Take a Horseback Riding Vacation in Palo Duro Canyon Texas

wild west family vacation in texas

The views are spectacular in Texas at Palo Duro Canyon, and there are plenty of things to do for kids and adults alike, but experiencing the environment of the canyon as western folk did back in western days is an experience an entire family will remember and cherish forever.

If you’re interested in finding the best place to go for a family vacation where you can enjoy beauty, history, and horses, here’s the info you need to plan a horseback riding vacation in Palo Duro Canyon Texas.

palo duro canyon texas

Imagine the west as it once was at Palo Duro Canyon in Texas.

Check out the Old West Stables located right in the Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

An outfitter who can provide the knowledge of the area AND the horses for you and the kids, Old West Stables is an excellent resource for those who might like or need the services they provide.

horseback riding vacation in texas

Old West Stables in Palo Duro Canyon

Old West Stables also hosts wagon rides and campfire breakfasts, and they run a snack bar right inside the Palo Duro State Park that boasts of their top notch hamburgers.

There are trails rides and fun horse-related activities for the entire family.  However, there is a minimum age limit of 6 years old and a maximum weight limit of 250 pounds to to on their one hour guided ride on the Palo Duro Canyon trails.

You can get more information about their services, events, and reservation contact info at http://www.oldweststables.com/

If you already own horses, you can also go family camping at one of the park’s campsites and take your horses with you.

Traveling in Texas with kids (and horses) is fairly common, so it’s not surprising the Palo Duro State Park in Texas has both an equestrian campground as well as large trailer parking in addition to their equestrian trails with corrals and water for horse family vacations.

You can get more information on the Equestrian Camping Sites and the canyon’s back packing, primitive, family tent camping, and RV campgrounds at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park website at:  http://www.palodurocanyon.com/.

Add to your horse back riding vacation by seeing the American Quarter Horse Museum and Hall of Fame in Amarillo, TX, just a few miles from the canyon.  

If you still have a little more time, there are a couple of other places and things to do in Amarillo, TX and around the canyon area which are fun family vacation ideas for amateur horse enthusiasts and wild west lovers.

The Cowboys and Cowgirls of the West company in Amarillo Texas offers horseback riding and horse-related activities for beginners through experienced riders and, like the Wild West Stables, hosts horseback tours of the canyon.  They also offer horseback riding getaways in Amarillo Texas and in other areas like New Mexico by the way.

If all the horsing around (pun intended) has you hungry, you can order a chuck wagon meal right there at “Cowboys and Cowgirls” as well.

Sick of horses?  How about a cattle round up vacation!  You can find out more about that at Cowboys and Cowgirls of the West in Amarillo too!

Take horseback riding lessons to learn a little more about these beautiful animals which our wild west ancestors depended so much on.

There are several stables that offer riding lessons close to the canyon.  See a video here from the Golden Horse Training Center just minutes from the canyon:  http://www.retvofama.com/goldenhorse.htm.

Even kids with disabilities can enjoy a horseback riding vacation here!

If you are traveling with a family member with a mental or physical challenge or disability, the 7 Star Therapeutic Riding Center in nearby Claude, TX offers equine-assisted therapy and riding lessons for individuals with any number of illnesses, physical challenges, or disabilities.  They also have horse therapy for veterans.

You can get more information about their services at http://www.7starhorsetherapy.org/.

wild west family vacation in texas

The wild west awaits.

Palo Duro Canyon is a beautiful place, and its rich western history makes it an irresistible family vacation destination.

You can combine the scenes with the historical richness the area has to offer by taking a horseback riding vacation together with your family members and a few horses to help you get back to, or discover for the first time, your western spirit of excitement and adventure.

Camping With Kids at Palo Duro State Park Texas

palo duro canyon in texas

Palo Duro State Park in Texas oversees the Palo Duro Canyon, a western, rustic gorge in the northwestern panhandle of Texas and the 2nd largest canyon in the United States.

The folk around here call it the Grand Canyon of Texas.

And a canyon it is too.

That’s why you’ll want to know a few things about camping with kids if you travel to Palo Duro State Park Texas for a family getaway.

Here’s what you need to understand, and be prepared to do, if you plan on camping with children here in the Grand Canyon of The Lone Star State.

Know about the Canyon Temperatures

Texas is a southern state, and winter temperatures are not bad relatively.  However, it can get down to the teens even in this canyon in the south.

If your family camping vacation is during the winter months, you’ll want to have sleeping bags for the kids that are warm enough to tolerate temperatures as low as the teens or so.

It’s the heat of the summer months, though, that surprise some parents and which parents should be prepared for.

A canyon acts as a cauldron.  The hot temperatures of Texas settle in that basin with no place to go, and temperatures can be extreme during the summer months when the area is having a hot spell to begin with.

My family was just there for a weekend family getaway this past weekend.  The temperature on the rim was over 100 degrees.  The temperature down on the floor was 115 – 120 degrees!

