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17 Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking Locations

Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking Lighthouse

These Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking locations, located in the Texas Panhandle, are unique geological jewels to explore. After the magnificent Grand Canyon in Arizona, it is the country’s second largest canyon.

This Texan marvel stretches across 120 miles and is more than 20 miles broad. It reaches a depth of over 800 feet at its deepest point. It is known as the Grand Canyon of Texas because of its tremendous size.

The Canyon of the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and the strong wind in the Caprock escarpment of the High Plains carved out the canyon in West Texas.

It’s been millions of years in the making. Erosion work is still going on today. Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which includes the canyon and the surrounding area, is one of Texas’ most popular state parks.

Palo Duro Canyon is Texas’ Panhandle’s most magnificent and scenic landscape feature. Palo Duro, which means “hardwood” in Spanish, refers to the canyon’s hardwood shrubs and trees. Palo Duro Canyon was formed through the eastern Caprock escarpment of the High Plains by the headwaters of the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River and subsequent weathering during the last ninety million years.

The canyon’s head is fifteen miles southeast of Amarillo in Randall County, and it stretches sixty miles southeast through Armstrong and Briscoe counties. It has average widths of more than six miles and depths of 800 feet from rim to bottom (about 3,500 feet to 2,400 feet above sea level). Palo Duro Canyon’s steep walls are made up of vivid, banded strata of orange, red, brown, yellow, grey, maroon, and white rocks that span four geologic periods and more than 240 million years.

In the rock layers, fossils of long-extinct animals and vegetation have been discovered. Numerous pinnacles, buttes, and mesas, each protected by an erosion-resistant top of sandstone or other rock, add to the canyon’s aesthetic magnificence. The canyon’s natural vegetation includes a variety of grasses and other plants like prickly pear, yucca, mesquite, and juniper. Along the banks of the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River, cottonwood, willow, and salt cedar flourish.

Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking Locations

17 Best Palo Duro Boondocking Locations

1. SH 207 Palo Duro Canyon Overlook

Claude, Texas
GPS: 34.797817, -101.43932
Elevation: 3127′

Rest Area

Rest area with good parking and a beautiful overlook showcasing the lower reaches of some of the Palo Duro Canyon boondocking locations. Large, flat grassy area where we pitched a tent with no trouble a few years back (2010-ish). No facilities except picnic tables, but it’s well above the road so it’s quiet and dark.

Picnic area off of Texas Hwy 207 with a spectacular, and I mean spectacular view of Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking. Stayed one night in mid-May 2021 on my way to the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota. There were a few other cars, mostly taking pictures. PROs: Spectacular scenery, picnic tables, trash cans, level parking spot. Decent AT&T cell signal. CONs: Parking spots are sized for cars, trucks and vans, not bigger rigs, although you can fit a bigger RV in this location. No rest rooms. Thunderstorms in the area that night but did not pass over the picnic site. ty.

Amenities:

Picnic Tables
Trash Cans

2. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking Locations – Hereford Aquatic Center

400 E 14th
Hereford, Texas
GPS: 34.834343, -102.398544
Elevation: 3823′

City Park (Unofficial)

Free 30amp and water for 3 rvs. Located beside the Hereford YMCA and part of the Hereford Aquatic Center Park. Year round swimming opportunities and water aerobics for a nominal fee. Great walking paths that are well used by locals. 1/2 mile from Walmart. Easily accessible from both U.S. 385 and from U.S. 60. restaurants and fast food within 1 mile. Ethanol free gas at unbranded station at 60 Hwy and Park Avenue. The road in is Paved. There are 1-5 campsites at this location. Not the closest but a convenient Palo Duro Canyon boondocking spot.

Amenities:

Drinking Water
Electricity
Near Water
Picnic Tables
Restrooms
Playground

 

3. Free Palo Duro Canyon Camping Spots – Buffalo Lake NWR

Farm to Market Road 168
Canyon, Texas
GPS: 34.892586, -102.115316
Elevation: 3645′

State Park

Permit $2 Night

This is a dispersed campsite. First come -> first served. No reservations accepted. THIS CAMPGROUND IS CLOSED FROM 6PM TO 8AM. There is an automatically locking gate that locks at 6pm every night.

4. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking – Amarillo Travel Information Center

9700 E. I-40
Amarillo, Texas
GPS: 35.19151, -101.725334
Elevation: 3581′

Rest Area

The road in is Paved.

Amenities:

Pay Phone
Restrooms

5. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking Locations – Rosita Flats OHV

Canadian River Road
Amarillo, Texas
GPS: 35.468678, -101.876325
Elevation: 2995′

National Park Service

The road in is Dirt. Rosita Flats OHV is open year round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location. You may stay 14 days at Rosita Flats OHV.

Amenities:

Near Water
Pets Welcome

6. Free Palo Duro Canyon Camping Spots – Lower Plum Creek

Plum Creek Road
Fritch, Texas
GPS: 35.592267, -101.726126
Elevation: 2927′

National Park Service

The road to this Palo Duro Canyon boondocking location is Gravel and 1 miles from a paved road. Lower Plum Creek is open year round. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay 14 per 30 day period at Lower Plum Creek.

Amenities:

BBQ Grill
Fire Ring
Horse Corral
Picnic Tables
Restrooms
Trash Cans

7. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking – Middle Plum Creek

Plum Creek Road
Fritch, Texas
GPS: 35.594091, -101.732101
Elevation: 2927′

National Park Service

The road in is Gravel and 1 miles from a paved road. Middle Plum Creek is open year round. There are 1-5 campsites at this Palo Duro Canyon boondocking location and the maximum RV length is 15 feet. You may stay 14 per 30 day period at Middle Plum Creek.

Amenities:

BBQ Grill
Fire Ring
Picnic Tables
Trash Cans

8. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking Locations – Lake Meredith

Amarillo, Texas
GPS: 35.63866, -101.658447
Elevation: 2936′

National Park Service

The road in is Gravel. Lake Meredith is open Year Round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location. You may stay 14 days at Lake Meredith.

Amenities:

Boat Ramp
Drinking Water
Dump Station
Near Water
Picnic Tables
Restrooms

9. Free Palo Duro Canyon Camping Spots – Harbor Bay

Lakeview Drive
Fritch, Texas
GPS: 35.64749, -101.629236
Elevation: 2936′

National Park Service

The road in is Paved. Harbor Bay is open year round. There are 30 or more campsites at this Palo Duro Canyon boondocking location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay 14 per 30 day period at Harbor Bay.

Amenities:

BBQ Grill
Fire Ring
Near Water
Picnic Tables
Restrooms
Trash Cans

10. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking – Fritch Fortress Campground

Fritch Fortress Hwy.
Fritch, Texas
GPS: 35.6824, -101.5978
Elevation: 3094′

Public

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area offers a variety of campgrounds where you can enjoy the lake or get a bit off the beaten path. free. – water view – trash service – dump and fresh water – clean modern bathrooms with free showers – over the air tv – good Verizon and ATT service – 20 minutes to a National Monument The road in is Paved. There are 6-15 campsites at this Palo Duro Canyon boondocking location.

Amenities:

Drinking Water
Restrooms
Sewer
Showers

11. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking Locations – Lake Meredith National Recreation Area

Fritch, Texas
GPS: 35.684943, -101.590602

National Park Service

Lake Meredith National Recreation Area offers a variety of campgrounds where you can enjoy the lake or get a bit off the beaten path. free. – water view – trash service – dump and fresh water – clean modern bathrooms with free showers – over the air tv – good Verizon and ATT service The road in to this Palo Duro Canyon boondocking spot is paved. You may stay 14 at Lake Meredith National Recreation Area.

