Photo Journal: Return To Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon

Not long ago, I was able to take a quick trip to one of my favorite places in Texas, Palo Duro Canyon. This time, I did not explore any new places, but instead opted to shoot some familiar locations. I had two sunsets and a sunrise at my disposal (a second sunrise turned out cloudy, so I packed up and headed home).

When push comes to shove, my first option is always the Lighthouse. I’ve photographed this iconic hoodoo many times – some treks resulted in good photos, others were duds. On this evening, I did not see another person out there at sunset, and my efforts were rewarded with soft, pastel skies over the rugged hoodoo.

Hoodoos of Palo Duro 9 9162

One of my favorite places in Palo Duro Canyon in the Lighthouse - an iconic hoodoo at the end of a well-traveled trail. The round trip is just over 6 miles along an easy dirt path. The sunset here can often be amazing, and I've found when I linger after the last colors of the evening sky have faded, I'll only share the trail with the restless coyotes that sometimes howl in the distance. This image was taken on a quick trip to the canyon in late September.

The walk out to the Lighthouse is just over 6 miles round-trip. And it’s just that – a walk. The only mildly challenging part is a short scramble to reach the plateau on which this hoodoo rests. I do have to admit I always get a bit creeped out when walking back in the dark by myself. Nothing looks the same, and sounds are amplified. Thank goodness for good flashlights!

The next morning, I hiked to a place I did not think I’d return because of the loose rock and sketchiness of the short scramble up to a ridge. Yet here I was, being pulled in once again. To start, I made the easy walk along the Capitol Peak Trail to the west side of Capitol Peak. From there, I left the trail and headed north up a steep, scree-filled slope to get a little height that would allow for a better perspective of Capitol Peak and its small hoodoo on its south ridge. The last time I made this scramble in the dark, I ended up with blood on my hands and legs. It was one two steps up, and a slide back down. It was brutal. This time, I knew what to expect and where to go, so the results were slightly better. The high clouds from the previous night were still lingering, and sunrise was a beautiful contrast between the pastel pink and blue skies and the glowing orange rock of this ancient canyon.

Return to the Light 9 9161

I didn't think I'd return to this spot in Palo Duro Canyon, but like a june-bug to the light, I found myself precariously perched once again on a sketchy slope photographing sunrise with the iconic Capitol Peak (3158') and its small hoodoo (far right) in the distance. The views from midway up a steep, scree-filled slope were amazing, and the soft clouds from a late September sunrise made the sky worthy of such a beautiful and serene landscape.

I spent the day trying to stay cool, then made the walk up to the rim of Fortress Cliff. Along the edge of the cliff, a beautiful arch takes in the orange of the sun during sunsets. Known as the Alter of Palo Duro, this arch draws me back each time because of the colors that linger only for a few minutes as the sun makes its decent beneath the horizon.

Canyon Light in Late September 9 9171

The arch of Palo Duro Canyon was as beautiful as ever on my return trip to once again photograph this amazing location. The sun turned the sky a deep orange, and the inner walls of the arch seemed to glow a soft warm hue. The hike above Fortress Cliff to this point was steep and a little slippy on loose rock, but worth the sweat to take in this view.I never get tired of this canyon, and look forward to many returns.

Again, the walk down isn’t particularly fun, but as always, I’m glad to have made the trip. And I look forward to returning in a few weeks!

In the meantime, Happy Travels, Texas! And be kind to others.

~ Rob

Images from Texas

One of my favorite places in Palo Duro Canyon in the Lighthouse - an iconic hoodoo at the end of a well-traveled trail. The round...

Hoodoos of Palo Duro 9 9162

One of my favorite places in Palo Duro Canyon in the Lighthouse - an iconic hoodoo at the end of a well-traveled trail. The round trip is just over 6 miles along an easy dirt path. The sunset here can often be amazing, and I've found when I linger after the last colors of the evening sky have faded, I'll only share the trail with the restless coyotes that sometimes howl in the distance. This image was taken on a quick trip to the canyon in late September.

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