If you enjoy hiking and being outdoors then you may be surprised to find that there’s more to see than cotton fields. Less than an hour from Altus is the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, and the Elk Mountain Trail, featuring scenic views of the area.
Elk Mountain is a weekend opportunity to get outdoors and stay active. Kids will enjoy this short hike, and it’s very well marked so you don’t have to worry much about getting lost along the way.
This trail is also dog-friendly, so feel free to bring your best buddy along on a leash, and prepare to have a tired dog on the ride home.
My husband Dave and I went hiking at Elk Mountain Trail a few weekends ago. The weather has been unusually warm lately, so we thought we would use the sunshine wisely. We arrived at the Charon’s Garden/Elk Mountain Trailhead (see map) around 11:15 am on a Sunday, and discovered that the parking lot was almost full. This trail is rather well-known as a place to hike on weekends.
We started our gradual ascent up the trail around 11:20 am, with my husband leading the way. The sun was bright, which only highlighted the colorful Fall foliage and leafy trees framing the trail.
As we continued up Elk Mountain, the trees were replaced with impressive granite boulders, cacti, shrubs, and native grasses. We made it to the top around 12:10 pm, after stopping to take photos in a few different scenic spots.
There were other hikers climbing around on the boulders with their kids and dogs, and all the good sitting spots were taken, so we took a trail in the opposite direction, and tried to find a more quiet place to admire the results of our climb. Eventually we discovered a flat-faced and sunny granite boulder overlooking a valley, and set up our picnic lunch there. Salami sandwiches… yum!!
Only a few other hikers passed behind us on the trail while we ate lunch, and they were all friendly. It’s just more difficult to truly appreciate nature when there are ten or more unfamiliar voices babbling in the background, and heavy footsteps following you on the trail. There comes a time when I personally don’t want to say hello to people every few minutes. I could do that at Walmart.
As we descended back down to the trailhead, the amount of foot traffic going up the Elk Mountain Trail intensified. There were probably about 30-40 other people hiking in the opposite direction. So lesson learned, if it’s silence and alone time that you seek, then don’t hike up Elk Mountain on a weekend. At least show up to hike around 9:00 am.
Despite the popularity of the trail, I give this short hike a very good rating. It’s free, fun, and you can wear out the kids and dogs. What more can you ask for around here?
I recommend wearing slip resistant shoes on Elk Mountain Trail, since there are times you may have to climb around and over boulders. I hiked in a pair of really comfortable Merrell sandals that I’ve gone hiking in Greece and Costa Rica with. Overall though, I feel like the majority of people could make it to the top easily. If you feel out of breath, don’t be ashamed to take a break. There’s no rush.
A couple of PSAs for when you go hiking:
• All dogs poop, but your dog’s poop sucks. Pick up the poop! It’s awesome that you can bring your dog along on this trail, so don’t ruin that benefit for everyone else by being an irresponsible owner.
• If you hiked it in, please hike it out too. Don’t leave your garbage along the trail. We brought our picnic lunch, and took all our trash with us back down the mountain. I once saw a dirty diaper stuffed in the rocks along the The New Horizon Trail at Quartz Mountain. Don’t do that.
• Rattlesnakes are native to the area as well as other species of snakes, so keep an eye out.
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