Hiking The Wichita Mountains
What better place to hike than a wildlife preserve where nature abounds and is protected for all to see and enjoy. But not so often can you find one in your backyard like many Oklahomans do. In Lawton, Oklahoma a preserve designed to protect animals since 1901 offers just the environment for those looking for adventure as hiking and biking amongst some 240 species of birds, 64 reptiles, 36 fish and most notably the American buffalo, Texas Longhorns, prairie dogs, elk and white tail deer.
The site spans almost 60,000 acres including the surrounding area of the Wichita Mountains. Some 13 small lakes are cut from the prairie fields and native vegetation flourishes.
But perhaps one of the most important reasons this preserve stands was the pursuit of saving the American Buffalo from extinction. In 1907 this preserve single handily took charge of a project which brought 15 bison from the New York Zoological Park to the park after mass hunting had left the breed near extinct. From this number the population was allowed to grow unhunted and repopulated the breed taking them off the endangered listings.
Now those visiting the park can see some of the 650 which remain roaming free on the lands while enjoying paths, finding peaceful pull offs or simply stopping off for photos on the grounds. You can spend hours in the beauty of the Mount Scott area or on one of the nine trailheads ranging in distance from 1 to 6 miles. If biking is you’re your speed, there are paved and primitive trails for your level of intensity.
When I have been previously as well as this outing, I have noticed that the trails as well as hiking paths along the mountain side offer continued challenge which can vary with each excursion. No two trips to the preserve are the same and like the changing of the season the surroundings seem to change so vastly with each trip.
Because this is a preserve, it is important to remember to pack in and pack out your items, if it isn’t found in nature it should never be left behind this is not limited to plastics or food containers, I always keep a general rule that if you are outdoors keep it preserved for all around.
It is also important to be mindful of your surroundings that could include a variety or animals or plants. Be aware that rocky areas typically attract snakes during warmer months and during both spring and fall native plants ,which include poison oak and ivy grow wild.
Wear hiking friendly shoes such as boots or tennis shoes with grip on the bottom, some of the paths are on prairie lands however have taller vegetation while others are set in the mountainside, be equipped for either option.
Try rock climbing! If you are seeking more adventure look no further than some of the climbing walls well known amongst those in the climbing world. Make sure however to get a guide who can gear you accordingly.
Take water, it does get rather hot during summer months so make sure to prepare by taking bottled water with you. 1 Liter for each mile you plan on hiking minimum.
Stop off at the Visitor’s Center! Here not only do they have additional information about the preserve and its purpose they also have maps for hiking and additional programs offered.