Lighthouse Trail, Palo Duro Canyon

Location: east of Canyon, Texas
Distance: 5.75 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 360 ft
Date: April 26, 2013

Capitol Peak

The Lighthouse Trail in Palo Duro Canyon State Park is a about a 2.9-mile (one way) trail that goes to a geological formation known as the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is 310 feet high, and along with the rest of the canyon, has been designated as a National Natural Landmark. This trail is the most popular in the park, so it may have heavy traffic, including hikers, mountain bikers, and horses. Luckily during my visit there were not many other people.

Canyon Panorama with visitor center at right

Palo Duro Canyon begins southeast of Amarillo and is a 120-mile long canyon that is up to 800 feet deep, making it the second largest canyon in the United States. Most of the canyon is not in the park, but part can be found in relatively nearby Caprock Canyons State Park (and another page about it here).

Capitol Peak viewed from about a half mile from the trailhead on the Lighthouse Trail

The majority of the trail is flat with only a few places of elevation changes, mostly when crossing dry streams. Once the trail arrives below the Lighthouse, it gains 150 feet in elevation over a very short distance to a viewpoint just below the Lighthouse. Another short section of the trial climbs steeply to the base of the Lighthouse.

Along the Lighthouse Trail
The Lighthouse is at left

A user trail goes to the top of the small ridge next to the Lighthouse, however reaching the top of this ridge overlooking the Lighthouse requires climbing up an eight-foot ledge in a precarious position. The best views of the canyon were from this position.

The Lighthouse

Along the trail to the Lighthouse there are several good views of the surrounding canyon, but the best views (other than at the Lighthouse) are about 0.7 mi from the trailhead below Capitol Peak. I began my hike at 9 am and reached the Lighthouse at 10. After spending a half hour at the Lighthouse I turned around and made it back to the trailhead at 11:30.

View Lighthouse Trail in a larger map

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.


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