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Travel: A Weekend at Palo Duro Canyon

               I love taking the time to plan out a trip, and research the best things to do with kids to both make it memorable, and affordable.  Because of the pandemic, our plans have changed so much this summer, that I have just been learning to go with the flow.  And in many ways that has turned out to our benefit.  During the Texas lockdown, I had lots of time to research and make lists of all the places I wanted to visit!  We have a goal to hit all 50 states before the kids are in high school and we are well on our way.  But Texas is a BIG state and there are so many places I have wanted to explore that are good weekend destinations… so I started making plans and booking refundable trips and praying that at least some of them would work out!

The first trip of this summer was to Palo Duro Canyon. Now, I have been to the Grand Canyon and it is for sure a sight to behold, but in light of the pandemic and this being our first trip away, I decided to stick closer to home this time around! Palo Duro is only about 4.5 hours from Fort Worth, and perfect for a short trip when you don’t want to do any stopping with kids!

Because the canyon was still closed (with no published reopening date) when I started planning, I was able to get an awesome deal on an AirBnb that was located right on the canyon! We knew we wanted a kitchen for this trip and since we had friends traveling with us, an AirBnb was more cost effective than staying at a hotel. Since we already have state park passes for Texas, all we had to do was reserve a spot in the park when reservations reopened (added bonus, when the park opened up they were only letting in a limited number of people, so less people on a holiday weekend at the end of May was a huge bonus).

We drove down on a Friday and stayed thru Monday evening. We spent the first night at the AirBnb on the deck watching the wildlife climbing through the canyon. The good thing about staying at an AirBnb with a kitchen is that we could load a cooler down with food and snacks for the whole trip and cook our meals just like we are at home. So once we checked in, we could stay put for the afternoon/evening.

Sunset views from our AirBnb

Whenever we make plans to travel, the first thing I do is make a list of all the things we would like to do while we are there that would cost extra money and determine what our budget for the trip can handle. Whenever possible, I like to find free activities and plug in one “bonus” thing to do that we think is reasonable to spend the money on! Because we had several out of the country trips for the spring/summer rescheduled ☹, our travel budget for the summer allowed for us to do two splurge things on this trip! The first, which was my favorite, was horseback riding in the canyon on Saturday morning. I love horseback riding and other than riding a pony at the state fair, my kids had never ridden and I thought it would be a fantastic way to get a glimpse of the canyon for the first time! We got there early and met our guides and the kids got to meet their horses for the morning. We loaded up and went on our first adventure through the canyon.

Riding through the canyon

When we finished riding we went back to the AirBnb for lunch and then loaded back up for our second adventure which was ziplining over the canyon! Not going to lie, I was a little nervous about this one, but luckily we had enough adults to outnumber the kids who would need to zip tandem and most of them were braver than I was! 😉 Ziplining required us to climb a steep ramp while tethered to each other and the railing and then after ziplining, crossing a swinging bridge back across the canyon!

The climb up to the zip line

This was the kids favorite part of the trip, and while it was quite exhilarating, I was not as ready as they were to jump back on again. It was definitely worth the money we spent on it and everyone agreed the views were amazing!

Coming off the zip line

We grilled out Saturday evening and Sunday morning we hiked several miles through the canyon. Being the end of May in Texas, we didn’t go as far as we would have liked to, but fun was still had by everyone. We celebrated with snowcones and did some souvenir shopping before heading back to the AirBnb for dinner and smores over the firepit!

This is definitely a recommended trip, even if you only do free activities and camp out in the canyon! We would definitely go back, as there are quite a few things we didn’t get to do because of the pandemic! And while it isn’t the Grand Canyon, there is so much more accessible to you here, and the smaller crowds can’t be beat!

If you have ever been and have recommendations for future visits, we would love if you would share them in the comments!

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I'm Tricia, widow and mom to 3. I enjoy writing about parenting, traveling, and all that God is teaching about choosing joy in the moment, even when all I want to do is hide in the closet with a frozen Reese's and a bowl of ice cream!

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