Surrounding the Palo Duro Canyon main parking lot are five trailheads that access over 25 miles of mountain-bike trails winding throughout the canyon. There is also alternative trail access, as well as RV and tent sites, at other locations around the canyon.
Clearly-marked and well-maintained trails range in skill level from beginner to expert and take you over rocks and sand, through dry washes and creek bottoms and up switchbacks and along drop offs.
The popular Rock Garden Trail is an invigorating 2.4-mile intermediate ride and is marked for bikers as well as hikers. You will feel your heart pumping as you maneuver around boulders and one switchback after another. The 600-foot ascent is challenging, but doable even for beginners, and there are plenty of places to stop and catch your breath while taking in the view.
Stopping is the best option to enjoy the scenery, as some of the turns are so sharp if you try looking farther ahead than your front tire you could end up spending the afternoon pulling out cactus thorns. An extremely tight right-handed corner warns of your approach to the infamous Rock Gap slab. Here you may be tempted to try to power your way up the hill, but most riders experienced with this trail will usually dismount and walk their bike up this short, but very steep, section.
After this most challenging part of the trail, the track flattens out to mesa-like terrain to allow you to catch your breath. As you approach the Rock Garden trail’s summit you will feel the climb was worth the picture-perfect view of the stark contrasting azure blue sky meeting the green and brown hues of the canyon’s desert-like landscape. Here, looking out over the vastness of the Texas wilderness, you will realize how insignificant most of life’s problems really are.
This is just one short ride in the vast mountain-bike trail system of the Palo Duro Canyon. The rest are there waiting for you to explore.