Palo Duro State Park Texas Temperature

A view of the temperature at Palo Duro State Park Texas during our weekend family getaway last week

If you’re going camping in Texas with kids during the summer, be prepared for very hot weather.  If you’re going camping at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, be overly prepared and cautious of any high temperatures that could lead to dehydration, illness, or risk.

Take sunscreen, caps, and plenty of water.  Have shelter and protection.  Be aware and alert to temperatures that get too hot for the kids at play, and direct them to a different activity, or take a short drive up to Amarillo TX to do something there and get out of the heat.

Being on watch makes a difference.  Being cautious makes all the difference in the world.

Be Aware of Area Weather and Flash Flooding in the Gorge

This is a beautiful area to go camping in, and the weather will generally comply with your plans to have a good time, especially since Texas is generally dry over the summer months.  Chances are you won’t get rained out if you travel here to get away from it all and to let your children have a little fun with all the great cowboy and cowgirl things to do here.

But if it DOES rain, use a watchful eye and be ready to take the children to higher ground if you’re camping on the canyon basin and you see water accumulating on the ground.

With plenty of high terrain for downward momentum, heavy rains can collect in the basin causing flash flooding.

Palo Duro State Park Texas Flood Guage Sign

Always keep an eye on nature when camping with children in a canyon or valley.

Most chances are you’ll never encounter a problem at all, but whenever there is nature or wildlife involved, it always pays to be aware of your environment.

Let the Kids Enjoy the History but Make Sure They Also Respect the Excavations Currently In Progress.

Indians lived here.  Cowboys rode here.  Calvary fought here.

This area is full of the stuff Cowboy movies are made of, and it’s no wonder archeologists today crave to know just exactly who WAS here and exactly WHAT they did.

While the park lands are open via trails and in open fields and valleys for exploration such as  hiking, biking, and horseback riding, you might also be observant enough to notice the lights of archeology digs going on deep inside some of the caves and crevices.

history of palo duro canyon in texas

We just happened to notice a big light for an archeology dig inside this cave as we drove through the canyon last weekend. Notice the walkway that goes right up to the cave door!


Camping with kids in Texas is always a taste of nature and history.  Camping at Palo Duro Canyon State Park brings both nature and history right to the front door of your family tent or RV.

Your entire family can see history being discovered in Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, but help the kids be respectful of what’s going on there now.

While camping here can be a fun getaway for a family, it is also family camping in an environment that takes understanding and awareness on the part of parents.

Be informed.  Be aware.  Be a parent.

Then just go have some fun and enjoy the sights.

PS, Here’s a list of the best things to do in Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas.  Go to that article now or check our other related posts below.

The Ten Best Do Not Miss Things to Do in Palo Duro Canyon

driving to the palo duro basin in palo duro canyon state park

It’s rugged.  It’s majestic.

And it’s full of naturally fun things to do.

Here’s a list of 10 awesome things to do with your family in Palo Duro Canyon, just a short drive outside Amarillo, TX.

1.  Drive the scenic Palo Duro Canyon State Park trail to the bottom of the basin and back up again.

driving to the palo duro basin in palo duro canyon state park

You’ll see tons along the way down to the basin of the canyon.2

Get a travel map at the park service booth at the very edge of the Palo Duro State Park Texas entrance.

The 16 mile round trip can be made in 45 minutes if you don’t stop or look around, but you’ll want to enjoy the scenery, stop at various places along the way, and get out to explore.  You could easily spend an afternoon or a day just driving around.

2.  See the Palo Duro Canyon Texas play at the Palo Duro Canyon Amphitheater.

Entrance to the Palo Duro Canyon Amphitheater

Entrance to the Palo Duro Canyon Amphitheater area

The Texas Show, the action filled, rough riding, family friendly musical theater production held in the canyon’s amphitheater each summer is one of the more expensive activities you’ll find here, but it’s well worth the ticket cost.

The show offers a professionally done presentation with singing, dancing, humor, lighting, dancing waters, and even a few Texan surprises, all presented with a canyon wall as its backdrop.  All combined, it’s hard to get more western than this!

3.  Go hiking on one of the rugged hiking trails.

palo duro canyon hiking trail

One of the many Palo Duro Canyon hiking trails

You’ll find a variety of trails with different experiences and for different level hikers there.

4.  Run the Palo Duro Trail Run.

The Palo Duro Canyon Trail Run is a 20K, 50K, and 50 mile race on the floor of the canyon and held in October each year.  With 99% of the run being on dirt trails, this race is for hearty folk who can run in rugged terrain.

Registration for the 20K race fills pretty quickly, so either make sure you register early or plan on training for a little longer race.

For more info on the run, go to http://www.palodurotrailrun.com/


5.  Picnic among the canyon’s famous hardwood trees on a shady trail.

palo duro wildlife

Wildlife in the basin

Don’t necessarily plan on the picnic area all to yourself though!  We found ourselves looking right a deer by one of the shaded picnic tables when we were meandering about.

