So you've traveled to the Oklahoma City area? Or you're a central Oklahoma resident who hasn't made it too far from home. You might think that the state is primarily red dirt-covered flat areas. Well, that is definitely not the case. Choose one of the many wonderful day trip options from the metro and you'll find beautiful, diverse terrains and natural features, perhaps none as stunning as the Wichita Mountain region in the southwest portion of the state. With a wildlife refuge, interesting attractions, the incredible view on Mount Scott and more, it's certainly worth the short drive.
Getting to Lake Murray from Oklahoma City is a breeze. Take I-44 west past Will Rogers Airport and southwest out of town. This is the H.E. Bailey Turnpike. The route passes exits for Newcastle and Chickasha, and the exit for the wildlife refuge is prior to reaching the city of Lawton. Total driving time is roughly an hour and a half.
In the following slides, get a complete breakdown of the area and all the things to check out.
Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, OK is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. According to their statistics, its 59,020 acres is home to 806 species of plants, 240 species of bird, 64 species of reptiles and amphibians, 36 different kinds of fish and 50 types of mammals. A large section of the refuge, about 20,000 acres, is undisturbed mixed grass prairie land where animals native to the area such as the American bison, the Rocky Mountain elk and white-tailed deer can graze. Visitors will also find a large herd of Texas Longhorn cattle.
The refuge has many educational opportunities for families and kids. In addition, it houses a vast array of hiking trails, offering anywhere from 2-4 hours of nature and animal watching. Hunting and fishing are allowed on the refuge with proper permits.
Prairie dogs are also worth mentioning, as they flourish in several areas of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. These vast communities have many viewing areas for visitors to watch and enjoy the animals' often entertaining antics. It is important to note, though, that these are wild animals and interacting with them is not allowed.
“The Prince of Peace” is the longest running Easter passion play in the nation and is held annually at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge’s 66-acre area known as “Holy City.” Visually representative of Biblical Israel, the area also includes a wedding chapel and a carved brick memorial for the victims of the OKC bombing.
The route to the top is long and winding, and once you get there, there's not much to actually do. But do not neglect a stop at Mount Scott because the top offers one of the most amazing views in the entire state. At 2,464 feet above sea level, Mount Scott sits just to the west of Lake Lawtonka. Park at the top, and walk out onto the observation area or hop along the rocks as you enjoy the beautiful vista.
At the base of Mount Scott is Lake Lawtonka, a city of Lawton lake that, while small, offers a number of recreational activities:
- Camping - Whether you're looking for RV areas, electrical hook-ups or more primitive campsites, Lake Lawtonka has you covered. On the east side are restrooms and shower facilities, and there are similar amenities at Robinson's Landing on the north side. No reservations are accepted; see a list of camping fees.
- Fishing - Lake Lawtonka is a good lake for several types of fish, but particularly smallmouth bass. In fact, the largest smallmouth bass ever caught in the state of Oklahoma was at Lawtonka, an 8-pound, 7-ouncer reeled in by Ryan Wasser in 2012.
- Boating - There are three boat ramps and two marinas.
- Biking - The Lawtonka trails cover many miles around the lake. While some areas offer great challenges for advanced riders, even those looking for a leisurely ride will enjoy the wooded and natural experience.
For military and history enthusiasts, drive just a bit south from the wildlife refuge to the community of Lawton. There you'll find Fort Sill, the only remaining Army installation built during the Indian Wars that is still active today. It is a National Historic Landmark and is the home of the Fort Sill Museum, the Field Artillery Museum, and the US Army Field Artillery School. This area of Oklahoma was once home to the Apache Indians as well as Geronimo himself. Fort Sill houses the gravesite of Geronimo.
Where to Eat?
Oklahoma City has plenty of excellent hamburgers, so don't make the trip just for this. But if you're already in the area, take a stop at the Meers Restaurant, a historic spot many claim has the best burger in the state.
In nearby Medicine Park, enjoy steak and seafood at the Old Plantation restaurant or visit the unique Small Mountain Street Tacos stand. Riverside Cafe offers good food and a great view while Cockeyed Bobs Cobblestone Cafe is a small restaurant with particularly tasty breakfast options. Area visitors can also drive to Lawton, only a few minutes south, for many more dining choices.
Where to Stay?
There are enough things to do around the Wichita Mountains area of Oklahoma to make it more than just a day trip. So get a hotel, enjoy the sunset and don't rush.
If you're looking for something different, reserve the Wichita Mountain Lodge or one of the cabins. The lodge is great for large groups, the cabins for smaller, and all offer a quiet environment.
Then there's Quartz Mountain Resort. Located not too far to the northwest, the facility offers not only hotel rooms and suites but also rustic cabins. While there, check out the hiking and biking trails, swimming pool, 18 hole golf course and more. It's also a good place for weddings and other group functions, as it features outdoor event areas, large ballroom and conference center.