Plan a trip to Amarillo and the Panhandle and enjoy visiting its small towns, historic sites and natural wonders.

The top 26 counties of Texas are divided by the Canadian River valley. Also known as the staked plains, Panhandle Plains or Texas Panhandle, it is part of the larger area of level surface known as Llano Estacado, meaning “staked.” The sea of grass was so dense it left no path when Coronado’s expedition passed through in 1541. He created “stakes,” mounds of white stone, to mark the return route. The Comanches began trading with the Mexican Comancheros in the 17th century and kept the area under their control. It’s a place of wind and wide-open space where you will enjoy an unobstructed view of the sky.

Turn off the Interstate and discover where the locals go in Amarillo. Cowboys and cowgirls are real, so bring your boots if ya got ’em. Horses are optional.


Vista at Palo Duro Canyon Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas Courtesy Amarillo Convention and Visitors Bureau


In the modern day, Amarillo sits in the heart of this plain.

First called Oneida, Amarillo became the Potter County seat in 1887. The name means “yellow,” probably inspired by the abundant wildflowers that blanket the grasslands in spring. Cattle ranches along with the Fort Worth and Denver City railroad established Amarillo as one of the busiest shipping points. Next came the grain milling and feed industries, followed by the discovery of a natural gas field in 1918 and oil in 1921.

The influences of these vast land resources still exist mixed with the urban bustle of a big city. Good manners are still in style and simple pleasures rule.


Beef Capital of the World

First things first. This is the heart of cattle country. The area produces 30 percent of the nation’s beef, and numerous restaurants offer it on their menu. One of our favorites is owned by a group of guys from my hometown of Dimmitt. X-Steakhouse serves only prime choice beef that is aged 30 days, which is key for tenderness and flavor. Steaks are then hand-cut in-house. Located in Townsquare Village on the west side of Amarillo, the local favorite also offers an extensive beer and wine list.


Trail Riding
Cowgirls and Cowboys in the West
Los Cedros Ranch, Texas
Courtesy of Cowgirls and Cowboys in the West


Amarillo by Day and Night

The locals know that there’s nothing like a pair of custom boots if you want to walk with the confident swagger of a real cowpuncher. Western Leather Craft Boot Company, Bustamante Cowboy Boots or Beck Cowboy Boots specialize in quality footwear measured to fit your foot. Shop for Western attire at Boot Barn, West Texas Western Store in Westgate or Cavender’s. To learn more about working gear and saddle craftsmanship, plan a stop at Oliver Saddle Shop. This family-run business offers a wide variety of handmade leather products.

A mile-long stretch of famed Route 66 Historic District offers more Western goods, antiques and a variety of eateries in historic buildings. Located on Sixth Avenue between Georgia and Western Streets, it was the first residential and business district in the city.

There are two museums located on Interstate 40 that celebrate the American West. Amarillo is home to the American Quarter Horse Association and Museum, the world’s largest equine breed registry. The Kwahadi Museum of the American Indian is open during the summer, Thursday-Saturday, and the dinner show includes an authentic American Indian dance performance.

For a night on the town, Starlight Ranch was voted Best Live Music Venue. For something different, Shark Beach Burgers on the Claude highway created their own sandy beachfront restaurant featuring cover bands. Spend an evening strolling along lighted Polk Street in downtown Amarillo. Choose from a variety of dining options and enjoy the live music that can be heard from the rooftop wine bars.


Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight Ranch State Historic Site, Goodnight, Texas


Day Trip East of Amarillo to Goodnight, Panhandle, Borger and Alibates

Travel on US 287 east from Amarillo for 40 minutes to Goodnight, Texas, and the Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight Ranch State Historic Site. The first cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle was established by plainsman Charles Goodnight and Irish business partner John Adair. After selling his share of the JA, Goodnight set his ranch headquarters in Armstrong County and built a gabled Victorian-style house. The 1887 ranch home is restored on its original site.

Heading back West toward Amarillo on US 287, turn north at Claude and take TX 207 to Panhandle. The Carson County Square House Museum is a 21-building complex. It features a diorama that tells the story of our area, climb into a train car, and my favorite, see a fully furnished dugout. Locally owned Brickstreet 200 is the perfect stop for lunch. Located in a renovated 1912 bank, the chicken-fried steak is their most popular dish on the menu.

Keep heading north on TX 207 toward Borger, about a 25-minute drive. The treeless, short grass prairie on either side of the highway is the Dixon Creek Camp of the famed Four Sixes Ranch. You’ll drive past the entrance to the headquarters where parts of Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone were filmed. It is private property, so do not enter.

In Borger the Hutchison County Historical Museum has both inside and outside exhibits. Learn how the discovery of oil impacted the area. A diorama of the Adobe Walls trading post is the site of a significant conflict between bison hunters and Comanche forces. It’s a fascinating story.

If you have time for a side trip, take TX 152 east and drive for 60 miles to Old Mobeetie, where Bat Masterson, Pat Garrett and Temple Houston left their mark on history.

