The Texas Panhandle is the state’s northernmost region, a rectangular section bordered by Oklahoma and Mexico. It encompasses 10% of the total area of the state, but is comparatively sparsely populated, with only about 1.7% of its total population.
The terrain in the Texas Panhandle is mostly flat, but with a few exceptions. The landscape features the dramatic Caprock Escarpment, where the Llano Estacado high plains transition sharply to the flat, rolling terrain below. Made of erosion-resistant calcium carbonate, the escarpment stretches 200 miles in the northeastern Texas Panhandle.
The area also includes the Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the country. It is approximately 1,000 feet deep in places, and features dramatic, multi- colored rock layers and gravity-defying pinnacles and spires carved by the Red River. Georgia O’Keeffe once described the canyon as “a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color.” The canyon offers miles of trails for biking, hiking, and horseback riding, as well as an abandoned railroad tunnel that stretches 742 feet.
Route 66 crosses through the Panhandle Plains as well. Sometimes known as “Will Rogers Highway” or “The Main Street of America,” it was one of the country’s first highways built under the US Highway System. Finished in 1926, it originally crossed 2,448 miles and passed through seven states. It was immortalized by the song “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66” as well as the Route 66 TV show. In Texas, the route offers numerous roadside attractions as well as restaurants and stores worth checking out.
Another of the region’s claims to fame is its association with Buddy Holly, who grew up in the Panhandle. In Lubbock, fans can visit the Buddy Holly Center to learn about his younger years, musicology, and history. Lubbock also offers a thriving contemporary music scene, and it’s worth visiting the Depot Entertainment District to see up and coming acts.
The Texas Panhandle is a fascinating region full of arresting geological features, opportunities for unforgettable hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities, and rich history. If you’re coming to Texas, it’s definitely worth a visit.
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