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Hike on a Mesa
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.
RYLANDER FORTRESS CLIFF TRAIL
The Rylander Fortress Cliff Trail is a 3.8 mile trail on the eastern Rim of the park that stretches from just east of the Fractures in the Rock to a scenic overview on the southern end of the Mesa. Access to this trail is from the Rock Garden Trail at about its midway point; there is no trailhead access on either the north or southern end. This trail is actually an old two-track that is set a way in from the rim. Because it is set in so far from the rim, most people, when heading north to the fractures in the Rock, take the rim trail that follows right alongside the cliff edge. This rim trail is not shown on the park map, but it is a well-traveled trail, more so than the Rylander Fortress Cliff Trail that is shown on the map. When heading to the Scenic overview to the south or the Tub Spring/Duck Pond Trail, the Rylander Fortress Trail must be taken.
From the Rock Garden Trail, the Rylander Trail heads north or south. If heading to the Fractures in the Rock, head north on this trail. At about 2 miles in the Fracture in the Rocks Trail splits off to the west. This intersection is unsigned. Going further on, the Rylander will end at the park boundary 0.6 miles later. I have not done The .6 mile stretch to the park boundary because it appeared to be nothing more than a continuation of the last 1.5 miles I did of this trail. This section of the Rylander Trail has very little to offer, just a long stretch of flat walking covered in short shrubs, yucca, and mesquite tree. Highly recommend taking the Rim Trail if going to Fractures in the rock. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, The Rylander Fortress Cliff Trail is a 1, and the Rim Trail is a 10.
From the Rock Garden Trail, if the Scenic overview is your destination, you have to take the Rylander trail. It is not any more scenic than the Rylander to the north. 1.2 miles in along this trail will get you to the scenic overview. There are great views of the park from this point, especially the canyon as it exits the park and beyond. Straight down below is the Mesquite Camp Ground and the park road. Along the east side of the vista point are views to canyons that lie to the east, probably on private land.
I have not recorded a GPS route for this entire trail, only portions of it, so the GPS official route for this trail will not give true Elevation gain and AEG. It will give a route for any who decide it is actually necessary to walk the entire length of this trail to the park boundary on the north end.
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.