When I called the reservations line to ask about cabin availability at Palo Duro Canyon, the lady on the other end of the line chuckled a bit. She told me that they are often booked months in advance, and finding something last minute wasn’t guaranteed. We were lucky and got a last-minute cancelation.
The problem lies with supply and demand. There are only three rim cabins at Palo Duro Canyon, and it is a very popular destination! Located in the Panhandle of Texas very near the city of Amarillo, Palo Duro Canyon is second in size only to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
I have a confession. I’ve never felt as conflicted as I do writing this post. I loved our stay, but we were lucky to get the cabin. What if I publicize how great they are and can’t find an opening in the future? I definitely plan to go back.
The rim cabins were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930’s out of stone quarried nearby. The CCC workers, young men, and veterans of WWI unable to find work in the height of the Depression, came to this area in the middle of the Dust Bowl. They created what would become Palo Duro Canyon State Park. They built the road into the canyon, six cabins total, and other improvements. Knowing how cold the winter nights and how hot the summer days are in the Panhandle, I have immense respect for these men and appreciation for what they achieved.
While making phone reservations, I wasn’t able to pick our particular cabin – just the pricing category. It was still a surprise when we arrived at the Ranger Station. Drumroll… we were staying in the Goodnight Cabin!
Knowing the age of the Goodnight Cabin, I was surprised by what I found when I got there. The hard work and fine craftsmanship of the CCC were very evident. Although 80 years old, the cabin was very sturdy. You could tell the cabin had recently been refurbished, but that original features had been preserved. The original hand-carved ceiling beams were exposed and gave the cabin a beautiful rustic charm. It was cozy, but it was very clean and the linens were quality. The children loved the full-sized bunk beds!
You may remember we were at the Grand Canyon only three weeks earlier, so it was interesting to compare the lodging to Palo Duro. The cost nightly was $110. Similar accommodations would be FAR more expensive at the Grand Canyon – and they would likely be booked years and years in advance.
While Palo Duro doesn’t have the food facilities (especially in the evening) that the Grand Canyon has, we were able to get a great burger at the Trading Post in the park for lunch and we brought a cooler with our dinner. The cabin included a microwave and a minifridge. If the temperatures had been a little warmer the picnic table on the back porch would have been a fantastic place to eat and take in the view.
There was also a fireplace inside and a grill outside, but they were off limits because of a fire ban. It is my understanding that this fire ban is very common. While you can call ahead and see if the ban is still in effect, you shouldn’t bank on being able to use the fireplace and grill.
We had a clear view of the sunset from our porch. The stars were amazing over the canyon at night! If your children are city kids, like ours, they will probably be surprised by how many stars are actually visible. The sunrise was a bit obstructed, but I took a couple minutes to walk past the cabins to watch it on the morning we were there. Very worth it!
Of course like every stay, there were a few drawbacks to the experience. The heater, while effective, was a wall unit and very loud. I would assume it would be the same in the summer when it was attempting to cool the cabin in the hot Texas sun. Like I mentioned, the evenings were cold and a fire in the fireplace would have been nice – but precluded by the fire ban, which also did not allow us to use the grill. There were no doors separating the bedrooms. While not a problem for us, this could be a disadvantage if you aren’t as close to your family as we are. Also, there are only four occupants allowed, so it is not an option for you if you have a larger family than that. However, the cons were nothing near dealbreakers for us, and we will return to the canyon for another stay in the cabins.
For more on Palo Duro Canyon State Park, see the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.
To check availability or reserve a Palo Duro Cabin (rim or limited use) contact the Texas Parks Office at (512) 389-8900.
To find out more about the history of the CCC and their work in Texas Parks, visit the site The Looks of Nature.