The Grand Canyon of the South recently published an article about “The Grand Canyon of the South” which, before that, we had never heard about.  Upon further research, we realized that the word needs to get out about this breathtaking beauty of a US attraction!    The Palo Duro Canyon (“palo duro” is spanish for “hard wood”) is one of America’s most beautiful natural attractions out there, though it is little known.  This may because it’s older, bigger brother The Grand Canyon gets all the attention.  The Palo Duro Canyon should not be overlooked.  It’s the 2nd largest canyon in the US, about 120 miles long, up to 20 miles wide in areas, and boasts over 40 miles of scenic views and hikes.  Its elevation at the rim is 3500 feet above sea level and it’s only about a 30 minute drive from Amarillo, nestled in the heart of the Texas panhandle. In comparison, The Grand Canyon, is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and 6,000 ft. deep.

Palo Duro Canyon was formed by water erosion from the Red River. The water deepens the canyon by moving sediment downstream and wind and water erosion gradually widen the canyon. Humans have resided in the canyon for approximately 12,000 years. Early settlers were nomadic tribes that hunted mammoth and other large game animals. Later, various Indian tribes lived in the canyon until 1874. The State Park surrounding the canyon opened on in 1934 and contains over 29k acres of gorgeous scenery. Palo Duro Canyon State park is an excellent outdoor classroom. School groups from across Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico visit the park each year. Park staff offers guided educational programs (by reservation only) for school and special interest groups. There is also a Junior Ranger program available for children ages 4-12. There are activities they must complete and have signed by a ranger before they can receive a sleeve patch at the Visitor Center or Park Headquarters. The activity brochure can be requested at the Visitor Center or Park Headquarters.

The park offers a variety of activities such as hiking, road biking, mountain biking, a scenic drive, camping, picnicking, wildlife and wildflower viewing, backpacking, and horseback riding.  Many flock to the area for unique bird watching experiences. There is a Wildlife Viewing Blind located behind the Palo Duro Trading Post that provides a quiet place to watch birds. A water feature is in place along with feeders. Photos are posted on the walls for those who need help with identification though, any of the trails throughout the park have the potential to be excellent bird watching spots.

Summertime temperatures can be brutal in the canyon. Temperatures often range from the 90s to 115 degrees. It is always advisable to engage in activities in the morning or late evening due to the high heat. Make sure you and everyone in your party stays hydrated and does not overextend themselves physically. Do not attempt the very long trails in the high heat of the day.  For those unable or unwilling to view the canyon by foot or horseback, there is a scenic drive of about 16 miles that takes you to the floor of the canyon and that features beautiful views of the scenery.

The park also allows special events though they must be reserved, scheduled, and approved by the park ranger.  The park has been a breathtaking venue for many “I Dos” as it offers awe-inspiring views and scenic spots to exchange vows.

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