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May 08

Lighthouse Trail – Palo Duro State Park, Texas

Trail to the Lighthouse Palo Duro State Park just south of Amarillo Texas is home to the second largest canyon in the United States.  You can read more about my visit to Palo Duro by clicking here.  The Lighthouse Trail is the premier trail in the state park because it leads to its most famous rock formation, the Lighthouse.  The trail is around six miles round trip with close to a thousand feet of elevation.  It is mostly flat until the last two-tenths of mile and then it is a very steep climb to the get to the base of the Lighthouse rock formation.
A hot day in March

Take extreme caution when doing this hike, in fact the park will have warning signs posted at the trail head along with a thermometer letting its hikers know just how hot it is.  If you are going to do this hike on a hot day, the particular day that I went in March it was over 90 degrees, make sure you have plenty of water.  What I like to do when I am out day hiking on a hot day is to take three bottles of water one of them is straight from the refrigerator while the other two are frozen that way they will thaw out on the trail and I will still have cold water throughout the hike.
Lighthouse Rock

One of the neat aspects of this hike is how well maintained the trail is.  Every tenth of mile there was sign letting you know you are just that much closer to your destination.  Another thing that I was shocked to see was park workers going up and down the trail in a little ATV and offering people water and checking to see if anybody was in trouble.  I do not know if they regularly do that or if it was just because it was so unseasonably hot for a day in the middle of March.  I did see several people taking on the trail that seemed very inadequately prepared, one older couple only had one bottle of water between them.  I stopped to see if they were ok because the older gentleman was very red faced, but he said he was doing fine so I continued on the trail.
Lighthouse Trail

The first rock formation that I came across was called Capital Peak.  It is amazing to see these rock formations in the Panhandle of Texas.  At this portion of the trail I felt like I was in southern Utah.  While I was looking up at Capital Peak I came into contact with my first mountain biker.  So, beware of them.  While I was there they and I did a wonderful job of staying out of each other’s way but I could imagine that when the trail is extremely crowded that they are an accident just waiting to happen.
Capital Peak

After Capital Peak it is a straight shot to the Lighthouse formation.  While I did not see any deer there were several tracks in the Sunday Creek stream bed.  I did come across a few lizards but did not get any decent shots.  The one time that a lizard was sitting still long enough for me to get a picture a fellow hiker had just turned the corner and the lizard took off, but that is the way it goes sometimes.
Lighthouse Rock Formation

The toughest part of the hike is the last bit where it is a very steep climb to get to the top to get up close and personal with the Lighthouse.  The climb up was not too terribly tough but I did not enjoy the climb down.  After reaching the top of the first incline the terrain flattened out.  I took several pictures from this location while several other hikers climbed the second incline to get to the base of Lighthouse and the rock formation next to it.  I did not take the second incline because I was pressed for time.  I still needed to get to Albuquerque that day.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park

I highly recommend visiting Palo Duro Canyon and taking the Lighthouse Trail if you are ever in the Texas Panhandle.  Just do not expect a place of solitude, you’ll probably have plenty of company, but the visual beauty of the area was very pleasing.  If you visit just make sure you take the proper precautions for hiking especially if it is going to be hot on the trail.  For more information visit the Palo Duro website at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/palo_duro/

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