After years of me saying we should go hiking in Palo Duro Canyon we finally did it. I mean every time we drove through Amarillo and I would see the exit for Palo Duro Canyon I wanted to stop, hike and explore but we never had the time. Last year I wanted to explore this area but we couldn’t get it scheduled before extreme summer temperatures set in. No way I’m hiking this area in July or August. The stars aligned and we had a 3 day weekend in May with everyone’s schedules clear!
Our trip was primarily to explore the Palo Duro Canyon, but I’ve also included the surrounding towns of Amarillo and Canyon and what we did there. Cabins are available to stay at in the canyon, but honestly I’m not sure I’m cut out for that…I need amenities, lots and lots of them. Once we arrived in Amarillo we had lunch at Blue Sky.
Blue Sky Texas is a favorite place of ours. Complete with a gorgeous mural of the Palo Duro Canyon on the building, it has incredible burgers and even more incredible onion rings. It’s a great family friendly spot with lots of food options.
After lunch we drove to Cadillac Ranch, which is nestled around some farmland located right off I-40 west of Amarillo. This well known famous Route 66 landmark is a fun place to visit.
Ok, when you think about it, it’s kinda weird. You have old Cadillacs buried halfway in the dirt with spray paint. Don’t over think it, just go…its quirky & interesting and hey, it’s art! Visually its quite stunning.
Be sure to bring some cans of spray paint and create your own art, just please throw away your empty spray paint cans! I was horrified seeing all the empty spray paint cans thrown all around the farm fields, especially when there is a dumpster on the side of the road where the cars park.
After all our fancy graffiti art, we check into our hotel The Courtyard Marriott my favorite hotel in Amarillo, it’s in the historic Fisk building downtown. After getting settled in we were ready for a big ‘ol juicy Texas steak!
The Big Texan Steak Ranch and Brewery Home of the 72 oz steak. The Big Texan is a fun quirky stop. It’s Texas cheesiness at its finest and I love it. It has great food and it’s the perfect spot to stop, stretch your legs and regain your sanity if you’ve been driving a long time.
If you find yourself without a car no need to worry, The Big Texan will hook you up, and you’ll be picked up in a “Texas style” limousine. If your up for the 72 oz steak challenge you’ll have dinner on stage with a clock counting down and the crowd cheering you on. To win not only do you need to finish all of the steak but also all of the sides that come with it.
They have many handcrafted beers too, and my favorite is hands down the Pecan Porter. Think pecan pie and beer, yes you need a glass of it!
With a fun gift shop, games, and delicious food, this 2 story restaurant is the perfect road trip spot! Open everyday from 7am to 10:30 pm. You know how much I love light fixtures, so I had to throw this pic in!
So with a belly full of steak we headed off to bed and woke up the next morning bright and early ready to spend the day hiking at the Palo Duro Canyon, which is located about 30 minutes south of Amarillo.
Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the country, many refer to it as the Texas Grand Canyon. The Palo Duro Canyon is gorgeous and filled with rich history. My daughter Ashley was especially excited to visit, and she happily told us lots of battle stories about the Native Americans while we were on the trails that she learned from her history class.
My camera in no way captured the true beauty of the canyon. It’s simply stunning in real life. Admission into the Palo Duro Canyon State Park is $5 per person, there are lots of trails and camp sites inside the park.
We started with the Lighthouse Trail which is about 6 miles. The Lighthouse Trail is open for bikers and hikers.
Lucky for us, the day we picked to hike was only in the low 80’s, but still you are warned to pack lots of water. We packed lots and we went through all of it. I’ve heard lots of stories about this trail and a few other trails that can really dehydrate people. Unprepared people end up very sick. Pack tons of water and a few extra bottles just in case and you’ll be fine.
I love the beautiful orange rock against the blue sky and greenery. It’s so vivid and beautiful. Below you can see the 2 rock points on the Lighthouse Trail we’re headed toward.
This little guy wasn’t fazed one bit when stuck a camera in his face for a picture. We also saw some wild turkeys, lizards, and hawks flying around. No snakes or any scary big spiders luckily.
I love seeing the colored layers in the rock. It’s even prettier in person. We encountered quite a few people on the trails, either walking or biking, yet at the same time it still felt quiet and isolated.
Honestly I want to tell you we handled this hiking trail like pros, well, we kind of did at first anyway. We we’re all fine then Haley rolled her ankle, my back and hips started killing me, Ashley was limping saying both feet felt broken, and Brian’s legs were numb. Hmm….indoor exercise does not always mean your in outdoor exercise shape! I knew we were starting with a 6 mile trail, and I thought after lunch we would do another 5 mile hike on a different trail. WRONG. There’s always next time though, and I definitely want to hike all the beautiful trails eventually.
After our hike was over we had 2 extremely irritable teens on our hands so we stopped for ice cream at the Palo Duro Trading Post. If they get ice cream then we get wine and that’s how our stop to Bar Z Winery was born.