Amenities:

Boat Ramp
Drinking Water
Dump Station
Fire Ring
Restrooms
Showers

12. Free Palo Duro Canyon Camping Spots – Blue West Campground

Blue West Road
Fritch, Texas
GPS: 35.684658, -101.628107
Elevation: 3058′

National Park Service

Awesome and not many people. I came on a Saturday in September, and there were 2 other cars. Had good TMobile service. Easy to access with my prius. The road in is Paved. Blue West Campground is open year round. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 25 feet. You may stay 14 per 30 day period at Blue West Campground.

Amenities:

BBQ Grill
Fire Ring
Picnic Tables
Restrooms
Trash Cans

13. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking – Chimney Hollow

Off Blue West Road
Fritch, Texas
GPS: 35.693451, -101.640485
Elevation: 2936′

National Park Service

Located near Blue West, this remote Palo Duro Canyon boondocking spot and semi-developed campground is tucked in the Blue Creek embankment, which affords the area protection from prevailing winds. This campground is located down a paved road, but the camping area is on a dirt road 1 mile from the pavement. The road in is Dirt and 1 miles from a paved road. Chimney Hollow is open year round. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is 15 feet. You may stay 14 per 30 day period at Chimney Hollow.

Amenities:

Fire Ring
Picnic Tables
Restrooms
Trash Cans

 14. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking Locations – Cedar Canyon

Off Sanford-Yake Road
Fritch, Texas
GPS: 35.693902, -101.573033
Elevation: 2936′

National Park Service

This small cove lies between Fritch Fortress and Sanford-Yake campgrounds. The area features beach camping with no individual campsites. Camping area is soft during rainy conditions. Drive with caution when leaving paved roads. Bathroom with potable water and flush toilets near parking lot. The road in is Paved. Cedar Canyon is open year round. There are 6-15 campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay 14 per 30 day period at Cedar Canyon.

Amenities:

Boat Ramp
Drinking Water
Dump Station
Fire Ring
Near Water
Picnic Tables
Restrooms
Trash Cans

15. Free Palo Duro Canyon Camping Spots – Sanford-Yake

Address
Sanford, Texas
GPS: 35.70639, -101.559998
Elevation: 3015′

National Park Service

This campsite is located on a spectacular bluff overlooking Lake Meredith near the marina, on the Sanford-Yake Road. The campground is simular to the more traditional National Park Service campgrounds. Individual campsites have picnic areas, shade shelters and grills. There is one central comfort station with running water and flush tiolets, which is open seasonally. Sanford-Yake is open Year round. You may stay 14 days at Sanford-Yake.

Amenities:

Boat Ramp
Drinking Water
Dump Station
Fire Ring
Picnic Tables
Restrooms

16. Free Palo Duro Canyon Boondocking – Bugbee

Bugbee Drive
Fritch, Texas
GPS: 35.724356, -101.590304
Elevation: 2936′

National Park Service

This campground is located down a steep grade with one switchback, but the road is paved road until you get to the pit toilet where it turns to gravel. Then the camping area is on a gravel/dirt road. There are a couple of picnic tables scattered about. There is a lot of room here in a big field to camp. There is 1 pit toilet and trash cans. No Verizon service here. Nice quite private spot. The road in is Paved. Bugbee is open year round. There are 30 or more campsites at this location and the maximum RV length is unlimited. You may stay 14 per 30 day period at Bugbee.

Amenities:

Picnic Tables
Restrooms
Trash Cans

Palo Duro Canyon Camping Spots

History

Palo Duro Canyon was a preferred camp place for both prehistoric peoples and later Indian tribes because of the abundance of wood, water, game, edible wild plants, raw materials for weapons and tools, and protection from fierce winter winds. Big-game hunters of now-extinct huge bison and mammoths were the first known occupants, who lived between 10,000 and 5,000 B.C. Projectile points, stone tools, mortar holes, paintings, engravings, and other artifacts of these and later prehistoric people have been discovered at various sites across the canyon by archeologists.

