Home to a diversity of ecosystems, Texas overflows with national, state and privately owned parks available for us to explore. With the Go Outside series from First Choice Power, we’ll take you all across this great state to visit both well-known public parks and lesser-known spots that are privately owned, but open to the public.
In our first installment of First Choice Power’s “Go Outside” series, we took you to the far throes of one area of West Texas heralded for it’s mountains, sprawling desert, and Bighorn Sheep.
We venture further north this time to the very top of the state, the Texas Panhandle. While this stretch of Texas that borders New Mexico and Oklahoma is rather desolate, here you’ll find the nations 2nd largest canyon, evidence of human life that dates back thousands of years, and mesas and valleys that will take your breathe away.
Grab the camera, pack your snacks and plenty of water, and let’s go explore the best parks in the Texas Pandhandle!
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
As the second largest canyon in the United States, the Palo Duro Canyon is Texas’ Grand Canyon, and is located only 50 minutes southeast of Amarillo.
The park can be explored by foot, bike, car, or horse, and holds more than 30 miles of stunning hiking trails. You can also camp here.
120 miles long and 20 miles wide, the rich colors of four geologic layers descend 500 feet from the top to the floor of the canyon. It is said from reading the walls of the canyon that it is about 250 million years old! Hoodoos, where larger rocks are balanced atop smaller rocks, can be found throughout the canyon.
Animal lovers can keep an eye opened for two of Texas’ endangered species: the Palo Duro mouse, and the Texas horned lizard. The canyon is also home to white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, roadrunners, bobcats and coyotes.
Palo Duro Canyon, which means hard wood in Spanish, has been inhabited by people for 12,000 years. It is said that the Clovis and Folsom people first lived here, hunting large herds of giant bison and mammoth, and more recently, the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache called it home. Rock art and bedrock mortars, where people ground mesquite beans and roots for foods, have left behind a history rich with culture.
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument
As the first National Monument named in Texas in 1965, the Alibates Flint Quarries were a well-known place for mammoth hunters 13,000 years ago, where they could find the very best stone for their tools. The colorful flint found here, which was crucial to the survival and culture of the High Plains, never lost its value or usefulness.
This ancient flint quarry, open to the public only with a reservation, offers hikes led by rangers where you’ll learn more about the Native Americans who lived here. The hikes also provide an opportunity to soak up the beautiful green soaked valleys and mesas that rise up.
While on a ranger led hike, visitors will be shown petroglyphs, which are rock carvings believed to be made thousands of years ago by the Antelope Creek People, who lived here from 1100A.D to 1500 A.D.
While it may seem that these images are art work, they have a much more profound meaning than that, as they were used as trail markers, or perhaps to define tribal boundaries. Evidence of cupules, cup shaped circular indentations in dolomite boulders, also suggest that people once dug into the rock to extract minerals, used as dietary supplements.
The park is only open for day trips, and camping is not allowed. Call ahead to schedule your hike with a ranger.
Lake Meredith National Recreation Area
A respite from the dry canyons and valleys of the Panhandle, Lake Meredith is a lush haven where humans and wildlife find a different landscape than the dry grasslands above.
Home to birds, coyotes, mountain lions, cotton tail rabbits and bobcats, the Canadian River has cut dramatic 200-foot canyons through this plain, where humans lived over 13,000 years ago.
Hunters can head to Lake Meredith during specific seasons and hunt for white tail deer, mule deer, dove, quail, pheasants and duck. They also offer weeks during the hunting season that is specifically for bow hunting only. The Texas Park and Wildlife Department biologists set the dates to increase populations and enhance the habitat.
Multiple trails, all for moderate hikers, provide scenic hiking. Visitors can also camp, swim, bird watch, boat, or fish.
Did we miss your favorite outdoor escape in the Panhandle? Let us know!