From Borger continuing west through the town of Fritch on US 136, drive 11 miles to the Alibates Flint Quarries Visitors Center. The unique flint rock was quarried to make points, knives and other tools dating back as far as the Clovis mammoth hunters. The Canadian River provided access to this neutral site where tribes came to collect the material they needed. The film, artifacts and guided hike to the quarry are worth your time.


Hide Hunters by Harold Dow Bugbee
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum
Canyon, Texas
Courtesy Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress


Day Trip South of Amarillo to Canyon and Palo Duro Canyon State Park

From Amarillo travel south on Interstate 27 for 15 miles to Canyon and step into the past at the largest historical museum in the state. Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum is located on the campus of West Texas A&M University.

The downtown square in Canyon is quaint, and the options for eating and shopping are varied. You can’t go wrong at any of the restaurants. A local Farmer’s Market is held every Saturday morning during the summer. One of my favorite places is located in a magnificently refurbished bank building. Burrowing Owl Books stocks new and used Westerns in the old vault.

While you’re in downtown Canyon, pick up tickets for the outdoor musical drama Texas, which is performed at the Pioneer Amphitheatre in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Drive east out of Canyon on TX 217 for 12 miles. The highway dead-ends at the park entrance.

The stark contrast between flat land to the beauty of the deep chasm will surprise you. The purple, gray and dark red layers of rock forming the 800-foot canyon walls give witness to millions of years in geological time. At the first lookout you will discover a view that will take your breath away and The Canyon Gallery and Visitors Center with equally stunning Native American pottery and jewelry.

Enjoy a leisurely drive on a well-paved road that loops through the park and open your vehicle windows for the scent of salt cedars and the chirps of cicadas. Check the website for entry fees, reservations for camping sites or cabins and park alerts relating to heat restrictions.


Storm on the Horizon
Texas Panhandle
Courtesy of Natalie Bright


Horseback Riding

On Farm to Market Road 1258 south of Amarillo, discover the Los Cedros Ranch and Cowgirls and Cowboys of the West for horseback riding. Located on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon, they are rated #1 on TripAdvisor for Amarillo activities. You can learn about the area’s history and receive instruction on saddling.

Pick a horse from Palo Duro Riding Stables, or choose a zipline that ex-
tends across the canyon, located about one mile before the entrance to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Old West Stables is located inside the park, and Palo Duro Creek Ranch offers jeep tours as well.


Hidden Speakeasy, The Barfield Hotel
Amarillo, Texas
Courtesy of The Barfield Hotel


Life’s a Rodeo

The skills required of working cowboys and cowgirls are celebrated through organized events, and Amarillo is host to several of these competitions. A cattle drive through downtown on Polk Street kicks off the Coors Cowboy Club Ranch Rodeo every June. The Will Rogers Range Riders is the oldest continually operating riding club in the U.S. and hosts their rodeo every July. The Tri-State Fair and Rodeo is held in September, and the Working Ranch Cowboy Association’s (WRCA) world championship is held the second weekend of November. The WRCA structures its competition around the skills needed on today’s ranches with ranch teams comprised of actual day working cowboys and cowgirls.

Rodeos are held in most every community throughout the Texas Panhandle during the summer and fall. The contests are the perfect opportunity for cowgirls and cowboys to show off their abilities. Located northwest of Amarillo, Dalhart has been hosting the annual XIT Rodeo and Reunion since 1937.

Hospitality and an unforgettable sky view await you in Amarillo.


Working Ranch Cowboy World Championship
Amarillo, Texas
Courtesy Amarillo Convention and Visitors Bureau


Where to Sleep

Amarillo can brag about an abundance of dust and hotels. There are numerous options along Interstate 40, on West Loop 335, and in downtown Amarillo at all price ranges. If you want to experience the ultimate in southern hospitality, consider the stunning Barfield Amarillo. This locally owned treasure is the location where cattle barons, city entrepreneurs and oil industrialists once gathered. Enjoy an authentic cocktail in the basement speakeasy. I recommend a Bees Knees with a twist of lemon rind.


Oliver Saddle Shop
Amarillo, Texas
Courtesy Amarillo Convention and Visitors Center


Good Eats & Sleeps

Eats: Blue Sky Texas Burgers, Abilene, Amarillo, Lubbock & Midland; Drunken Oyster, Amarillo; Spicy Mike’s Bar-B-Q Haven, Amarillo; Mickey’s Place Italian Specialties, Canyon; Lazy Gator, Amarillo; Tacos Garcia Mexican Café, Amarillo; The Plaza Restaurant & Bar, Borger; Ye Olde Pancake Station, Amarillo


Sleeps: Doves Rest Cabins on the rim Palo Duro Canyon State Park; Drury Inn & Suites, Amarillo; Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriot, Amarillo; Hudspeth House Bed & Breakfast, Canyon; The Barfield Autograph Collection, Downtown Amarillo; Three Falls Cove B&B, Sanford


“The Rider on the Rim,” Texas,
Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Courtesy Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress

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