Did you know that Palo Duro Canyon State Park is the second largest canyon in the United States? Neither did we until a fellow RV family told us about it. The canyon is located in Amarillo, Texas. After visiting we can safely say that this magical place should be on every travelers bucket list!
In this article, we would like to tell you all about our experiences at Palo Duro Canyon and provide you with recommendations for your visit. But before we do so, please allow us to introduce ourselves. We are Rocio and Gabe – nomads who have been living the RV/van life since 2018.
We are both coffee-holics and foodies that love the outdoors and travel in general. Meeting interesting, down-to-earth people and experiencing everything a new place has to offer is what drives us individually and as a couple. Rocio is more reserved and slightly introverted at times but Gabe is the outgoing extravert who sometimes finds it hard to stop talking!
Rocio was born and raised in the Dominican Republic before stints in Puerto Rico and the US, while Gabe was born in Florida before he moved to Puerto Rico for 11 years and then back to the states. We met in Puerto Rico through mutual friends who all have a passion for nature and adventure.
As a result, we became best friends and started dating. We recently celebrated our second anniversary of marriage in February. We have always been adventurers and nature lovers. Towards the end of our time in Puerto Rico, we started to search for inspiration for our next adventure together.
We stumbled upon full-time RV living videos and we went down the rabbit hole! After Hurricane Maria devastated the island we called home, it put life into perspective for us. We decided not to wait any longer. So we sold everything, moved back to the states and have been full-timing ever since.
Road Trippin’ through Texas
Texas is a huge state with so much diversity and hidden gems around every corner. It’s pretty much impossible to be full-time RVers/van lifers and not pass through the state. Throw in the fact that Texas sits at the crossroads between east and west of the United States, and it becomes a natural stop.
We were actually making our way through several parts of the state, visiting several cities and tucked away campsites, when we came upon a lovely family. During our conversation with them, they mentioned a place we had never heard of. We googled Palo Duro Canyon and knew that we would adjust our route through the Longhorn State and pay a visit.
During that Texas trip, we spent over a month traversing various cities and landscapes. We loved it! The nature stops were too many to mention but the cities were Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Dallas and Amarillo. Just outside of Amarillo lies the second biggest canyon in the United States of America – Palo Duro Canyon. It was an amazing place to visit!
Our Experience at Palo Duro Canyon State Park
We visited Palo Duro Canyon not knowing what to do or how long to stay. We ended up doing most of what you can do in the park. We did several hikes – including the Lighthouse Trail that is nearly six miles – and passed the normal ending point to see the full extent of Palo Duro’s vast canyon.
During that extra stint of hiking, Gabe slipped and fell so awkwardly that Rocio thought she might have to get help! Luckily, Gabe was fine other than some scrapes. We kept going and drove around the park, camped inside and outside of the park, and got to experience a few other attractions in the area – like the Cadillac Ranch. It was such a fun time!
6 Best Things To Do at Palo Duro Canyon
Despite the slip and fall on the way out, standing atop the rock formation referred to as the lighthouse was an epic experience that we will remember forever. The hike out is gorgeous and the views atop the rocks are endless. It makes you feel so small and gives you such an appreciation for nature.
The lighthouse was definitely our highlight of Palo Duro Canyon. It’s one of those places that you can never truly put into words. You have to be there to understand. So if we had to recommend just one thing to do at Palo Duro Canyon it would be to see the extraordinary beauty of the lighthouse. Below we will outline a few more things to do in and around the state park:
- Camp inside the park as it allows you to totally immerse yourself into what the second largest canyon in the United States has to offer.
- Stargaze at the night sky because if you are stargazers (like we are) then you will really appreciate the beauty of the north Texas sky.
- Stay overnight at Palo Duro Rim RV just like we did. That place is a must stay for RVers and van lifers. It offers a top-down perspective of Palo Duro Canyon State Park that is truly amazing. They also have some incredible zip-lines that send you zooming along the canyon rim.
- Attend a show at the Texas Outdoor Musical which is held at the Pioneer Amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon. Be sure to check the dates and times for more info. It looks to be a really cool theatre production.
- Visit the Adventure Park at the top of the rim, just outside the park. You will be able to take in those famous views down into the canyon and also enjoy the thrill of the zip-lines. It makes for a great adventure.
- Stop at the Cadillac Ranch which is essentially a bunch of old Cadillacs buried partly in the ground. It’s a cool place, especially for taking unique photos. People go there all the time to paint the cars and express their artistic side. You can photograph all the different drawings, colors and even signatures by people who have visited from all over the world. There is no entrance fee too – so you can enjoy another free activity.
Need to Know Before you Go
The most important things to think about before you head to Palo Duro Canyon are the weather and where to stay. The weather is by far the biggest factor. If you have blue skies then you are guaranteed to have a great time! But different times of the year mean different conditions.
Choosing a place to stay will depend on your transport. Being the RVers that we are, we lean towards that mode of travel and overnight stays. As we stated before, we recommend staying inside the park but we honestly never really looked into that aspect because we travel in our home.
That said, we are sure there are some fantastic hotels and Airbnbs in the Amarillo area with tours that take you into the park. We suggest a quick google search of the area and all of that information should come up fairly easily. Other than that, just go and enjoy the park. The beauty, nature and adventure on offer provides great fun for people of all ages.