Palo Duro Canyon

From the bustling cities to the Piney Woods and West Texas deserts, no state has as much to offer travelers as Texas. I keep an ever-growing Texas To-Do list; here’s one of my many entries.

When I first I laid eyes on Palo Duro Canyon, the fifty-mile-long chasm that Coronado and his crew famously stumbled upon back in 1541, I wanted to fling myself into it. Not in a “to hell with all this” fashion, mind you, but in the spirit of exploring every inch of it, including its green floor far below. Or at least exploring as much of it as I could. It is, after all, the second largest canyon in America after that (slightly) Grand-er one in Arizona.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is thirty miles south of Amarillo, and that particular day, I had only allotted enough time for a quick drive through. Needless to say, it was more than worth the $5 entrance fee. I vowed to come back again for a proper adventure, and since then, I’ve been daydreaming of exploring the canyon on horseback, both because it sounds like fun and because my enthusiasm for doing my own trottingotherwise known as hikingis spotty at best.

Fortunately, there are several stables in the area that I can call upon when that day finally comes:

• Located inside the state park (which encompasses only one-tenth of the canyon, but boasts 1,500 equestrian-friendly acres), the Old West Stables offers one-hour guided rides for $35 from March through November.

• Cowgirls and Cowboys In the West, an adventure tour outfitter located on the private Los Cedros Ranch, takes city slickers on two-hour or three-and-a-half-hour “riding experiences” along the canyon’s northern rim (for $79 and $149, respectively). They also offer a variety of week-long roundup vacations that I’m also adding to my Texas To Do List.

• The Palo Duro Riding Stables, which you’ll see just before the entrance to the state park, calls itself “the finest and friendliest since 1962.” You can give them a call for rates and reservations.