6.  Stay in one of the state park’s cabins.

Texas State Park cabin in palo duro state park

As you can see here, Palo Duro cabin rentals are like no other.


Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine names the cabins here as one of the best cabins in Texas.  To see the best cabins in Texas State parks, see Best Cabin Rentals in Texas State Parks.

7.  Rent a horse at Old West Stables in the park and go horseback riding through the canyon.

8.  Or ride a bike.

There are more difficult areas where a mountain bike would be best suited, but there are flat areas and trails where families with children can ride together.

9.  Go camping in one of the canyon campgrounds.

A campsite in Palo Duro Canyon

RV, tent camping, and backpack camping are all popular activities in the canyon’s campsites.

This park is not big on playground equipment, so if you are camping with kids, bring some outdoor games, bikes, and outdoor play equipment.  In fact, a Frisbee would be perfect to have too.

If you’re going tent camping with kids, the bathroom and shower facilities are just fine, by the way.

You can make reservations for one of the Palo Duro campsites through Texas Parks & Wildlife Department online or by calling them at (512) 389-8900.

10.  Take pictures of Palo Duro Canyon and let your imagination run wild with its history.

Picture of caves in Palo Duro TX

Can you imagine someone taking refuge in those caves?


I can say from experience that taking pictures expands your interest in the area.

Not only could I see the caves in my pictures and envision who may have spent time inside those rock cliff hangouts, I think I figured out where the Travelocity Gnome has been hanging out recently too!

The 5 Best Online Camping Stores for Discount Camping Gear

Below is our list of the top 5 online camping stores where you can find good buys on outdoor camping equipment, deals on those camping supplies you’ve been looking at, camping tents for sale, and discount camping gear for items you can be sure are well suited for your next camping adventure but just right for your wallet.

online camping stores discounted camping gear

I’m running to my computer with this full body sleeping bag on to find some more camping supplies discounted at these online camping stores! Wow, I’m getting hot running in this thing!

# 1  Mountain Plus Outdoor Gear at http://store.mpgear.com/

  • One of the first camping stores online and, in my opinion, the best online camping store out there is Mountain Plus Outdoor Gear
  • Mountain Plus is not known primarily for selling discount camping gear online, but good deals and discounts abound all through their webpages.  You won’t be looking at cheap camping gear.  You’ll see good quality supplies for camping, many on sale and reduced in price, which helps you greatly when trying to find the right outdoor gear that will suit your needs and your budget.
  • You will see respected brand names
  • You will see quality products
  • You won’t see the largest inventory, but it is more than sufficient, and you can be confident in knowing it is the best suited OF the inventory that is out there for purchase.
  • The best part of this company is their knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful customer representatives.   In this company, customer service is king.
  • While some of their products will have a regular price, MP Gear also offers regular sales and price reductions of up to 25% and seasonal sales of up to 60% or so.
  • To see this website in the way it is best seen, just browse through all their camping products at this camping online store, and you’ll see all the great deals all throughout your browsing.

# 2  Back Country at http://www.backcountry.com/

  • Love the selection of good quality tents at Back Country, and if you check their tents on sale, listed throughout their site right along with their regularly priced tents, you can find a fantastic discount tent.
  • By the way, you can find 4 season tents at Back Country too, and that’s pretty special in and of itself.
  • You can also find high quality Marmot sleeping bags plus some of the other best sleeping bags on sale at backcountry.com

Click here to see the Coleman Montana 8 Person Tent on Amazon


#3  The Coleman Company’s Website

  • Coleman has perhaps the most well known name in camping gear, their quality is in fact legendary, and Coleman camping tents are almost an American tradition.  However, if you take the time go look through the coleman.com website, you can find discount camping equipment and travel accessories.
  • There is also a camping gear outlet at their site.
  • Of all the sales and discounts you can find at camping equipment stores online, this camping store is the only one where you can focus JUST on Coleman products while saving a bundle along the way.

#4  Campmore

  • You’ll find the best names in outdoor equipment at highly discounted prices
  • Check out Campmor’s Hot Deals, online specials, sales items, and “Deal of the Day”, their daily deals which they change every Wednesday.  There are plenty of ways to save at this online camping store.

#5  Sierra Trading Post

  • You can save 35% – 70% off your camping supplies every day at Sierra Trading.
  • There is a smaller selection of items for your camping gear checklist here, but you’ll find some of the best brand names around in camping equipment, sporting goods, and hiking boots.
  • To enjoy deep discounts for high quality camping equipment means you’ll be smiling when you see those great deals on camping supplies being delivered to your front door.

Please note that while REI and Camping World are not on this specific list of camping stores online with discount camping equipment, they do both have some great deals on their camping online stores and lots of discounts and sales on camping gear.  In fact, I have listed those two companies among my list of of the 6 best camping stores for camping gear overall.

See my earlier post for all 6 top rated camping stores overall and for more info on how you can save on their discount camping gear and supplies.