A nighttime shot of one of the glamping cabins shows lit string lights, a grill, and seating on a large porch.

The four cabins at the Palo Duro glamp-site offer large porches with amenities including a gas grill and fire pit. Photo courtesy Palo Duro Glamping.

The Texas State Parks system marks its 100th anniversary this year. With 89 parks, natural areas, and historic sites to choose from, visitors can experience all kinds of outdoor activities. Each month, we’re highlighting one these activities based on the season and special occasions around the state.

Visitors have a lot of options for enjoying Palo Duro Canyon State Park: primitive, tent-only and RV campsites, cabins on the canyon floor, and cabins on its rim. This park situated 12 miles east of Canyon between Amarillo and Lubbock has another option: four glamping cabins with amenities such as electricity and real beds.

“There isn’t one right way to stay at a state park,” says Thomas Wilhelm, state parks marketing manager for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We want everyone to feel that the parks are for them. It doesn’t have to mean camping in a tent in a forest. Glamping ultimately provides access to the park in the way that people want to experience it.”

The canvas-clad cabins at Palo Duro Glamping are fully furnished: everything from beds, futon, and chairs to a picnic table and a refrigerator, coffee maker, and coffee. You want board games, linens, and s’mores kits? They got ’em. Large, covered porches feature a gas grill, fire pit, hammocks, swings, and a water pump.

Prairie Palooza

Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon celebrates the 100th anniversary of Texas State Parks with this three-day event that includes vendors, merch and educational booths, and activities throughout the park. Saturday focuses on the past 100 years and Sunday on the next 100 years.

Address: 11450 Park Road 5
Dates: Sept. 15-17
Time: From Fri. at 5 p.m., to Sun. at 2 p.m.
Website: tpwd.texas.gov

A night’s stay includes a breakfast sandwich and drink for each person, and burger kits—fresh patties, buns, cheese, condiments, chips, and a drink—can be bought at the Palo Duro Trading Post for $7.99. The Trading Post also has just about anything else you might need, from that forgotten flashlight to groceries, gas, sunscreen, and souvenirs. Its restaurant serves breakfast from 9:30 to 11 a.m. and lunch until 4:45 p.m.

Amarillo native Dusty Harris has run the Trading Post since 1999 and says he just dreamed up the idea of glamping one day. “I had heard of glamping before and thought how neat it would be here,” he says. “Our target market is people who don’t want to stay in a tent. I had a guy tell me the other day he’s too old to sleep on the ground and didn’t want to mess with a trailer, and this is the closest thing to camping he could get.”

Harris sketched out a design for the cabins and found a company in Montana to build the tarps over them. He opted for real walls, given the way the wind blows in the Panhandle. “I didn’t want to lie in bed wondering if some customer had a tent wrapped around their neck,” he says. “I knew we needed some shade, too, so [I] came up with the porches.”

The interiors of the cabins at Palo Duro Glamping include beds, linens, refrigerators, and canvas-clad ceilings. Photo courtesy Palo Duro Glamping.

It would be easy to spend an entire weekend relaxing on one of those porches, cooking burgers on the grill, playing games, watching the birds flitting through the brush, and catching the sunset and stars. But the park has more than 30 miles of hiking and biking trails, ranging from riverside strolls to strenuous climbs, as well as a 1,500-acre equestrian area and guided trail rides for those without their own horse. From a wildlife viewing blind next to the trading post, you may spot golden-fronted woodpeckers or canyon wrens, and flocks of turkeys sometimes stroll through the campgrounds. Spring wildflowers common here include Indian blankets and American basket-flowers.

Roughly 120 miles long and ranging from 600 to 800 feet deep, Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the United States. An ancient river carved into the Southern High Plains about 1 million years ago, exposing layers that go back 250 million years, with their varying rock contents giving the canyon its colorful palette.

The cabins at Palo Duro Glamping are near 30 miles of hiking and biking trails. Photo courtesy Palo Duro Glamping.

The glamping sites accommodate up to six people and pets are allowed (however, there’s a maximum of two per site). Dishes, cookware, and cutlery are not included, but grill tools are. Prices start at $299 a night. Park admission is $8 per adult, children 12 and under free. You can find restrooms and showers in the adjacent campground, and restrooms are also in the Trading Post from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Having facilities like glamping where people can feel more comfortable is absolutely part of our mission,” Wilhelm says. “We’ve had cabins in our parks forever for those new users who might not be ready to take the plunge into the typical camping experience. Staying in a cabin, screened shelter, or glamping spot is a good way to have that first experience.”

He adds that Galveston Island and Guadalupe River State Parks have glamping sites, and others are underway at Brazos Bend State Park.

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