Hike to the Lighthouse in Palo Duro Canyon

Lighthouse Trailhead , Canyon, Texas, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    5.4 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    940 Feet

Dog Friendly
Food Nearby
Scenic
Wildlife

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
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Reviews

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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.

about 1 month ago
about 1 month ago

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.

6 months ago
6 months ago

If you're in the area, definitely stop by and check out this place. You'll be out of reception, so know that in advance and take some water with you. Early in the morning or late afternoon is best. Texas summers are blazing. We saw tons of lizards, two tarantulas, a road runner, and a few rabbits (hares?). The hike to the lighthouse is moderate and easy since it's mostly flat. Watch out for snakes and stay on the trail. The view is awesome.

11 months ago
11 months ago

This hike is mostly gentle and easy with the last bit being fairly steep and confusing getting up to the rock formation. The end is mostly scrambling which made my less sure-footed hiking partner a little nervous, but at the top we met a couple in their 60s so it's not impossible.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This trail was beautiful! I was surprised by the amount of people who seemed slightly unprepared. Wear good hiking shoes, and bring water. This seems obvious, but the amount of people I saw without water and wearing sandals was surprising. This would also be a fun spot to MTN bike, beautiful, soft red dirt that would look beautiful on your tires! Cheers.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

We just did this hike over Memorial Day weekend with our 4 y.o. son and my 68 y.o. mother. It is a very busy trail with lots of hikers and hikers with dogs. And since it is multi-use, there are also many MTB riders. We didn't get as early of a start as we would have liked and we suffered the heat in the afternoon (our pace was very slow due to uncooperative toddler). The top slab by the Lighthouse formation gives incredible views. As previously noted, please make sure you have plenty of water. We ran into a couple of hikers experiencing heat exhaustion and had to be taken out by 4x4 by the park rangers.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

The Lighthouse trail is a great day trip if you live in the surrounding area (lubbock, Canyon, Amarillo). It's a fun and moderate hike where you can expect to climb up some sandy boulders for the best views. It's fun if it's not too hot, I would avoid trying this hike in the middle of the summer heat, other seasons, its absolutely beautiful.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Korey Taylor Explorer

The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

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