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Trip Report Amarillo and Palo Duro Canyon - Trip Report

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Okay, posting this a little late but as usual busy with work, family,etc... so only now getting to post.

For Spring Break, we decided to head on up to Amarillo to do Palo Duro Canyon and then see Cadillac Ranch and environs around Amarillo.

Even though I've been living in Austin for 8 years, I had never been up to the Panhandle of TX, so time to check that off.

We left on a Sunday in mid March, and talk about a long drive. It took around 9hrs or more to get up there. From Austin we went west on 71 through the Hill country and then weaved our way up to Lubbock and then I-29 from there up to Amarillo.

The scenery went from beautifully green in Austin with tons of live oaks and cedar trees to smaller cedar trees and mesquite and then finally to just scrublands and grasslands. Up near Amarillo, being in a colder and drier climate, the grass was all brown and the relief very flat. As I was driving up there, I began to perhaps regret making Amarillo a spring break destination. But I'm used to it, as most places can't compare to Austin's physical beauty.

One thing that was quite scenic on the way up to Amarillo were all the wind turbines everywhere. There are literally thousands upon thousands as far as the eye can see. It makes for some spectacular photos.

We got into Amarillo late and checked in. We stayed at the Residence Inn off I-40. It's a very nice place but construction began the second day we were there. The next morning we got a big breakfast and then off to Palo Duro Canyon.

The drive down to Palo Duro was uneventful, perhaps a 30 minute drive out there. The landscape is utterly flat and then right when you enter the parks edge, you see the canyon open up. It was such a contrast to the previous scenery that it made it hard to believe such a giant canyon exists in the middle of the Texas portion of the Great Plains.

In my opinion, the canyon is even more impressive than the Grand Canyon. I know that's probably not believable to most of you, but this giant canyon in the middle of grassy flatlands is such a welcome relief in this landscape you have to see it to understand it.

We paid and then entered the park. First we went to the Visitor's Center to get oriented and get maps and then we planned which hike to take. We ended up taking the only hike that goes to the valley floor, the CCC trail. It is a very nice and moderately challenging trail, the views are spectacular.

We got down to the bottom of the valley and came across the amphitheater and toured the old western town down there. They are only open in the summer so it was pretty much a ghost town. We did find a place to replenish our water supply, however.

When we got back to the top of the ridge, we got in our car to drive around a bit more. We drove down the canyon to where we had just hiked to gauge the distance . Then we drove around the various campsites to see if that might be something we would be interested in.

Finally, we were about to leave for the day when we saw a cave like formation and people hiking out to it. You can get to this formation if you take the upper road on the canyon valley floor. It's a great place for kids to play around.


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