Sunday we explored the Canyon from top to bottom. There's a trail in the Park called the CCC Trail -- named after the Civilian Conservation Corps that was responsible for turning Palo Duro into a State Park back in the early 1930's. It roughly follows the route of the first trail into the canyon used by Indians and early settlers to the area.
But rather than starting at the top, we started at the bottom. In fact, the lower trailhead was just a short walk from our camp.
After the sun warmed things up (the low temps have been hitting the freezing mark the past couple days), the hiking boots were snugged up, and ample supplies of water and nourishment were tucked and attached, we headed for the trail.
Rated as moderately difficult, the first portion of the trail is a series of switchbacks up the side of the Canyon wall. It's not all that steep and was certainly less difficult than the last few hundred yards of our hike to Lighthouse Peak the other day. But the quick rise in elevation made for great entertainment as we enjoyed the changing view from progressively higher spots of the various landmarks below. For instance, we could keep an eye on the bus-house, way down there, during the first third of the hike. The overall elevation change was about 800 feet.
Once at the top of this portion, we walked along a narrow ridge that dropped off steeply to the Canyon floor on either side. There were ample opportunities to scare Dar, who has less tolerance for heights than most people. I'd walk ahead, find a flat rock jutting out over the Canyon walls, a shear drop a few hundred feet down, get as close to the edge as I dared and ask her to take a picture. As she realized where I was, the color drained from her face as she'd mumble something about a death-wish and how her next husband wouldn't be so stupid. What a hoot!
Eventually the path ended up in the parking lot of the Visitor's Center up top. The return hike was via the same route. It wasn't a long hike -- almost two miles each way, but the experience of going up that wall coupled with the great scenery, made it a most enjoyable way to kill half a day.
Spending a few days exploring Palo Duro Canyon was a neat experience. The lack of tourist pressure and the slow easy pace of things made it a thoroughly enjoyable stay. Since there's even more to explore I think we'll be back.
Tomorrow, Monday, we're heading east into Oklahoma. Not real sure where we'll end up, but for more than 1,000 nights now we've always come up with something.