Hey there, Happy Weekend! Brian and I just spent a fabulous day hiking the Lighthouse Trail in the Palo Duro Canyon. For those who aren’t familiar with the Palo Duro Canyon, it’s located about 30 minutes outside Amarillo, Texas, near the town of Canyon. The Palo Duro Canyon is gorgeous and looks like a miniature Grand Canyon, it’s actually the second largest canyon in the United States.
Now this isn’t our first time to the Palo Duro Canyon State Park, last year about this time I wrote a blog post on our visit with the kids. We hiked all the way to the end of the trail, but bringing teenage girls with us it didn’t go so well, so once we got to the end of the flat trail we had to turn around and go back, without climbing up to the Lighthouse. It was nearly 6 miles without seeing the prize. I was really disappointed but my kids were hurting, actually we were too but we still enjoyed the hike. You can read about our experience in my Palo Duro Canyon blog post, plus find other cool activities we did in the canyon, and see some highlights of things to do in Amarillo and the area.
On this trip we didn’t take the girls with us, haha we learned our lesson the first time! But honestly they didn’t want to come hike this trail again anyway and it worked out great because Brian and I need a break from 2 teens anyway! This time I was determined to fully conquer this trail.
In the intense heat this trail can make people seriously ill, a few deaths have occurred over the years from hikers being unprepared in the extreme summer heat. There is very little shade on this hike. In the summer temperatures in the canyon reach well over 100 degrees, so please go prepared or wait until cooler temperatures. If you do hike this trail in the extreme heat, this news article recommends to take a gallon of water per mile per person. I’m not sure how it’s possible to carry that much water, but that’s the recommendation.
We hiked mid April, the temperature was a high of 68 and ideal. Our backpack was packed with 4 liters of water and we had some snacks. The trail is open for bikers as well but most people walk it.
Pretty early into the trail you descend into the canyon and you’re surrounded by gorgeous rock formations. There are mile markers along the way to help you stay on the trail and keep track of your distance.
Those with smaller children who want to explore the Lighthouse Trail but can’t make it the full way I suggest hiking to this spot about a mile into the trail. You’ll see a sign that says scenic point to your left. Here you can get a view of the canyon and the Lighthouse in the distance. Kids can play around on here. You’ll get good feel for the trail if you can’t keep going.
We crossed 3 dry creek beds and another creek bed that had a little water. We didn’t encounter any snakes or wildlife, and except for a few big flies buzzing around our heads the bugs weren’t too bad either.
FYI there aren’t any bathrooms, water fountains, or trash cans anywhere on the trail, you will occasionally see a small wooden bench to rest on, although there are not many of them.
The trail itself is long, but pretty easy until you get to the end. It’s mostly flat like you see on the left, but even in the flat areas you will occasionally encounter some uneven ground or small rocks to trip over so it’s important to pay attention as you walk. Once we crossed the wet creek we encountered more hills and rocks.
Once you get to the end of the trail it just stops. There is a picnic table, a few trees for shade, and a place to chain your bike. We walked a very brisk pace but we did stop quite a few times for photos. I timed it and we made it to the end of the flat trail in 57 minutes. Remember this is where my kids gave up from exhaustion and we had to turn around and head back.
We took a 5 minute rest on the picnic table, drank some water, and had a few handfuls of peanuts to give us some energy. From here you have to climb. We encountered an older couple here, the lady was resting next to us and her husband with his camera attempted to make the climb up to the Lighthouse but pretty quickly came down saying it was too steep for him.
So we journeyed up the narrow pathway and I’m thinking this really isn’t that bad and then wow, does the path change!
I suddenly see the extreme rock terrain in front of me and think seriously?? Suddenly it’s like a rock ladder and we were crawling around like toddlers. I did find that my regular althetic shoes worked well until this point, hiking shoes with traction are ideal from here up, but even though I slid a lot we made it work. Just be careful, sliding on gravel isn’t fun.
As we near the top the rocky trail gets much easier. We were told once we reached the Y in the trail to go right it was easier. So this was us going right, doesn’t look so easy. So I’m not sure what they meant, possible the left side was longer distance wise? Maybe they tricked us? Not really sure. We stopped plenty to catch our breath and take in the stunning views.
We made it to the top and it was pure joy! The views are beautiful and the Lighthouse is stunning! There is a small bench to rest on, from this point you can turn around and go back or keep on climbing. Can you guess what we did?
Once up on top we lost track of time, I stopped timing so I can’t tell you how long it took to climb and look around. We had lots of fun taking pictures and playing around so I’ll just let you see some of our photos…
A tip, you should try to hike during the week. I know this isn’t possible for everybody but weekends get very crowded. Last time we visited this trail with the girls people were everywhere. It was noisy, crowded, and hard to pass people on the trails. This time we did encounter a few people here and there but for the most part we were alone, it was quiet and it was very peaceful. Because of this we were able to get so many great photos of the Lighthouse without crowds of people.
Speaking of kids, I’m sure many have done this hike. If your kids are tough and used to hiking go for it, just be prepared – don’t go in the summer. If you have girly teens, or kids that aren’t real outdoorsy I wouldn’t, they’re are shorter, easier trails in the canyon.
On the way back we were pretty tired but we still walked at super speed. I timed us and we beat our time, made it back in 52 minutes this time, so I guess the photos did slow us down.
The views walking back were just as beautiful. The red rock canyon was stunning against the blue sky. These photos had minimal editing, the colors looked exactly like this in real life.
There are several other trails, but this one is very popular, there is also a 16 minute scenic drive through the canyons, and entry into the State Park is $5 per person. They have several campsites, and cabins are also available. You can find more information at www.palodurocanyon.com. The Texas Outoor Muscial performs in the amphitheater in the Palo Duro Canyon June-August. The show is spectacular, with amazing special effects. You will be hot, but just drink water and make peace with your sweat because it’s an incredible experience, and my kids loved it. You can find more details at www.texas-show.com. We plan on taking some different hikes in the Palo Duro Canyon this fall when the temps cool off again.
Overall this hike did wear us out at the end though. I do pilates reformer 4-5 days a week and my Brian does Orange Theory, yet the next day we woke up so sore!
Today, we’re back on the road heading back to Fort Worth and stopping in Wichita Falls to pick up the girls from Grandma’s house. I hope you enjoyed coming along with us on our Lighthouse Trail adventure. Enjoy the weekend, see you next week!