Getting there: From the park entrance, drive down Park Road 5 into the canyon. Drive past the amphitheater and trading post. After the second low water crossing, look for parking at the trailhead on the right.
The collection of trails along the river sometimes top bluffs over the water.
The Riverside Trails is our grouping of four named trails in the park, all of which follow the main river running through the park, the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River (that's a mouthful!). Each interconnects with the other and so it seems natural to group them together. Unlike the nearby Juniper Trail - Cliffside, this trail does not allow horses and so operating under different rules we separated the two.
The trail parallels the river and the trail surface is often sandy.
The topo map shows the main starting point at the waypoint "Trailhead". However on our particular trip we made a loop out of the combination of Juniper Trail - Cliffside and three of the four trails that make up the Riverside Trails. So we really started at the "Alt-TH" waypoint.
The beginning of the trail here is called the Juniper Trail - Riverside by the park to differentiate it from the Cliffside trail across the street. We got off to a good start animalwise spotting a Road Runner along the trail just a short distance from the start.
The Riverside Trails have more shade than any of the other trails in Palo Duro.
Though some portions of the trail are exposed to the Sun, the trails here have more shade than any of the other trails in the park, which make them ideal for hotter conditions. Cottonwoods line the banks of the river, their leaves rustling in the breeze.
The Juniper Trail - Riverside runs into the park named Sunflower Trail at a "T" intersection. To continue hiking all of the riverside trails head to the right. A turn to the left will head west until the trail intersects the middle of the Juniper Trail - Cliffside. Note however, that the official park map shows this detour to be a very short jaunt, but it's not.
The trail hugs some of the red siltstone and sandstone formations near the river.
The Sunflower portion of the trail is the easiest of the three that we hiked. It's mostly flat. That's not to say that the trails don't offer a few nice views other than the distant canyon walls. At several points the trail snakes toward the edge of a small bluff overlooking the river.
A replica dugout shelter used by Charles Goodnight when he first set up cattle ranches in the area in the 1870's.
The Sunflower Trail gives way to the Rojo Grande Trail when it briefly comes into contact with the park road. The geology on this portion of the trail is the most interesting, in my opinion. The trail skirts the base of red claystone bluffs that line the river. It provides a close up view of one of the canyon's most dramatic features - the soft bright red rock layered with white gypsum.
Our hiked ended at the topo map's "Trailhead" waypoint, but the Riverside Trails don't end there. Continuing on the other side of the low water river crossing, the park named Paseo Del Rio Trail follows the river on the opposite bank. It ends at a parking area that includes a replica of the Dugout house used by Charles Goodnight when first settling the Palo Duro Canyon area. There are several good references to Charles Goodnight at the park information center, in particular the role he played in the preservation of the American Bison.
Despite the fact that the trail slaloms through numerous day use and camping areas, we saw only two other people on the trail, and that was near the start. We saw the Road Runner mentioned earlier, a rabbit and a large number of lizards on the trail which made for additional entertainment.