Lighthouse Trail

Canyon, Texas

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Palo Duro Canyon is considered the “Grand Canyon of Texas” for its geological variation and rich color. At 120 miles long and 800 feet deep, Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the country. Relatively young in geologic time, the canyon was formed less than a million years ago by erosion cutting through the layers of sand, mud, and clay that had compacted and cemented together eons ago. Eventually, the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River revealed all by cutting through these layers or “formations.” Its unusual geology provides the Texas Panhandle with a legacy written in solid rock. The canyon is a visual treat, dropping off the endless north Texas plains in a sudden plunge. The exposed rock layers and hoodoos reflect a myriad of hues from the brilliant red claystones to the yellows and purples of mudstone to the bright white of gypsum. On top is a caprock composed of gravel, sand, and pond deposits cemented together with caliche, a surface soil composed of calcium carbonate, sand, and clay. The colorful layers of mudstones, shales, gypsums, and sandstones lie beneath it and provide a palette of deep earthy pigments. It comes as no surprise to learn that artist Georgia O’Keeffe spent a period of time here before moving on to northern New Mexico.

Lighthouse Trail Professional Review and Guide

"Palo Duro Canyon is considered the “Grand Canyon of Texas” for its geological variation and rich color. At 120 miles long and 800 feet deep, Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the country. Relatively young in geologic time, the canyon was formed less than a million years ago by erosion cutting through the layers of sand, mud, and clay that had compacted and cemented together eons ago. Eventually, the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River revealed all by cutting through these layers or “formations.” Its unusual geology provides the Texas Panhandle with a legacy written in solid rock.

The canyon is a visual treat, dropping off the endless north Texas plains in a sudden plunge. The exposed rock layers and hoodoos reflect a myriad of hues from the brilliant red claystones to the yellows and purples of mudstone to the bright white of gypsum. On top is a caprock composed of gravel, sand, and pond deposits cemented together with caliche, a surface soil composed of calcium carbonate, sand, and clay. The colorful layers of mudstones, shales, gypsums, and sandstones lie beneath it and provide a palette of deep earthy pigments. It comes as no surprise to learn that artist Georgia O’Keeffe spent a period of time here before moving on to northern New Mexico."

Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Canyon
Distance: 3
Trail Type: Shuttle
Skill Level: Moderate
Duration: 1.5 hours
Season: Best in Spring
Trailhead Elevation: 2,850 feet
Top Elevation: 3,100 feet
Local Contacts: Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Local Maps: USGS Fortress Cliff
Driving Directions: Directions to Lighthouse Trail

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May 2018