The canyons of the Wild West are home to some of the most iconic stories in history. Wild Bill, Jessie James, Butch Cassidy, the list could go on and on. One may wonder why the Wild West became the romanticized home to such tales. Answers such as instant wealth from the gold rush , or the inherent lawlessness may spring to mind, but I would argue that the answer may be more simple than that and have something to do with the aura of freedom that this fantastic scenery brings.
Which brings me to todays voyage. I was bumming around in northern Texas on my way back to the west coast and the scenery would change from barren plains, to rocky desert over and over again. At first, the absolute lack of anything is a bit jarring, but as anyone who has driven through the west can tell you, after a while, the nothingness becomes quite relaxing. But all of the sudden, sheer cliffs open up around you. Multiple hues of red separate the layers of rock that tower above the narrow road I am heading down. I have reached Palo Duro Canyon.
It is often called “The Grand Canyon of Texas” and it’s easy to see why. It starts as a small gap, and then opens up wider and deeper until it is an astonishing 20 miles wide and 120 miles long. Juniper and mesquite dot the cliffs, which is what lead the Spanish to name the canyon Palo Duro which means hard wood. They were the first western settlers, but indigenous peoples have inhabited the land for over 12,000 years. The Clovis and Folsom peoples were the first settlers, hunting large herds of mammoth and giant bison. Over time, other groups, including the Apache, Comanche and Kiowa, settled, making use of the natural resources and abundant shelter provided by the caves.
If you’re in the area, I would definitely recommend camping at the base level. Wind can be heard “whooshing” over the rocks at all hors of the day. Endless skies open up into space providing some of the more fantastical views of galaxies that I have had the pleasure of viewing. If you’re just there for a day though, a nice hike will do the trick with multiple trails leading to all types of terrain to explore.
Closest Supercharger Amarillo TX 28 mi
8231 W Amarillo Blvd, Amarillo, TX 79124
Palo Duro State Park
11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, TX 79015