Elk Mountain Trail, Charon's Garden Wilderness, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, OK
Length: 2.20 mi.
Type: Out & Back

About This Trail

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ACTIVITIES: Hiking, wildlife refuge

LENGTH OF HIKE: 2.2 miles

OUT AND BACK OR LOOP: Out and back







DOGS ALLOWED: Yes, on leash




POTENTIAL CHILD OR BABY HAZARDS: Rocks, steep boulders, river

GEAR SUGGESTIONS: Carrier for younger children, hiking or trail shoes, sunscreen

If you like steps and a good workout, this is a hike you’ll want to do if you are in the Oklahoma City area. Located almost 2 hours to the southwest in the western corner of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, this hike is one where the Oklahoma views really show themselves off, especially if you hike in the morning before the heat starts. There’s little shade, so consider hiking in cooler parts of the day and not in the middle of summer. Avoid this hike if it’s over 90 degrees!

For a little history on Elk Mountain, it’s located in the 59,000-acre Wichita  Mountains Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1901 and is the oldest refuge managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Located within the park, you’ll find a number of animals that were once wiped out in this area but now have been  reintroduced, like bison, river otters, prairie dogs, and burrowing owls. Also grazing the prairies around this hike are Rocky Mountain elk and white-tailed deer, as well as Texas longhorn cattle.

This hike is located in the Charons Garden Wilderness area of the refuge and starts out from the parking lot by crossing over a deep river with a steep bank, so no water play in this one, unfortunately. Continue to the trailhead, and as you walk, you’ll notice how much your kids will love climbing the rocks throughout the hike. Little legs can hike a good amount, thanks to well-manicured stairs, but as you get to the summit, consider holding hands. Once on top of the summit, there are about 40 acres to explore, and you can spend a good hour or two roaming around taking in the views. Maybe have a picnic?

For new parents, there are no benches for feeding, but the boulders should suffice for snack breaks. The summit is pretty exposed, so it can get windy. Hiking boots would be ideal for the crushed rock/dirt surface and to climb up rocks, but any trail-type shoe will suffice.

Best time of year to visit this trailhead? The spring or fall is the nicest, as the summer can get hot with sun exposure. Despite its rocky nature, the trail is well maintained, and at the time she hiked it, Jennifer Campbell said even her 2-year- old enjoyed hiking it and was climbing over the rocks without a problem. Look out for the intense prickly pear cacti in this area, especially if you have dogs. One hiker reported picking thorns out of her dog’s coat for an hour after the hike.

Best time of year to visit this hike is in the spring, when the landscape comes alive with wildflowers like the bright yellow balsamroot and blue and purple spiderwort. In the fall, the upper part of the trail comes alive with scrub oak changing colors before dropping leaves. This is a perfect stop if you are traveling anywhere near I-40 or I-44, so take the time to visit and you won’t be disappointed.

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Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, Summer, and Winter
Surface type Dirt
Elevation gain 570 ft.
Stroller friendly No
ADA accessible No
Water fountains Yes
Bathrooms Yes
Cell reception Spotty
Pet friendly Yes
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby No
Emergency support
within 5 miles

Trail highlights

Creek / River and Natural Play Area

“There are great opportunities for views most of the way. You just have to stop and turn around on your way up to the summit, otherwise you can see it on the way back down. We were there on an incredibly foggy day, so I would imagine there is quite a bit of sun exposure without fog, so be ready for that. There are only a few areas that are wooded. The rest are shrubs and rock landscape.” — JENNIFER CAMPBELL

Trail Contributor

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Hike it Baby Trail Guide is managed by the Family Trail Guide team. If a trail has been “abandoned” by the initial owner, it gets adopted by the team. Also, if there are no trails in the area, the Family Trail Guide team researches trails that are family friendly in the area to insure that hikes cover all areas where Hike it Baby hikes.


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