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Upper Comanche Trail, TX

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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Distance One Way 3.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,922 feet
Elevation Gain 240 feet
Accumulated Gain 507 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.19
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
25  2021-05-12
Comanche Rylander Fortress Loop
11  2021-05-11
Upper Comanche Kiowa Loop
Author markthurman53
author avatar Guides 162
Routes 683
Photos 7,885
Trips 532 map ( 4,888 miles )
Age 67 Male Gender
Location Tucson, Arizona
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Mar, Oct, Nov → Any
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  5:33am - 8:03pm
Official Route
2 Alternative

You do the Hoodoos
by markthurman53


Palo Duro Canyon is located 25 miles southeast of Amarillo Texas, in the Texas panhandle, and is the second-longest canyon in the US; you can guess the first. The creek that runs through the canyon is part of the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. The canyon formed when the river cut down through the Llano Estacado Plateau as it was uplifted during the Pleistocene Period. This canyon has been called the Grand Canyon of Texas. The rock formations are of the Permian and Triassic periods. The lower Permian section was formed when this was a near-shore shallow marine environment. The upper Triassic layer was formed when this was a stream environment and formed the Sandstone cap rock of the park.

Palo Duro gets its name from the Spanish, meaning “hard stick”. This area was first occupied by Native Americans, the Apaches and then replaced by the Comanche and Kiowa. It was visited by Coronado in 1541, then around the 1870’s ranching. It became a state park in the 1930s. A lot of history was glanced over in those last few sentences; more detail is readily available online.

The park’s paved road offers opportunities for sightseeing, camping and hiking. There are over 30 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails. With a look of a Minnie Sedona (minus the crowd) it is a worthy stop if you are anywhere near the area. Some of the Wildlife in this canyon include Mule Deer, Wild Turkey, Collared Lizard, Barbary Sheep (introduced in 1957) and Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes.


The Upper Comanche Trail is a 3.5-mile trail with its northern trailhead at the Mack Dick Pavilion, which is the first turn-off along the park road when you get down to the canyon floor. The southern terminus is at the Hackberry Campground. The trail follows the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River on its eastern bank 100 to 200 feet up. The trail stays in the Permian/Triassic red Mudstones most of the way, with many hoodoos formed by Triassic weather-resistant sandstones capping earlier Triassic mudstones and shale.

The Upper Comanche Trail starts out heading north from the Mack Dick Pavilion parking lot and, within 0.2 miles, heads in an easterly direction to cross the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. There is a wooden bridge to assist in crossing. This river looks more like a creek most of the time, but it has cut a deep narrow ravine that can be difficult to cross without the aid of a bridge. Once past the bridge, the trail starts a gradual 200 foot climb up onto the lower slopes of the eastern cliffs of Palo Duro Canyon. The trail begins in a southerly direction that maintains the rest of the way. Twice along the way, the trail drops back down to near the river level as it crosses Brushy Creek and South Brushy Creek. This trail ends at the Junction with the Soapberry Spur trail and the beginning of the Lower Comanche Trail. This is a signed intersection complete with a map of the trails in Palo Duro. The Soapberry Spur Trail is a short 0.3-mile connector that will take you to the Soapberry day-use area along the park road.

This trail is well maintained and signed every tenth mile with placards marked “UC” for Upper Comanche and mileage in tenths. As you walk along this trail, the rocks and hoodoos will keep this easy to walk trail exciting. It is easy to do a three MPH pace, but with all the stopping for photos or just to gaze, the pace will probably be much less. The cliffs to the east are part of the Rylander Fortress Cliffs, and they are quite amazing; they look like large portions of it could come down at any time. One of the more prominent structures along this cliff is the Fractures in the Rock formation visible above the trail near the junction with the Soapberry spur trail junction.

Vegetation along the trail consists of grasses, prickly pear, yucca, mesquite, and juniper. Closer to the river are hackberry, willow, and cottonwood. This trail can be quite muddy after heavy rain due to the clays from the Permian and Triassic mudstones, so be prepared to add a few pounds to your boots when hiking the trails if they are muddy.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2021-05-19 markthurman53
  • Palo Duro Park Map 2020
    state park related
    Palo Duro Park Map 2020
  • Palo Duro Trails Map 2020
    state park related
    Palo Duro Trails Map 2020
  • Palo Duro Trails Info 2020
    state park related
    Palo Duro Trails Info 2020

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Permit $$
Fees are typically $4-$7 per person. Check the site for park hours and current fees.

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
The park is located about 12 miles east of Canyon on State Highway 217. From Amarillo, take Interstate 27 south to State Highway 217 at the town of Canyon, and go east eight miles.
page created by markthurman53 on May 19 2021 5:54 am
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