Spilling the Beans: The Other Grand Canyon | Palo Duro

Spilling the Beans: The Other Grand Canyon | Palo Duro is Part Three in a Series on Discovering Texas: Family Road Trips from Dallas. The Palo Duro Canyon is also referred to as “The Other Grand Canyon” and “The Grand Canyon of Texas.” It’s amazing to me how something so huge can still remain such a hidden gem. The Palo Duro Canyon is actually the second-largest canyon in America yet it remains unknown to tourists from abroad, in America, and even to many Texans. Sorry, Texas for spilling the beans, but everyone should at least be told about this wonder if not to visit it as well. 

Spilling the Beans: The Other Grand Canyon Palo Duro:

Four Reasons Why I think the 2nd Largest Canyon in the United States is Still Unknown?

Unlike other Canyons in the United States, The Grand Canyon of Texas is one of the lesser-visited canyons. Even though this canyon is the nation’s second-largest canyon in the country, it’s stayed off tourist’s radar for several reasons. The Other Grand Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon (11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, TX 79015)

The Other Grand Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon (11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon, TX 79015)

Reason One:

Tourists usually only know the canyons associated with Utah and Arizona, traditionally the most picturesquely-advertised “grand” icon.

Reason Two:

The Palo Duro Canyon isn’t registered as a national park.

Reason Three:

Truly, Texas is just so vast, full of hidden gems, historically and culturally. A vast iconic canyon can “hide” among such grandeur, hard to understand for many outside of the state. As I sit here eating some Bluebell Ice Cream after enjoying some breakfast tacos, I’m thinking even if I published a daily post about Texas, I still wouldn’t be able to cover every place to be discovered.

Reason Four:

We Texans try to remain humble to outsiders, so we can’t go around always braggin’ about our amazing state. I mean this seriously and of course tongue-in-cheek as well. But it is a state park, and although Texas welcomes everyone, I secretly believe Texas likes to keep some thinly-veiled secrets. Sorry, Texas for spilling the beans, but everyone should visit this wonder.

Interesting Facts about the Palo Duro Canyon (Grand Canyon of Texas) and How it Compares to The Grand Canyon:

Palo Duro Canyon: 120 miles long, 20 miles at some points, with a depth over 800 feet in some places. Grand Canyon: 277 miles long, 18 miles at some points, deepest depth is 6000 feet

Historically: The Panhandle’s first rancher Colonel Charles Goodnight turned Palo Duro into the Panhandle’s first commercial cattle ranch when he established the famous J. A. Ranch. This happened shortly after The Red River War, a battle in Texas that pushed the last of the American Indians, Comanches and Kiowas, out of the TX Panhandle.To find out more, continuing reading, Texas State Historical Association.

How the Canyon got its name, Palo Duro

Palo Duro is the Spanish name given. It means “hardwood” and refers to the hardwood shrubs and trees found in the canyon.

Outdoor Musical “Texas”

Every summer the musical “Texas” is presented in this Pioneer Amphitheatre with the canyon wall as the backdrop. It’s amazing!!!

The musical “Texas” is known as the official play of Texas and described as a “musical romance of Panhandle history.”

This outdoor musical “Texas” is among Palo Duro Canyon’s top attractions. You can enter the park without paying an entrance fee after 5pm and a steak dinner is served prior to the show.

The Palo Duro Lighthouse

The Palo Duro Lighthouse is one of the more popular trail walks. It was probably one of my favorite scenes.

The Amazing Colors, Caprock Formations, and Extensive Valleys

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife, The Caprock formations found in the Palo Duro Canyon feature “four different geologic periods spanning 250 million years.” The Canyons extensive valleys along with the caprock formations unveil an array of colors in green, red, white, pink, and terra cotta orange and brown hues.

Old West Pioneer Experience; Equestrian Experience

There are three equestrian trails. The Lighthouse Trail, the Equestrian Trail and the Juniper Cliffside Trail. If you want to experience the Canyon as pioneers once did, on horseback, there are a few options.

  1. The Old West Stables, located inside the park (call 806-488-2821).  
  2. Palo Duro Riding Stables, located just one mile outside the canyon. These stables are family owned and operated (call 806-488-2799)  
  3. Cowgirls and Cowboys in the West offer one to three hours of horseback riding in the canyon. They also can offer lodging, Dove’s Rest Resorts, overlooking the canyon. If you want the ultimate Cowboy/Cowgirl experience, you can book Chuckwagon Meals, Lonesome Dove Adventures, and or Cattle Roundup Vacations with them!!       

The Canyon can also be explored on foot, by bike or even by car.

One of the popular caves and climbing walls in the canyon.

The privately-owned Elkins Ranch runs rim to rim, abutting the state park to the south. Enter from Texas 217 near park entrance. Tours options: one-hour tour to Black Hawk Mesa, 400 feet below the rim, two-hour tour to a secluded box canyon or three-hour tour from rim to canyon floor with exploration of unique geological features. Adults, $25-65; children, $15-50. Reservations recommended (806-488-2100). Elkins Ranch, 11301 Texas 217 E., Canyon.

Wild Animals

Keep a lookout for mule deers, roadrunners, wild turkeys, cottontails, coyotes, barbary sheep, bobcats, and western diamondback rattlesnakes. Painted buntings, canyon wrens, and red-tailed hawks are some special birds to looks for.

Where to Stay Palo Duro Canyon State Park


Tent, backpacking, and equestrian $12 and does not include the entrance fee.


The cabins also do not include entrance fees.

Cabins with heat/air conditioned, fireplaces, indoor bathrooms, microwaves, coffeemakers, minifridges, and outdoor grills. Linens, towels and pillows are provided. Pets prohibited. The Sorenson Cabin (max 4 people $125), The Lighthouse Cabin (max 4 people $110) and The Goodnight Cabin (max 4 people  $110)

Cabins with heat/air conditioned, fireplaces, microwaves, coffeemakers, minifridges, and outdoor grills. No linens and no restrooms. Pets are prohibited. The Cow Camp (max 4 people $60)

Palo Duro Trading Post

If you stay in the Canyon there are hot meals, camping supplies, fuel, groceries and of course souvenirs available at the Palo Duro Trading Post.

Entrance Fees

Adult $5; Children 12 and under $3; Seniors $3. School Events and Educational Events offered with prior arrangements.


Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm call 512-389-8900 or by Internet

Again, sorry, Texas for Spilling the Beans: The Other Grand Canyon Palo Duro! Have you been or did you know about The Other Grand Canyon Palo Duro Canyon?

Keep following our adventures as I continue to publish posts in my Family Road Trips: Discovering Texas Series.

Part One: Discovering Texas | Family Road Trip West of Dallas
Part Two: Discovering Texas | 13 Best Family Friendly Attractions in Lubbock, TX.


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