I've been several times before. Be sure to pick up some spray paint on your way out to Cadillac Ranch so you can make your mark!!

Spray painting at Cadillac Ranch

Visiting both Palo Duro Canyon and Caprock Canyon was the perfect little 5 day trip!! We felt like we had plenty of time to see all of the highlights!! It could easily be done in 4 days...but then it's 2 days of driving and 2 days of hiking. Just depends on your preference and how much time you have.

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