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Areas in Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Back Country 0 / 0 / 0 / 13 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 13
Boulder Gardens, The 0 / 0 / 0 / 61 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 61
Fortress Cliff Area 1 / 0 / 1 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3
Fourth Water Crossing Boulders, The 0 / 0 / 0 / 6 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 6
GSL Trail Area 0 / 0 / 3 / 6 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 9
Gutter, The 0 / 0 / 0 / 4 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
Horseshoe Cliff 3 / 0 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3
Hueco Point (Closed) 2 / 0 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 4
Indian Springs 5 / 0 / 7 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 8
Sorenson Point 5 / 0 / 5 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 5
Sorenson Point (Bouldering) 1 / 0 / 0 / 9 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 10
Elevation: 3,463 ft
GPS: 34.985, -101.702 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 52,207 total · 506/month
Shared By: Jeremy Bauman on Aug 30, 2009 with updates
Admins: Hank Caylor, Matt Richardson, LeeAB Brinckerhoff
Getting weather forecast...


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.

Much of the rock is very soft and fragile, please try your best to avoid pulling out on flakes and breaking holds! I know of several classic routes that were quickly sent to the chosspile because people were being dumb and yarding on holds. Please climb carefully! Also, be mindful of where your ropes rub the rock. The sandstone here is very soft and it is our responsibility to preserve it for future generations. Please be proactive in padding edges and avoid scenarios that allow your rope to cut through the rock like cheese.

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.
Climbing Access Open - Keep a low profile. Details

Getting There

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.

126 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
V1 5
Unnamed 2
V1 5
Short Stuff
V2 5+
Bloody Shnidbit
V2 5+
Unnamed 1
V2 5+
The Johnny Boulder
V3 6A
Acronym Right
V3 6A PG13
V5 6C
My Heroes Are Cowboys
V5 6C
Transitional Matrix
V5 6C PG13
Figure 12
V5+ 6C+
High on Fungi
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Easy Does It
Trad, TR
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b PG13
Just stick it in there
Trad, TR
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13
Skinned elbow
Trad, TR
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Trad, TR
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Unnamed 2 Boulder Gardens > Oreo Boulder
V1 5 Boulder
Short Stuff Boulder Gardens > Short Stuff Boulder
V1 5 Boulder
Bloody Shnidbit Boulder Gardens > Mushroom Boulder
V2 5+ Boulder
Unnamed 1 Boulder Gardens > Yogi Boulder
V2 5+ Boulder
The Johnny Boulder Boulder Gardens > Johnny Boulder
V2 5+ Boulder
Acronym Right GSL Trail Area > Acronym Boulder
V3 6A Boulder
C.F.B. Boulder Gardens > CFB
V3 6A PG13 Boulder
My Heroes Are Cowboys Boulder Gardens > Dungeon
V5 6C Boulder
Transitional Matrix Boulder Gardens > Mini Blue
V5 6C Boulder
Figure 12 Gutter > Lower Gutter > Big J Boulder
V5 6C PG13 Boulder
High on Fungi Boulder Gardens > Mushroom Boulder
V5+ 6C+ Boulder
Easy Does It Sorenson Point > Sorenson Main Wall
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad, TR
Just stick it in there Sorenson Point > Sorenson Main Wall
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b PG13 Trad, TR
Skinned elbow Sorenson Point > Sorenson Main Wall
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13 Trad, TR
Warpath Indian Springs
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad, TR
More Classic Climbs in Palo Duro Canyon State Park »

Weather Averages

Days w Precip
Prime Climbing Season
Jason Hamilton
amarillo tx
Jason Hamilton   amarillo tx
There is plenty of climbing goin on in PDC, more so in the boulder areas than the trad or TR areas. My family has been out there at Sorenson point and Indian Springs toproping. The ranger was probably thinking the ban is on the entire park but the Hueco Point area mentioned on this site is the only place banned as its on private land, the Elkins ranch, and you will get a ticket if found there. Aug 8, 2017
Amarillo, Texas
ATipton   Amarillo, Texas
I have never heard of a ban in the park and have never been approached by a ranger about it. I suggest not asking rangers about climbing here because they seem to be uninformed about the activity and locations. Probably best to stay under the radar for now until, officially approached by the park, and to get all information about locations of climbs from this website. I hope this never becomes a major issue because though climbing in the canyon isn't great, it offers good rock in small quantities and is all we have for now in the greater Amarillo area in regards to outdoor climbing. As always, put safety first and be mindful of the rock quality. Apr 7, 2017
Hey guys I thought I would make a comment hear to see what other people have heard but my friend talked to a ranger about climbing in the park (we were trying to plan a climbing trip over spring break) and they said that they have banned any kind of climbing in the park because of unsafe behaviors and how people have gotten themselves hurt. Any one else know if that is real or just one ranger? Apr 3, 2017
Somebody asked about the first to climb Lighthouse Rock in Palo Duro Canyon. The first two pictures in the picture section are Geary McCauley and me (Derrell Chandler) when we climbed it in 1960. That's me in the picture showing the person and flag on top of the Rock. In the other picture, I'm the person on the lower rope and Geary McCauley is the one on the upper rope.

Geary became a doctor in Amarillo but died in 1975. He was a very dear friend.

If you want a copy of the 1960 Amarillo Globe-News newspaper that had the story and the two photos, write me at

Derrell N. Chandler Jun 23, 2015
This is an amazing and remote climbing area for those who are good at setting their own top rope anchors. We parked shortly after the Cactus Camping area on the road cut out that's found on the right. After parking you will cross the street and begin your hike on the trail found across the road to the left. Its a hard area to find but we managed with the description to the Indian Springs climbing area. On your way their are tons of cool boulders to climb and things to explore. Once you get to the big sandstone walls keep walking around tell your able to do a very short easy climb to the top of Indian springs. Bring tons of ropes, biners, and webbing to tie anchors and set top ropes. This is a long and moderately demanding hike so bring tons of water and don't do this in the hotter months. If you are a skinny person you can get up in the crack that's right beside "warpath". Fun area to top rope i wouldn't try setting any trad gear unless you don't have any fear of flying. Jun 23, 2015
Amarillo, Texas
ATipton   Amarillo, Texas Apr 14, 2014
Amarillo, Texas
ATipton   Amarillo, Texas
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. Apr 21, 2013
What are the common anchors on the roped routes? Gear, Trees and boulders I assume? Apr 16, 2013
Amarillo, Texas
ATipton   Amarillo, Texas
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. Jul 11, 2012
Jgrote   Fla/nc
Just take a look at the old aid route and see how many blown out pieces done damage to the crack! Jul 10, 2012
Jgrote   Fla/nc
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
Amarillo, Texas
ATipton   Amarillo, Texas Apr 4, 2012
Jeremy Bauman
Lakewood, CO
Jeremy Bauman   Lakewood, CO
I believe the Lighthouse was first climbed in 1960 by Derrell Chandler and Geary McCaule before it was part of the state park. "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. Oct 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 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.

Cheers! Sep 28, 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 27, 2011
Who was the first party that climbed the lighthouse? Sep 26, 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! Jun 21, 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. May 9, 2011

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