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


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!

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