Located a few minutes from the Palo Duro Canyon, we stopped there for some much needed “medicine”. What a great idea to have a winery outside a popular hiking spot. I’m sure lots of hikers come limping in, needing some post hike medication like us.
This award winning winery features unfiltered wine with Texas grown grapes. They offer generous pours, and have beautiful views off their patio. They are open Wednesday-Sunday 3-9pm.
After leaving the winery, we had dinner at Coyote Bluff Cafe. Don’t let the outside throw you off, this is what we call country charm. Located just off I-40 in Amarillo, it’s another fantastic burger place oozing with quirkiness! It’s a small restaurant but the wait is worth it, and they will happily sell you some beers while you wait outside. If your feeling brave try ordering the Burger From Hell. If you do, leave a comment and let me know how it goes! If you aren’t a burger person don’t worry they have quite a few other food options as well.
The next morning we woke up excited and bright eyed to go horseback riding through the Palo Duro Canyon. Palo Duro Riding Stables is located just outside the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Reservations are required, and you can contact them via their website or call (806) 488-2799. While driving through the State Park we spotted a few other horseback riding facilities, but this is the best place to go. Palo Duro Riding Stables is a family owned business that goes back generations. Here you can ride the trails down in the canyon on gorgeous private owned land. The scenery is simply stunning.
When we arrived to the stables we were greeted by happy dogs and friendly sweet horse faces. Shortly the owner Jesse came out to introduce himself. Being city folks he could tell we were a bit nervous. It’s crazy that we’ve lived in Texas our whole lives and are so clueless about riding a horse. Jesse and his assistant were very kind and helpful, introducing us each to our horse and explaining some riding basics. “How do you make it go and stop?” I asked. Seriously we we’re so clueless!!
So once we saddled up we headed down the steep, intimidating hill. I felt nervous and was convinced I would fall off, but all was well! These horses we’re gentle, well trained, and knew what they were doing. After going down hill we relaxed and had such a nice ride. Looking back the hill was no big deal at all.
The views on the bottom of the canyon were breathtaking. Jessie explained the land and the family history to us. You can tell how much love and dedication he has for the family land and his horses.
He and his wife seem to really love and care about the health and happiness of their horses, and it’s not just about profit, it’s also about having healthy happy horses who get lots of playtime and days off. We had some gray skies that wanted to storm up, but luckily everything stayed away.
This was the cherry on our sundae and the perfect way to end our weekend trip. Horseback riding is good for the soul, and I know we should do it again soon. Below you see my horse Lili. She was a sweetie. I may need to buy a horse, I’m sure HOA would love dealing with that.
After our terrific 90 minute trail ride we headed out in search of a late lunch.
Feldman’s Wrong Way Diner was a spur of the moment stop in the town of Canyon and I’m so glad we did. Lots of tasty menu options to choose from, we especially liked the appetizers.
I loved the inside of this restaurant, it’s a fun atmosphere with a train that circulates above. I found it especially hilarious that the restaurant has Corey Feldman on the wall. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he has nothing to with the restaurant which is why I found it so funny. Wrong Feldman. I forgot to get a photo….oh well.
We’re quite familiar with Amarillo from all the times we’ve driven through on our way to Colorado or New Mexico. Amarillo is about 5 hours from our house so we often stop for lunch, and depending on how far north we’re traveling we sometimes spend the night. So I thought I’d mention a few other Amarillo favorites that we weren’t able to do this trip.
Texas Outdoor Musical Set in the Pioneer Amphitheater, this family friendly show is fantastic and features fireworks and other special effects with the stunning backdrop of the canyon. We all watched this show years ago and I would of loved to see it again, the only thing that stopped us was opening day was still 2 weeks away. We all plan on seeing this musical again, it’s excellent. If your passing through the area between June 2nd and August 19th it’s a must see. More information can be found on the Texas Outdoor Musical website.
Frank’s Bakery is another favorite spot of ours in Amarillo. We were not able to visit this time before they closed, but we’ve stopped here for lunch many times driving to Colorado. You’ll find excellent authentic French food and baked goods. As far as I can tell they do not have a website but they do have a Facebook page and are on TripAdvisor. Be sure and check their hours before you plan a stop.
Crush Wine Bar This place gets my seal of approval. Located downtown in Amarillo and near the Marriott hotel we always stay at, it’s a great place to sip wine or have a great meal. Another favorite of ours that we weren’t able to visit during opening hours that never disappoints us. You’ll find everything from charcuterie boards, creative salads, kids meals and lots of lunch and dinner items to choose from.
Well, I have to say our 3 day weekend road trip was a success. It was a good mix of food, nature, and spending time together. Like I said we go through Amarillo often to go to New Mexico and Colorado usually at least once a year, sometimes 2-3 times a year depending on what’s all going on. Do you know of any interesting places to try out in the Texas Panhandle or near Amarillo?
If so, leave it in the comments and we’ll definitely try to check it out next time we’re in the area. Thanks for reading!