Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge: Hiking, Camping, and Wildlife Watching

Hiking in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

You’re in the right place if you enjoy buffalo roaming the plains during the day, dark, starry skies at night, and adventures with limited cell phone reception. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful place in Oklahoma to unplug, connect with nature, go camping, hiking, and sightseeing.

Located outside of Medicine Park, it’s only three hours from Tulsa or an hour and a half from Oklahoma City, making it a convenient place for people who want to get outdoors.

We live in Oklahoma and love exploring the Wichita Mountains; here’s where to stay and what to do while visiting the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Where To Camp

left photo: Aliner camper and cooking grill; right photo: dog looking out the window of a camper.

Doris Campground.

Doris Campground is the main campground inside the refuge. There are spots for tents and RVs. For the RV sites, there are electric but no water hookups. Each camping area does have a community water spigot to get water. Every site has a fire pit, picnic table, and grill.

There is one bathhouse with running water, showers, and flushing toilets. The other toilet areas around the campground only have vault toilets.

Guests can book directly on recreation.gov (link to reservation system). Cell phone reception is limited in the area, so you’ll want to make reservations online beforehand. Here is a link for the campground map.

Our Experience: We stayed in loop B with our Aliner. It is a nice place to camp with views of Quanah Parker Lake. We appreciated that the campsite was paved and flat for our rig, with trees for shade and wind blocking. We even saw deer and wild turkeys. The campground does not have cell phone reception.

There is one more area to camp, the Fawn Creek Youth Campground, but it is for group sites.

What To Do in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Hiking in Charons Garden Wilderness Area.

Charons Garden Wilderness Area.

The refuge has grasslands and impressive granite mountains. Hiking, driving around, and looking for wildlife (elk, American bison, Texas longhorn cattle), wildlife photography, and kayaking are popular activities. There are over 15 miles of trails and numerous freshwater lakes.

Boulder Picnic Area

left photo: man and dog hiking the Narrows trail; right photo: view of the 40 Foot Hole on the Kite Trail.

The Narrows / 40 Foot Hole.

We parked at the Boulder Picnic Area and hiked part of the Kite Trail to the 40 Foot Hole and waterfall. We did see a loan buffalo roaming around. We also hiked the Narrows. Both trails are along the water and have some of the park’s most iconic views.

Charons Garden Wilderness Area

Hiking in Charons Garden Wilderness Area.

Charons Garden Wilderness Area.

Spend an afternoon driving around the park. We did to see views of Elk Mountain and the Charons Garden Wilderness Area. Next time we visit, we plan on hiking more in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area to Post Oak Falls and Treasure Lake.

If you want to spend the night backcountry, a permit is required.

Holy City Area

The Holy City in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

The Holy City.

We swung by the Holy City, Rush Lake, and Jed Johnson Lake along our drive. The Holy City is a stage for an annual Easter Pageant. Jed Johnson Lake has a cool medieval-looking tower, and Rush Lake is a good spot for a snack. We saw prairie dogs and longhorn cattle roaming around.

Meers Gate Road

Texas Longhorn at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Texas Longhorn.

If you want to see the Parallel Forrest, drive the road to Meers Gate. The Mount Scott Mountain Biking Trail can be accessed off this road (we didn’t do the trail).

Mount Scott

Man standing on the top of Mount Scott.

Views from the top of Mount Scott.

We loved driving the winding road to the top of Mount Scott. Once we got to the summit, we were greeted with panoramic views of Lake Elmer Thomas, Lake Lawtonka, and the Wichita Mountains. It was super windy, so hold onto your hats!

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Resources

American Bison in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

American Bison.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service manages the national wildlife refuge. There is a visitor center in the park. They have maps inside and a few educational exhibits.

Here is the link to the map you can get at the visitor center.

More Things To Know

left photo: hiking in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge; right photo: views of the creek and ancient geology.

Hiking the Kite Trail.

Cost: It’s free to enter the park and explore. If you are camping, there are camping fees.

Dogs – Dogs are allowed at the campground and on the trails.

Weather – Be mindful of the weather when you’re exploring this area. This is Tornado Alley. It also gets hot in the summer and can be windy.

Snakes – Be careful hiking and exploring. The refuge is home to rattlesnakes and copperheads.

Ticks – We saw a few signs that said to be mindful of ticks. We always hike in long pants and spray our clothes with tick spray to help prevent bites. We also ensure our dog is updated on his flea and tick prevention medicine.

Cell Phone Reception is Poor – If you plan to go hiking, download maps for offline use because cell phone reception is hit-and-miss in the park. There is no reception at the Doris Campground. There is cell reception on the top of Mount Scott and then on the eastern side of the park, closer to the Medicine Park entrance.

Fort Sill Army Base – If you hear anything going, “boom, boom, boom,” know the refuge is next to the Army’s field artillery school near Lawton. So don’t worry, but you might hear or feel cannon rounds (we did!). We support our troops.

Have Fun Visiting the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Ancient geology in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, stream with waterfall.

The 40 Foot Hole.

The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a great road trip in Southwestern Oklahoma. We love seeing the buffalo and longhorns, hanging out at camp, and hiking the trails through the prairie and ancient geology. If you’re camping, watch the starry skies – they are breathtaking.

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.