Trip Advisor: Palo Duro Canyon

By Patty Wilber

The Canyon: 5 stars
Traveling companions and food: 5 stars
Campsite: 2.5 stars
Camper: 3.5 stars
Riding trails: 3 stars

Entering the Palo Duro Canyon.

Entering Palo Duro Canyon.

Palo Duro State Park is about 27,000 acres in size and 30 miles south of Amarillo. The Texas high plains extend for miles in all directions as we left eastern New Mexico on I40. We hit Amarillo and dropped south-ish for 30 miles, and then suddenly The Canyon yawned in front of us.  Stunning. 5 stars.

no words needed.

This may not be the place to bring your horse, but if you want hiking and mountain biking there are lots of opportunities.

 This trip was with the same group (Mary Ann, Carol, Linda and me) that went to Ft. Stanton last year. (Click link  to revisit that post)  and we had the same great time. If you want to ride all day, lope down the trail,  drop off a cliff into the water or sneak up a slot canyon so narrow it scrapes your stirrups, we can do that! We also enjoyed eating. 5 stars.

Food!! These are Mary Ann's lovely plates.

Food!! These are Mary Ann’s lovely plates.

 The campsite had four good-sized and very nice pens.  It had water for the horses that was also potable for humans, except they told us that it wasn’t, but then we found it was just fine to drink.  That was confusing.

Very nice pens.

“very nice pens”, says LT to Lily.

There were two shade shelters with picnic tables.  The park allows a maximum of four rigs in the equestrian site (a big dirt lot) at a time.  (There are hundreds of non-horsey campsites). There were three groups and nine horses while were were there, so, not enough shade shelters (we had one!) and not enough pens (we got some of those, too!) The late arrivals had to high line and they would have had to eat in the sun except they had a giant RV, so no roughing it for them.

The horse camping area is, according to the trainee that checked us in, “Not very nice.  Just saying…”. There were no actual campsites (but we all had campers) and NO TOILETS of any type.  One third of a mile away, there was a full-blown shower facility and electric hook ups.  I want a toilet. (It is was too busy a place to pee in the thorn scrub and cactus. Not to mention that peeing in thorn scrub and cactus poses other risks.) Equestrian Campsite: 2.5 stars. 

We took my camper this year instead of Linda’s trailer and we had a working refrigerator powered by the truck for the drive there, and by propane while parked.  We had heat for the first night and didn’t need heat the second night.  There was enough room and it was comfortable.



 Unfortunately, I somehow kicked the water pump switch and broke it, and bumped (also with my foot) some other thing that made a screech and its light went from green to red.  Then, when I turned off the propane and reconnected the truck, that now red sensor turned off altogether and so did the fridge.  No cold food on the drive home. The camper is going in for repairs because I need electricity for a fan for my next trip to Texas for the reined cow horse show in May or  I might have to sleep outside (probably with mosquitoes or something) to keep from melting. Camper: 3.5 stars. My foot: 1 star.

Behind the equestrian camp is 1500 acres designated for equestrian use.  There is a creek and trails and a gob of rattlesnakes (in truth we saw snakes on every trail throughout the park–five total).  We rode in the equestrian area Friday evening and Sunday morning.  The trails were varied and we did some loping, some tricky water crossings, some cliff climbing and rock scrambling and pretty much had that area to ourselves.  But, you can only make a two to three hour ride without having to loop back on yourself. That was the perfect length of time for Friday when we got there and Sunday when we were preparing to leave.

Notice what a great job I did of almost completely blocking Linda out of the picture? The cactus rock was interesting!

On Saturday, we took a 12 mile round trip ride to Light House Peak.  The Juniper Trail was well maintained and was signed for horses, but it was not exactly horse friendly.  There were mountain bikers, a few hikers and one bridge that was not horse safe that we had to by-pass (on a horse trail….odd).

Juniper ended at Light House Trail and that was a VERY popular trail with MANY mountain bikers and MANY hikers.  We fortunately met a horse guide that tipped us off to an arroyo that allowed us to get off the main trail for about 2.4 of that 6 mile section.  Whew.

There may have been some east side trails we could have tried but the staff at check in was not helpful in providing horse guidance.

The scenery was gorgeous! (And my camera died before we got to the Light House formation!)

4-13-15 Palo duro 3 063 4-13-15 Palo duro 3 075

Trails: 3 stars.  Not enough riding to go back for more; mountain bikes are not that fun to share trails with (but better than motor bikes).

Over all, it was a grand trip and next year, the Intrepid Four plan to tackle a new adventure!




About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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4 Responses to Trip Advisor: Palo Duro Canyon

  1. Lori says:

    You went right past Kelsey!! She likes to ride there too.

  2. Lisa Westfall says:

    Thanks for a helpful review. Sounds like a great place to take my kids to go mountain biking. I wonder if there’s a better time of year to go when maybe rattlesnakes are sleeping?

    • Patty says:

      Maybe march…slightly cooler..
      snakes still sleeping.

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