The Great Plains reach south into the panhandle of Texas where the rugged land is know for it’s cowboys, cattle and wide-open spaces. We spent a few days in Amarillo, and on the advice of our Facebook friends, made a trip down to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
The Texas panhandle sits atop a 36,000-square-mile mesa called the Caprock. Just south of Amarillo, the eroding eastern edge of the plateau is visible in the form of Palo Duro Canyon – the second largest canyon in the United States. The innocuous looking Red River started carving this canyon about a million years ago – it’s now 120 miles long and between 600 and 800 feet deep.
The area has been inhabited for more than 12,000 years, and it’s easy to see why. In this challenging landscape, the canyon would have provided water, shelter and an endless supply of food. The Apache and then the Comanche made their homes here before all Native Americans were forced to leave in the late 1800s and the land was used for grazing cattle.
The sixteen mile driving tour is the best way to get the “lay of the land,” so to speak. Put your pet on a six-foot leash, and they can go everywhere with you (except inside the buildings, of course). Hikers, horses and mountain bikers use the park’s ten trails, which range from the half-mile Nature Trail to the 6-mile Cliffside trail. Signs explain trail etiquette: bikes yield to hikers and horses – hikers yield to horses.
No matter what level of camping amenities you require, Palo Duro has something for you. RV hook-ups, tent-only sites, and backpacking are all options. If you happen to be traveling without your pets (heaven forbid!!), you can even rent a cabin with heat/air conditioning, a fireplace, kitchenette, bathroom, and linens.
It’s not often we get a chance to discuss accommodations for those of you that travel with horses, but Palo Duro makes that possible, too! Horse-friendly primitive campsites are available, and the first four reservations will have a site that includes a pen. There are three trails in the park where horses are permitted, and the only requirement is that they have a current coggins test before entering.
If camping isn’t your thing, you’ll find more than 20 pet friendly hotels in nearby Amarillo. If you do like to camp, but want to be closer to town, we highly recommend the Oasis RV Resort. They have a very nice pet walk, concrete pads, and free Wi-Fi and cable. We also checked out the local KOA Kampground, but the amenities were not as nice, they were considerably more expensive, and their “dog park” was very small.
If you like SONIC Drive-Ins, you’ll find a bunch of these pet friendly restaurants in Amarillo. The patio seating at the SONICs nationwide is generally covered and always pet friendly. The car hops in Amarillo even brought treats for Ty and Buster!
After you’ve visited the canyon, there are a few other pet friendly attractions you may want to check out. Downtown Amarillo, located on Historic Route 66, has some shops, restaurants and bars, all housed in architecturally unique buildings. Amarillo Botanical Gardens spreads across four acres and features numerous outdoor themed plantings, including Japanese, fragrance, and butterfly gardens. And, don’t forget the infamous Cadillac Ranch – ten graffiti-covered Cadillacs from 1949 – 1963, half-buried, nose-down, facing west at the same angle as the Cheops’ pyramids.
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