For the longest time I have heard of Palo Duro Canyon and about how awesome it is. Sitting just south of Amarillo and I-40 I have driven right by it many times but never stopped to check it out. So on a recent trip out west I made sure to see the United States’ second largest canyon. After reading up on on Palo Duro Canyon (AKA looking at a map on the state park website) I decided to hike to the lighthouse rock as the one hike I wanted to do there.
The trail begins from a dirt parking lot on the canyon floor and begins with a sign warning of the danger of heat exhaustion in the desert.
I wasn’t too worried though because I had plenty of water and it was a cold, overcast, and windy March morning. We started off on the red dirt trail with excitement as this was our first hike after driving 16 hours the day before from Atlanta, Georgia.
The first point of interest along the trail is a hoodoo poking up from the end of a small but steep peak. There is a very weathered sign here that talks about the formation of hoodoos.
The trail travels around the peak and through a couple washes. There are a few benches to rest on scattered across the trail. After following the trail for a little longer we got our first glimpse of the lighthouse rock, a massive hoodoo resembling a lighthouse.
We passed a split in the trail for mountain bikers and after this split the trail turned from hard red dirt to soft sand.
We reached a small area with some picnic tables and a million bikers (well like 10) and saw the trail sharply cut left and steeply upwards towards the lighthouse. We waited as a large group of people made their way down the narrow trail before we began our ascent. This part of the trail has very loose footing so we took our time making it up.
Once we got to the top though we looked up at the massive lighthouse rock and I felt a little surprised having not realized how large it was until being so close.
From here we climbed up on the flat rock area between the lighthouse rock and it’s counterpart rock. We also climbed over to the other side where the best views of the lighthouse are and took a bunch of pictures.
You can climb up to the top of the unnamed rock next to lighthouse rock but we decided not to because it seemed a little too sketchy. After enjoying a good 45 minutes with the lighthouse we started our trek back through the desert. It began to heat up and the blue sky finally came out from behind the gray clouds that had filled the sky until now.
We reached the trailhead that had filled up with cars and made lunch before heading towards New Mexico!
Thanks! – Josh