Adventure, beauty, nature, wildlife, mountains, lakes and rivers, the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma have it all. If you’re into camping, hiking, kayaking, trail running, or rock climbing, this is a place you have to visit! But you better keep in mind some things! If you’re planning a visit for a long weekend or an extended outing, here are some things I learned NOT to do out there in the Wichita Mountains.
1. Don’t Drive There in a Tiny Vehicle
We had four people and enough baggage and food for six, stuffed in a tiny Ford Focus. Not gonna lie, it was a bit of a struggle just fitting everything in! But if you don’t want to be crammed in like sardines, take a bigger car.
Your list of items to bring should include:
- A tent (if you are going tent camping)
- Sleeping bags
- Extra pairs of clothes (layers are best)
- Warm socks and pajamas
- Pocketknife (or a larger blade if you like)
- Good hiking shoes or boots
- Towel and toiletries
- Phone charger
- Camp food
- Lots of water
- Day pack or small backpack
- Eating utensils
You can get ice and firewood at the campsite or at a local gas station. So don’t fill up your car with those unnecessarily. There is a town a few miles from the campsites in the Wildlife Refuge.
Quick Note: Bottled water is more convenient when on a hike, but gallons take up less space. Best practice is to take a few gallons and a refillable water bottle.
2. Never Underestimate the Terrain
If you decide to go off the trail to investigate a small castle on the other side of a large lake like we did, just keep in mind that it will probably be a further hike than you think. The trails are nice, but the terrain is rough otherwise. You’ll experience some cactus and long grass, but mostly red rocks. It took us about an hour and a half to get around Lake Jed Johnson going from the dam to the castle.
Once at the castle we realized that there’s actually a road and trail to it from the other side of the lake. Oops. We went ahead and walked back along the road to the car. On the way, we saw prairie dogs and buffalo! So, worth it.
3. Don’t Miss Out On Visiting Mt. Scott
This was an amazing spot. We drove the road up to the summit near nightfall to watch the sunset on the first day in the mountains. It took about ten minutes to get to the top. And what great place to see an incredible view without working too hard! You can choose to hike up along the road as well if you like. It’s pretty steep, though, so bear that in mind.
The sunset was gorgeous from the summit of Mt. Scott. There were a lot of large boulders you could climb around on to get a good view and some privacy away from the other visitors.
4. Don’t Forget Tent Stakes and Lots of Blankets
We brought a giant tent that was incredibly spacious. It was nice to be able to stand up inside, but that meant it was not as good at holding in our body heat. And it presented a larger target for the wind that nearly blew us away on the second night.
Remember, this is the mountains. So it can get pretty cold at night. Bring extra blankets and warm, wool socks! Some of us dressed in two sweaters the second night to ward off the chill. Make sure to stake the tent thoroughly as well! We had to put in extra ones after the 30 mile an hour winds threatened to blow the tent out of the camping grounds.
Quick note: Store your food inside your car at night and while you are hiking. You don’t want the wildlife eating it all!
5. Don’t Forget About Medicine Park!
I think a lot of people go up to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge to go hiking and forget to visit Medicine Park. This is a quaint (kind of odd) town (more like a village) on the outskirts of the Wildlife Refuge that features home cooked meals and pretty cool photo spots. There is a river running right through town that allows for swimming in the summer as well as a few unique bridges.We visited the tiny coffee shop there called
We visited the tiny coffee shop there called Cobblescones for some morning caffeine, then went to the Riverside Cafe for lunch. It was great to get some normal food in our bellies after eating camping food all weekend. If you decide to visit Medicine Park, definitely go exploring! It’s a small enough town that you can cover the whole thing in about twenty minutes, but it’s a very cool little area. Just don’t trespass in the abandoned buildings. We were scolded sharply by one of the locals after venturing into one out of curiosity.
Quick note: Medicine Park is kind of creepy because the population is very small. But this only adds to its allure.
So there you go! Don’t do any of those things I just mentioned and you should have a great time! I hope you can visit the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge soon. It’s so worth it, whether you live close by or 3 hours away like we do. There are so many trails out there we didn’t have time to hike. I know I’ll definitely be back to tackle them!
So three friends and I decided to drive from Dallas, TX to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge for this camping weekend. It took us 3 hours to get there, but we were pumped so we went hiking immediately after unpacking. The weather was sunny during the day, but cold at night. You can expect the campground to be full by mid-evening if you don’t have a reservation. So I would encourage you to get there in the morning or early afternoon if you were unable to snag a campsite.
We visited Elk Mountian and the Lost Lake hiking trails. Both were excellent experiences and not hard hiking at all. You can get to the top of Elk Mountain in about an hour depending on your pace. Make sure to visit the Visitor Center in the Wildlife Refuge for some free hiking trail maps!
Here’s the official Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge website for more information: