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Texas Trail Running Race Profile: Palo Duro Trail Run

“Life is a headlong rush into the unknown. We can hunker down and hope nothing hits us or we can stand tall, lean into the wind and say, ‘Bring it on, darlin’, and don’t be stingy with the jalapeños.’” – J.M. “Red” Spicer’s Philosophy

Palo Duro Trail Run Race Profile (50 mile, 50 km, 20 km)


The Basics

Race website: Palo Duro Trail Run

Originated: 1986 (As best I can determine. Please let me know if otherwise.)

Date: Mid October (see race website for exact day)

Location: Palo Duro Canyon State Park

PDCSP is located 27 miles southeast of Amarillo, Texas. (Map)

If you would prefer to fly, the relatively small Amarillo International airport is serviced by American Eagle, Continental Express, and Southwest.

Weather: The average temperatures for October range from 46 – 75 F. Be warned, the temps can vary widely (30s – 90s F) this time of year so make sure to check the local forecast and bring a variety of clothing options.

This region also typically has very low humidity.

Weather Channel’s 10 day forecast

Lodging: The closest hotels will be in Canyon (easy 12 mile drive away). There are also hotels located on the south side of Amarillo which can work as well.

Camping exists within the grounds of the state park. There are a variety of camping options ($12-$25) to choose from including a few small cabins ($60-$125). Book early if possible because spots do fill up.

Further description of park facilities.

Park Map

The main race area (start/finish) is at Juniper picnic area.

Online park reservations (a bit clunky)

Park reservations by phone: 512-389-8900

Note: I have tried using the online reservations (web)site and all (park)sites were full. I then decided to call and I was able to reserve a spot. I would probably recommend calling and talking to someone.

Daily park entrance fee: $5 per person (regardless if camping or not)

Packet pickup amenities: Free pre-race pasta dinner for runners. Non-runners pay extra. This is a nice way to socialize with fellow runners and put down some carbs.


The Dirty Race Details

Lights: I would recommend bringing some type of lighting (handheld, headlamp, etc) to be used when setting up your special needs area because there is very little lighting at the start/finish area and the sun has yet to start rising. Also, a light is highly recommended for the early part of the 50 mile and 50 km races.  There will be between 30-45 minutes running in the dark (middle of no-where dark).

Distances: 20 km, 50 km, 50 mile

Past Results: Click Palo Duro Trail Run Results.

Cut-off time: 12 hours

Start time: 50 km / 50 mile – 7:00 am, 20 km – 7:30 am

Course: The main loop is 12.5 miles that will be used for every race distance. A separate six mile loop is included for the 50 km runners. For the most part, the course is completely open to the elements (minimal tree cover).

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

Note: No pets are allowed on the course or start/finish area.

Aid stations: Five, containing your typical fluids and basic foods.

Buzzzz: Midway through the first loop, the local bees get a taste of the sugary drinks waiting at the aid-stations and become frequent visitors. This is a little unnerving at first but you soon become used to it. They also never seemed to bug people so that probably also helped with the comfort level. The aid-station volunteers may have a different story. [’09 update: I saw no bees this year.]

This is a unique race feature designed to help you finish within 12 hours. You will have no desire to hang around at these aid stations.

Terrain: The course is mainly desert-like packed red dirt within the canyon’s multi-use trail with very good footing. Periodically, you will also run on some giant slabs of rock. There are no extremely technical aspects to the course.

I would consider the course rolling with ~3900 feet (per SportTracks elevation correction) of elevation gain/descent for the 50 mile course and ~2300 feet (per SportTracks elevation correction) of gain/decent for the 50 km course. There are no long sustained climbs but a few short and steep to keep those legs guessing. Much of the course is runnable. This doesn’t mean flat!

Look around and enjoy the sunrise as the canyon comes to life!

The Main 12.5-ish Mile Loop (Garmin FR 305 with elev. smoothing)

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge


  • 50 mile racers – Run four times!, 50 km racers – Run 6 mile loop first (image below), then this loop twice. 20 km racers – Run once!
  • Each 12.5 mile loop is basically in the shape similar to a camel hump. Gradually climb, flat-ish, down-a-bit, climb, repeat. Followed by gradual descent, flat-ish, up-a-bit, descent, repeat.

The 6 Mile Short Loop For 50 km Course (Garmin FR 305 with elev. smoothing)



  • The 50 km racers run this 6 mile loop and then run the main 12.5 mile loop twice.
  • The 6 mile loop consists of the first three miles and last three miles of the main 12.5 mile loop that everyone runs.

Entire 50 km Course (Garmin FR 305)

This highlights the difference between the 6 mile and main 12.5-ish mile loop.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

What does this tell you? For 50 km runners, the first six miles will be the easiest part of your day.


Post-race amenities: Free post-race grub (hamburgers, chips, soda, etc) for runners and guests. Also a gracious feature.

Unsolicited advice:

  • If unfamiliar with the course, take the first loop conservative if you are running the 50 km / 50 mile distances so you don’t blow your cookies on the first loop.
  • Dry climate – Hydration will be especially important. You won’t show sweat but you will be losing water/electrolytes.
  • I already said it but I will say it again – Take a moment or two and look around as the sun begins to rise. Please stop running when you do this so you don’t take a digger. Rocks hurt.
  • Practice up on your “gu-shob” because after two loops that will be the main words said on the trail.
  • Other useful gear: sunscreen, hat, BodyGlide
  • Thank all the volunteers!

Race reports:

Images (Various Photo I took in ’08):


I would like this to be a living document so please feel free to share any other insight or insider-information that you may have in the comment link below.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

2 Responses to “Texas Trail Running Race Profile: Palo Duro Trail Run”

  1. on 01 Oct 2009 at 7:09 am David P

    Gonna be great! May take my video camera to try to capture the experience.

  2. on 01 Oct 2009 at 9:05 am David Hanenburg

    Hey Dave – It is going to be a fun trip! I will be taking my flip as well.