The first Europeans to discover Palo Duro Canyon were most likely members of the Coronado expedition, who may have camped and rested there in late spring 1541 while hunting for Quivira and the rumored treasures it held. Bands of pre-horse-culture Apache Indians lived in the area at the time, and they relied primarily on buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter. The canyon became an important campground for the Comanches and Kiowas in the eighteenth century, once the Plains Indians gained horses. Traders from New Mexico known as Comancheros came to Palo Duro to trade with the Indians on a regular basis.

Members of Capt. Randolph B. Marcy’s 1852 expedition in pursuit of the Red River’s origins were the first Anglo-Americans to investigate Palo Duro Canyon. The Comanches and their allies camped there until 1874, when US Cavalry troops led by Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie launched a surprise morning attack on a huge encampment of Comanches, Kiowas, and Cheyennes, compelling them to return to their Indian Territory reservations.

In 1876, a crew of army engineers, teamsters, and civilian draftsmen arrived in the area to perform a topographic and scientific survey of the Red River’s headwaters. Their research was the most comprehensive on the central Panhandle region, including Palo Duro Canyon, at the time. In the same year, Charles Goodnight led a herd of cattle into Palo Duro Canyon to start the JA, the Panhandle’s first commercial ranch.

Palo Duro Things To Do

1. Get On A Horse!

Equestrian riding is a favorite pastime at the canyon, and from March to November, the Old West Stables offers guided horseback trail trips. Palo Duro Canyon State Park’s equestrian area is around 1,500 acres, and many of the paths in the equestrian area are exclusive for horses. Other routes in the park, such as the Juniper Cliffside Trail (approximately six miles round-trip) and the Lighthouse Trail, are open to all visitors (about six miles round-trip).

Six rustic campsites, a corral, and water are available in the equestrian area. To use the bathrooms and showers, you must walk or drive to a nearby camping area.

2. Explore Palo Duro’s Trails

Hiking is by far the most popular activity in the canyon. The park’s paths range from flat and easy to steep and difficult, but even walking along the paved roads provides numerous opportunities to see the towering mesas and diverse animals, including coyotes, rabbits, deer, and the swift, royal aoudads.

There are 16 marked hiking routes in the park, ranging from little half-mile walks to longer trails that can be linked together. Ancient landslides, cavern-like places, historic CCC structures, and wildlife observation blinds may all be found along the hiking routes.

Always bring more water than you think you’ll need. The canyon floor can get extremely hot, reaching 120 degrees in the summer, and the park ranger reminded us that over-exertion and dehydration are the leading causes of first-aid problems. Always start a hike with at least a half gallon of water per person per hour.

3. Pay a visit to the Old Indian Lodge

The Indian Lodge is properly characterized as a cool sanctuary in West Texas, with its blue-tinted swimming pool overlooking the Davis Mountains and its beautiful courtyard with trickling fountains.The Indian Lodge, on the other hand, is considerably more. It also offers a gripping story about young men working long hours over the hand-hewn pine beams and adobe blocks that made up the lodge’s walls and ceilings during the Great Depression.

Two Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) crews formed adobe bricks from a mixture of water, straw, and soil during the construction phase in the mid-1930s. The CCC was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program that put unemployed young men to work. The young men “muscled tens of thousands of 40-pound blocks into place to build the 12-to-18-inch-thick walls, several of which climb as high as three stories,” according to the lodge’s website. The lodge’s interior was built with pine rafters taken from nearby Mount Livermore, while the ceilings were made of river cane.

The lodge’s history was the most appealing aspect for me. A stroll across the plaza-like courtyard, up the spiraling staircases, and into the exposed-beamed lobby revealed the creativity of that bygone labor force.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department erected a 24-room extension, as well as a swimming pool, to the original lodge in the 1960s. The department restored the original section to its 1935 look in the early 2000s.The Wi-Fi connectivity in the guestrooms is spotty (or non-existent), but it’s better in the lobby and common spaces. Guests can anticipate rustic rooms at Indian Lodge, yet with all of the required modern comforts.

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