Hike to the Lighthouse in Palo Duro Canyon

Lighthouse Trailhead

Park entrance fee: $5/person (free for children under 12). You have year-round hiking, it's dog-friendly and incredibly unique geological formations.

Palo Duro Canyon is considered the Grand Canyon of Texas and the Lighthouse is one of the most unique geological formations found there. In order to reach it you must enter the Palo Duro Canyon State Park and drive down Park Road 5 until you reach the Lighthouse Trailhead parking lot on the right. The trailhead has two paths, one for Capital Peak and one for the Lighthouse, but both will lead you to the same point at the base of Capital Peak. The trail up to that point is relatively flat, but once you wrap around Capital Peak you begin to gain some elevation. From here you have 2.5 miles until you reach Lighthouse Rock. As you approach the end of the trail there is a bench that offers a great spot to photograph the entire formation.

There are several ways to actually climb onto the base of the Lighthouse- take the path that appeals to you most. Once you make it you'll find a large rock slab to walk around on. For the more advanced hiker there is a second rock slab you can climb up on that offers spectacular views of the canyon, but the path leading up there is a bit more dangerous. Please use cation and avoid if wet!

This can be a touristy hike, especially mid day and around sunset. If you want uninterrupted views I suggest going as early as possible to beat the crowds (and the heat). Accordingly, if you're doing this hike in the summer be prepared to haul a lot of water. Although this is a relatively short hike the temperature can reach 100 degrees in the summer, so being prepared is important. No matter what time of year though, this is a great hike that offers a unique Texas landscape and some fun photo-ops along the way.

Pack List

  • Water (at least a gallon in the summer)
  • Snacks
  • Camera
Show More
RT Distance 5.4 Miles
Elevation Gain 940 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Food Nearby
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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To The Lighthouse | Summer Edition

This is such a great trail! It’s easily accessible for so many people! I’ve seen children under 5 hiking this trail with their parents, so don’t be afraid to let them tag along! Dogs are also welcome! Be aware though, there are MANY bikers who take this trail, and they come behind you quick and often times, quietly. Always be aware of them, most are very good at letting you know which side they are coming on. SUMMER ADVISORY, temps are ridiculous. The sun gets sweltering. Bring plenty of water, plenty of sun screen and wear some kind of coverage - a hat or light jacket. Take it seriously, people have been air lifted off of the trails due to heat exhaustion. Other than that and the occasional snake or centipede, it’s so much fun! And what a wonderful view you have at the end!

Amazing!!!

If you have the chance, try to stay in one of the 3 cabins overnight as they each overlook the canyon... cannot wake up to a better view. I personally stayed in the Lighthouse Cabin which sleeps up to 4 people. In terms of the hike, I recommend the Givens, Spicer, Lowry Trail to get to the Lighthouse. It is the most demanding of the trails in that portion of the canyon.

Don't Know Why Everyone Says It's So Great

This trail is long and hot! We started at 8am and made it out shortly after noon. Half our party only went the first 2 miles before it got too hot. I'm from South Texas, I'm very accustomed to hiking in hot weather but this was different. 90 degree day with 101 degree temps on the canyon floor. One gallon of water per person is a real necessity. The trail technically ends at a very disappointing spot (where you can't even see The Lighthouse). If you choose to go past the end of the trail, then it gets fun. Lots of rocks to climb over. The top of Lighthouse is pretty spectacular but nothing that made the 6 mile hike in and out worth it, in my opinion. Could gone to the first view point, taken some pics and gone back and been just as happy. I really don't know why everyone puts this so high on the list of best hikes in Texas. Any number of hikes in Big Bend or The Texas Hill Country are better than this one.


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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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