More than half of Palo Duro Canyon State Park is closed to visitation.
See that "Restricted are" on the park map you received when you checked in at the gate? It looks like only a small part of the state park. In reality, though, that area includes an entire second canyon and creek system. Mesquite Park Mesa, North Cita Canyon, and the Confluence of North Cita Creek and the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River are all closed park visitors. This includes more than 15,000 acres in a state with very little public land.
The area is leased to ranchers who use the land for cattle grazing or closed to protect "culturally and ecologically sensitive areas."
Ranchers adjacent to the state park pay to allow their cattle to graze on state park land. Sometimes that payment is through work done on roads and fences on that land. In previous park plans, those roads were to become trails into the backcountry, and grazing leases say that park visitors should still be allowed to access the land. Additional areas are closed, such as the Red River War battlefield, but proposed trails do not go through those areas.
You will be stopped and ticketed if you go to these areas.
Since 2020, Palo Duro Canyon State Park personnel have ticketed numerous hikers in these areas of the park, though, in the past, visitors accessed them regularly. There are game cameras throughout the state park backcountry. When a hiker is spotted on camera, rangers drive to issue a citation. Tickets for "being in a closed area of the park" have included punitive fees of $216 for walking on these sections of public land.
We are working toward safe and permitted access to the backcountry.
"Wilderness is a necessity of the human spirit" -- Ed Abbey
In a state with very little public land, Texans need a place to escape cars and crowds, rely on their outdoor skills and instincts, and challenge themselves physically and mentally. Texas Parks and Wildlife has an opportunity at Palo Duro to create a long backpacking trail within Texas. We are advocating for a permit system, and eventually trails, that will allow a reasonable amount of visitors to safely experience the remote beauty of our beautiful canyon.