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Texas' own Grand Canyon finally gets national recognition: The best state park you've never heard of?

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Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon has been named one of the 10 best parks in the U.S. Photo by Historic-Route66.com

For most Houston residents, summer vacation means escaping the Texas heat by any means necessary. But there are actually places in the Lone Star State where enduring high temperatures is worth it. According to Country magazine, Palo Duro Canyon State Park fits the bill.

The so-called Grand Canyon of Texas is the only spot in our fair state to make the cut this year as one of the 10 Best Parks in the United States, a listing of hidden gems in the national and state park systems. Last year, Big Bend National Park got the nod.

To be included, the parks had to be gorgeous as well as under the radar. (None of the 100 most-visited national parks were considered.) Breathtaking nature and no crowd of people to share it with? Sign me up.

Although it's true that summer temperatures in Palo Duro Canyon can reach triple digits, the panhandle park also enjoys lows in the 50s and 60s. Cool nights like that make for great camping, horseback riding, hiking and scenic drives.

Writer and photographer Tim Fitzharris had this to say about Palo Duro's draw:

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is one of West Texas’ most pleasant surprises. As you approach from Amarillo, it’s mostly hidden from view — a sunken treasure with clear winding waters, red sandstone ramparts and graceful cottonwoods preserved in a glorious natural state.

If you're dead set on getting out of Texas, Country also recommends parks as close as Colorado and as far-flung as Alaska and Maine.

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