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PALO DURO CANYON
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 CCC Trail is a 1.5-mile trail with its Lower trailhead at the Pioneer Amphitheater parking lot, which is the first turn-off on the right when you get down to the canyon floor. The upper trailhead is at the park visitor center up on top of the canyon near the park entrance. The CCC trail is one of two trails that climbs from the river bottom to the rim, the other being the Rock Garden Trail. This trail was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and was used to gain access to the canyon floor. You can still see the remnants of a couple of the original small bridges along this trail. The Goodnight Peak Trail crosses the CCC trail at about the midpoint and heads south to Goodnight Peak Vista, and the trail to the north goes to the park road as it descends into the canyon. The trail to the north is called the Triassic Trail, but it is only 0.3 miles long. In this guide, I am just going to refer to both as the Goodnight Peak Trail.
The signed lower CCC trailhead is at the Pioneer Amphitheater parking lot on the northwest corner. The trail starts at a fairly steep rate for the first half mile until you reach the Goodnight Peak ridge. As you ascend, the views get better, first over the Pioneer Amphitheater and expanding until you eventually have good views over the park to the south and east. Once on Goodnight Ridge, the trail levels out, and the views open up to the west over Timber Creek and the visitor’s center on the canyon rim. Immediately upon coming onto the ridge, the Goodnight Peak Loop Trail heads off to the south. The CCC Trail continues on this ridge for about 0.2 miles, where the Triassic Trail heads off to the north at a signed intersection. The CCC Trail continues 0.7 miles up to the upper trailhead. This portion of the trail does a more gradual climb as it continues the climb along the edges of a side canyon of Timber Creek until reaching the summit. The remains of the three small rock footbridges the CCC built in the 1930s are along this section of trail. There is a vista point at the upper trailhead that park visitors usually stop at to get a good view of the entire canyon and the park visitor center. This trail climbs up all the sequences of Triassic rocks, then a major unconformity where in a heartbeat you step over about 167 MY of earth history, the Jurassic, Cretaceous, and most of the Tertiary period are missing (One small step for you a major step for the earth). The top layer of the trail (and the Park) is of the Pliocene age. This is a very nice trail, even if you are not into the geology aspect of it.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
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.