|Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Nearby Mountain Bike Rides
Rock Garden Trail
A steady climb with tight switchbacks, broken up with occasional rolling sections. Near Lake Tanglewood village, TX
From MP's sister site: MTB
Old beta photo featuring the first ascent team on ...
Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the country. At more than 800 feet deep and 120 miles long the canyon is a great place to escape the seemingly featureless landscape of the Texas panhandle. Landmarks such as the Lighthouse, Capitol Peak, Castle Peak, and Sorenson Point capture the imaginations of visitors and inspire the cherokee indians of old to come alive within the minds of tourists.
The canyon hosts arguably some of the best mountain biking in Texas. The Lighthouse trail is by far the most popular and makes an excellent day hike that should not be missed. Hiking in the canyon can be very exciting if you make it that way. The clay type dirt is easily excavated by torrents of water leaving the canyon with dozens of caves for the bold explorer. Scrambling in the canyon is sure to give a rush as all the footing is generally loose, as my good friend said, "Everything in the canyon moves!"
Palo Duro Canyon is pretty much the only local crag in the Amarillo/Canyon area. Rock quality can be questionable at times, but usually its pretty good providing the Amarillo area with some great climbing. I wouldn't, however, suggest traveling far to come climb in the canyon. Though there are a few good routes, the overall the rock quality is generally poor. I'm no geologist, but there are really two types of climbable rock at the Canyon. The first is a very brittle and rough conglomerate type sandstone found in the boulder fields and a few select cliffs. The second is a much softer sandstone found on most of the cliffs in the canyon.
The majority of climbing here is bouldering, although a handful of trad climbs exist. There are also two aid lines that I know of if that's your thing. Potential for new routes in the canyon is huge with hundreds of boulders and walls being completely untouched.
A short 30 min drive from Amarillo makes the canyon easily accessed.
Follow I-27 south past Canyon and take exit 217 and turn left. Continue 10 miles on 217 to the park entrance (be prepared to pay $4 per person). Once past the gate, continue on what is now the very windy Park RD 5 down the big hill into the canyon. See individual areas for further approach information.
Approaches are generally short and in the 5-10 minute range.
Browse More Classics in Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Palo Duro Canyon State Park:
Featured Route For Palo Duro Canyon State Park
|Photos of Palo Duro Canyon State Park Slideshow
Aiding up during the first ascent of the lighthous...
|Comments on Palo Duro Canyon State Park
|By Brian McLaughlin|
May 9, 2011
I climbed at Palo Duro in the early 80's while at WT. I did a route I called "Werewolves of London" that went up a dihedral in a large wall on the left side of the canyon as you drive in. It went at about 5.8. Also on the left side I Did a good bit of bouldering, especially on a boulder that stood atop a pedestal about 6 ft tall, with the cap slanting up and left. A zig zag crack led up and right through the overhang to the top.
In December of 85 I made the first solo and first winter ascent of the Lighthouse. It was the 3rd ascent overall. The summit register was an old film can left by the 1969 first ascent party. Jack Tillinghast and friends made the second ascent (he was a Phys Ed teacher at WT). I used 10" nails with 2 links of chain on them to aid the route. The chain would not come off the nail head, and I could clip a biner through the second link. I went up the groove on the side facing the canyon wall to reach a small ledge and then traversed around onto the big ledge. Then went straight up to the top. I left all my nails and chain on the big ledge halfway up the tower. You could probably get to it by throwing a rope over it and jugging the rope. I don't imagine many folks have stood on top of it, as it was off limits to climbing. I knew that in winter, with snow on the ground, nobody was going to hike all the way in there to bother me.
In the 5 years I lived in the area, I never saw another climber. Just the odd rappeller now and then. Sounds like there is a much more active scene n these days.
From: Dalhart TX
Jun 21, 2011
The climbing in the canyon is seeing a renaissance this year. Old climbs are being rediscovered and entire new areas are being found. Traditional climbing is coming a long way with multiple lead-able crags being discovered. Bouldering is growing with at least one whole new area being established. The atmosphere is exciting and the climbing is getting more interesting. It seems that the climbing in the canyon can only get better!
Sep 26, 2011
Who was the first party that climbed the lighthouse?
|By Brian McLaughlin|
Sep 27, 2011
I don't remember. You'd need to go up there and look in the film canister! The only reason I know about the 2nd ascent party is that I had Jack for an outdoor ed. class at WT, so I remember his name. One day he took us to a fantastic part of the canyon on private land several miles upstream of the park. We taught the others how to rappel on a beautiful shield of rock about 130 ft high. I did a mixed crack and face route there which has probably never been repeated. It was the biggest wall I ever found in the canyon. If you start at the amphitheater and go upstream there is a lot of rarely visited canyon to explore, and some good quality rock. Same goes for going downstream, but the walls were not as good. There are some really hard overhang routes in a narrow side canyon behind the big dirt cave in the lower canyon.
Sep 28, 2011
Yeah Jack and I use to fly into that spot there in the upper reaches of the canyon, in his Cessna 172 Skyhawk--made for a quick ride home at the end of the day when all the others were driving back around. I have climbed those cliffs numerous times, helping with all the outdoor living classes and canoe camping classes from 92-97. So much a good time. Climbing the house with nails and chain is quite the thing. Jack and Jack et.al. used the same technique back when. Sure worked well when I used it. I did get lazy and the last time we rigged a line up and over and did jug it. By far the easiest I have done. It is a great day trip and activity. Tell ya what. I have some time in two weeks. I will go back up there and see if the film can has survived... I missed Jack when he called the house tonight. I will call him back in the morning. I will tell him you say hey! He is sharp as a tack with people that have climbed after him teaching and such. I personally have been climbing in the Canyon proper and beyond for the last 30 years. It is a very special place. I am happy to see folks finally putting stories together about their outings there.
|By Jeremy Bauman|
From: Lakewood, CO
Oct 28, 2011
I believe the Lighthouse was first climbed in 1960 by Derrell Chandler and Geary McCaule before it was part of the state park.
Amarillo.com "A reminder sits atop the Lighthouse"
Craghopper, I'm always looking for new routes down there, any beta is much appreciated! Also, if any of the names on here are wrong just let me know and I'll make sure they get changed.
Jul 10, 2012
I don't recommend climbing anything at all in palo duro. The rock is super soft and too much pressure on holds will definatly break them off. It's very likely a fall will pull any gear placed. I climbed a few routes in Indian springs area and that Rock is so soft you can carve your name with your finger in the stone. Super dangerous in my opinion, same goes for all the boulders. Not worth a climbing trip at all in my opinion, but if your in to that sort of thing. Climb on. Just be careful.
Jul 10, 2012
Just take a look at the old aid route and see how many blown out pieces done damage to the crack!
From: Amarillo, Texas
Jul 11, 2012
Yes the rock quality here is sub-par for the most part especially the cliffs, but I wouldn't go as far as saying "same goes for all the boulders too" unless you've inspected "all" of it. I have extensively found a lot of good climbable boulders out here and enjoy it. I agree it's not worth the trip unless its a short drive away. Bottom line though is climbing is always inherently dangerous, holds will break everywhere even Hueco and Yosemite and Palo Duro Canyon will offer some fun moderate climbing. Just be careful.
|By Ky Harkey|
Apr 16, 2013
What are the common anchors on the roped routes? Gear, Trees and boulders I assume?
From: Amarillo, Texas
Apr 21, 2013
Trees mainly, but there are some that use gear and boulders. PDC offers a lot more quality and variety in its boulders then cliffs though.