Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip? Absolutely – nature at its finest! This stunningly vivid and brilliantly colored gorge located in the Texas Panhandle gets its name from the sturdy wood of the mesquite tree that you see throughout the canyon. It is the second-largest canyon in the U.S.

Palo Duro is the Spanish word for hardwood or hard stick.

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

Yes, this was another of our plans, that was not a planned trip. I am forever trying to find a fun place for us to visit within driving distance, and fortunately, searching for and going to new places is my favorite thing to do.

Steve and I decided to make this a grand adventure trip – all four days long! We got a late start on our first day and stopped in Hico, Texas, that afternoon. We enjoyed Hico so much that we keep returning. Additionally, we also spent some time in nearby Dublin, Texas, on our way home.

See my story about our visit to these historical and fun towns at Two small towns in Central Texas.

Our journey took us as far as Abilene on the first day of our trip and we spent the night there at a Holiday Inn Express.

Make a Reservation!

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

By mid-afternoon, we were in Palo Duro Canyon. We did have a reservation and I recommend one because a limited number of visitors are allowed in the park each day. Steve and I did not have a reservation at Caprock Canyon and were denied entry the following day.

That was disappointing, but my fault. Texas State Parks highly recommend reservations. You can make reservations online or by calling (512) 389-8900.

The Canyon

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

We did not plan to stay overnight at the Palo Duro. The park provides day-use sites, tent sites, RV sites with 20-amp and 30-amp hookups, and Cowcamp Cabins. I do hope to make it back to Palo Duro Canyon and stay in one of these truly unique little cabins.

They are rustic cabins built in 1933 and they do have heat or a/c. There are only seven of these cabins, and reservations are hard to come by. The luxury Doves Rest Cabins are also available for rent. You can find more information about each lodging offering on the Palo Duro Canyon State Park website.

Palo Duro Glamping is also available here. A perfect overnight experience is possible for every level of “camper” at Palo Duro Canyon.

Both of us enjoyed a tasty burger lunch at the Palo Duro Canyon Trading Post located at the bottom of the canyon in the park. The Trading Post is a small gift shop, sundry shop, restaurant, and ice cream shop.

There are many hiking trails, and we will enjoy returning to cooler weather to wander around a bit. There are so many opportunities to enjoy nature here. Aside from hiking, you can go horseback riding, birding, and geocaching.

The park houses an amazing outdoor theater where the family-friendly outdoor musical TEXAS is still performed weekly during the summer for nearly 55 years.

We will return for a longer visit in late fall or early spring when the weather is more comfortable for us. I am particularly interested in staying in one of the Cowcamp Cabins!

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?
It was a HOT day!

Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum

We left the park just before 5 p.m. and were able to make it to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in nearby Canyon. This museum is on the campus of West Texas A&M University and presents exhibits that illustrate the lives of pioneers to Native Americans from the Texas panhandle.

The large museum is on two floors and requires at least two hours to see and absorb all the museum offers. On the first floor is an entire pioneer town exhibit portraying the Plains people in their everyday life.

There are also extensive exhibits depicting the petroleum industry in the area and presentations that illustrate many other facets of experience in the Texas Panhandle. Beautiful art galleries are on the second floor of this museum.

Wheeler, Texas

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

Our next destination, Wheeler, Texas, is only a few hours away. I lived in Wheeler when I was a teenager and was curious to see the town as it is today. The courthouse has been refurbished since I was last there. Isn’t it magnificent!

Steve and I were fortunate enough to enjoy dinner and a great visit with a friend from my high school days here. At my friend Elaine’s suggestion, we decided to visit nearby Mobeetie the following day. Mobeetie turned out to be the highlight of our trip.

See my blog post Take a step back in time to the Wild West of Mobeetie, Texas

Shamrock, Texas

After our evening in Wheeler, we drove the 18 miles to Shamrock, Texas, where we stayed overnight. Shamrock is at the crossroads of Interstate 40 (formerly known as Route 66) and U.S. Route 83.

The historic Conoco Tower Station and U-Drop Inn Café, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, are both located in Shamrock on the old Route 66. Have you seen the 2006 Cars movie?

You might recognize the U-Drop Inn as the inspiration for the character Ramone’s automotive shop in Radiator Springs in that movie. The nicest and most helpful ladies in the Visitor’s Center, Oleta, and Betty shared the history and some of the stories about the U-Drop Inn, including a visit from Elvis Presley.

What great stories!

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

Sights along the way

Spying unusual and unexpected sights as we drive along is one of my favorite things. Very often, in rural areas, we find many Christian religious statues and shrines, and that was the case a few times on this trip as well. Here are some of the unexpected sights we encountered on this Panhandle of Texas trip.

Windmill farms

We saw these windmills just outside of Roscoe, Texas, less than an hour from Abilene. They were everywhere, as far as my eye could see. 

A 15′ Jesus in a box?

Along the drive, between Abilene and Palo Duro Canyon, we came upon this statue along the highway next to Saint Isidore Catholic Church in Abernathy, Texas. The explanation I read online (unverified) is that this statue is a replica of one that was assembled in Ecuador based on a vision one of the parishioners had.

In the vision, the parishioner saw Christ swaying on the cross, creating a gap between Christ and the cross. The parishioner reported that Jesus spoke to him and said he wanted all of humanity to pass between him and the cross.

This story inspired a Columbian priest to have a replica built at the parish he served in California. He was subsequently transferred to Fort Worth and then Abernathy. The statue made each move with the priest (Louis Dussan). In 1997 the building was built around the statute. Interesting story?

Giant cross

Again, we’re just driving along and see this gigantic 190-foot cross that is visible in the flat Texas Panhandle landscape that can be seen 20 miles in any direction. Online research told me this is named The Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ and is in Groom, Texas, just off Interstate 40.

We did not stop here on this trip but did visit here on our amazing two-month RV trip. There are fourteen life-sized statues of the Stations of the Cross surrounding this one giant cross.

Painted Route 66 wall

Donley County Courthouse, Clarendon

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

Jones County Courthouse, Anson

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

Home of Bob Wills, Turkey, TX

Bob’s Oil Well, Matador, TX

Bob Robertson, a business promoter, advertised his gas station by keeping a zoo that included live rattlesnakes, lions, monkeys, a white buffalo, and other animals – all to entertain and amuse passing tourists.

Steve and I have had another truly fun travel adventure on this drive to the Texas Panhandle. We learned a lot about the history of Texas in this part of the world, met some amazing people, and spent FOUR days together in the same car. We are most definitely having a grand retirement!

Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

5 thoughts on “Is a visit to Palo Duro Canyon worth the trip?

  1. Pingback: Two small towns in Central Texas | Always Want To Go
  2. Jesus in the box is fantastic. Also love those old majestic courthouses.

    1. Thank you, Judy. The Jesus in the box was eye-catching. I hope to see more of these courthouses too.

  3. Interesting Jesus in the box. I thought you were going to say it pertained to the Route 66 given the sign says Christ of my path, and the priest was from CA before moving. It slso reminded me of some of the religious holy welks and sites seen in Ireland. What a neat find!

    1. It was definitely an unusual thing to see just along the highway, but it does have a good story, and as you say, similar to Ireland holy wells and shrines.

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