Open Palo Duro
Public land belongs to the public.
More than half of 28,000-acre Palo Duro Canyon State Park is closed despite decades of planning for trails and recreation. It's time for Texas Parks and Wildlife to open the Palo Duro backcountry to safe, limited, and permitted access.
Recent News and Updates
November 2022: Updated park maps with an expanded restricted area were released. Restricted areas begin just south of developed trails and include park landmarks frequently visited by parkgoers up to this point such as Monkey Hollow, Red Canyon, the Kneeling Camel, and Cathedral Peak. Click the image to to open a PDF of the new map.
September 2022: Open Palo Duro sent testimony to the Texas House Committee on Culture, Tourism, and Recreation for their September meeting. The committee is looking for ways to further develop Texas State Parks during this interim session. The meeting was originally planned for Palo Duro Canyon, but was rescheduled and relocated to Austin. You can read the text of that testimony by clicking on the image to the left.
August 2022: Permit system update -- In the Spring of 2022, park personnel stated they were trying to put a permit system in place for the southeastern backcountry of the state park, on land adjacent to that currently leased by the Harrell Ranch. Plans were for that system to be in place by the end of the summer. No such system was implemented, and, when asked for an update, the park did not respond.
May 2022: Palo Duro Canyon State Park personnel canceled any further development of a non-profit Partners group to help with trail development and maintenance in the state park "while some other business is sorted out with [the park's existing friends group." The park promised to circle back when they have the green light to continue, but inquiries have gone unanswered.
April 2022: First meeting with park personnel -- Items discussed were a potential backcountry permit program that would be implemented by the end of Summer. Its development would be contingent upon a volunteer ranger assigned to the park this year. The park is finally on the list for a new Park Use Plan, or PUP, and expects to be on the waiting list for several years. The actual plan will then take a few years to write and approve. No further trail development can happen without a new PUP. The park was adamant that the Palo Duro backcountry is closed, and said the closed area does amount to 15,000 acres. Though the park website says that Canoncita can be accessed through a "special use permit," those permits are issued "depending on what you're doing." A previous FOIA request showed no record of any such permit ever having been issued, but that Canoncita has been used for TPWD meetings and during the two drawn hunts in the state park. A landslide took out roads connecting Canoncita to the rest of the park, and that has been an issue for access. There is at present no money or personnel for trail development or maintenance at PDC, and visitors can call their legislator and the Texas House Committee on Culture, Recreation, and Tourism to advocate for money, staff, renovation, an expedited park use plan, and trails. Open Palo Duro asked to form a separate Partners group with Texas State Parks to help fund and maintain trails in the Canyon. PDC park staff agreed to explore that plan and scheduled a meeting with their TPWD non-profit partners group coordinator to begin that process.
February 22, 2022: A group of hikers, mountain bikers, Palo Duro enthusiasts, and surrounding ranch owners met to discuss opening the Palo Duro backcountry. Surrounding ranchowners also attended, and were clear that they are not trying to keep people off of the state park land that they lease. However, they have had problems with people opening cattle gates on Mesquite Park Mesa. Ranchers would be amenable to the park allowing permitted access to these backcountry areas during winter months, when they are not using those pastures. A slideshow shown at the meeting is available at left.
January 2022: Game cameras were placed on Mesquite Park mesa, and park rangers began ticketing hikers seen on the cameras. In the first few months of 2022, park staff cited at least seven hikers for entering a closed area of the park, despite no notification to visitors that those areas were closed at that time. Many areas on Mesquite Park do not require a hiker to pass a fence, and there were no signs, purple paint, or maps restricting access to the Palo Duro backcountry until September of 2022. It's important to note that the state park insists that they cannot allow hikers into the backcountry because rescue would be impossible. Rangers were able to reach these hikers to cite them, however, within 30-45 minutes.
Notice/Disclaimer: All images on this website are the property of its creator, and were taken before the Palo Duro backcounty was officially closed and hikers were selectively informed of this closure sometime in 2019. Members of Open Palo Duro have experienced harassment both from Texas Parks and Wildlife staff and surrounding landowners via phone and in person within open areas of the state park. ANY instances of stalking or harrassment will be documented and immediately reported. Information on this website was gleaned from Open Records requests to Texas Parks and Wildlife and can be obtained by anyone through the Texas State Parks Open Records Center at http://tpwd.texas.gov/site/openrecords .