Gloss Mountain: A View From The Top
Oklahoma is filled with unique geological areas to visit. You can easy spend a lot of time in the state exploring the numerous natural attractions in the northern portion of the state in awe. From caverns and the salt plains to the area known as Gloss Mountain, your adventures can be profound.
I took a bit of time to visit Gloss Mountain on a hot summer day making sure to get a jump start early in the morning. As I arrived to the site, the landscape dramatically shifted from flat farm land to jutting red mesas. The site could not be easily missed as it was unlike anything else in the area.
From Highway 412 the entrance looks more like a roadside pull off than a typical park entrance. If you happen to miss the signs you will be confused as to where to actually enter the park itself. No large visitor center, no grand entrance, but instead a humble sign and gate with an information kiosk which is positioned beside a pull off areas with a few picnic tables.
From this entrance however you wind down a small roadway and to a much larger parking structure. Here you will find additional picnic areas, a hiking trail and of course the park restrooms. I do urge you to stop at the kiosk before the visit to the main area however, here you will find a very helpful map of geological points and points of interest.
When we arrived the mesa itself didn’t appear much of a challenge. The hike to the summit is only around 200 feet in elevation gain, not anything terrible for anyone who is active. However the distance and elevation gain are not the real challenge, it is the winding and meandering stairs, narrow bridges and the final scramble to the top. Looking on at the trail it seems pretty straight forward, but as we learned a bit later, the last little bit of trail isn’t one for everyone. By no means is anything about this trail ADA accessible, although there is a smaller area which is on the way to the historical marker.
Speaking of the historical marker, the information provided at that location is vastly important for fully understanding the location itself.
At one point in time the area was an inland ocean, the shoreline actually ran as far south as the Arbuckle Mountains near Ardmore, OK. At that time layers were formed which later were unveiled as waters receded and revealed the mesas we see today. The layers were the home of shale and gypsum and formed crystals which glistened in the sunlight created from Selenite.
To understand how this is visible even today, when you look on at the mountains and surrounding areas look for the white rings, these are gypsum deposits.
Native Americans roamed these lands freely using them as hunting grounds until the 1800s and it was a known area to be traveled through by the Apache, Kiowa and Comanches. In 1835 this area was part of over 6 million acres that became the Cherokee Nation.
Throughout the history of this location many explorers traveled through the area documenting the mesas and their unique make up in the midst of the otherwise flatlands of this portion of Oklahoma. They were called the Shining Mountains and then the Glass Mountains before an incorrect marking on a map deemed them the Gloss Mountains.
Now a visit to the mesas is one for new adventurers to enjoy as they are able to learn a bit more about the area in a unique way.
We departed on the trail noticing on the bright sunny day that the mounds of the area truly did shimmer in the light. It was unique to see the bright crystals shine through the otherwise bold red dirt of Oklahoma.
We began to ascend in elevation over some uniquely placed steps which felt a bit spongy with each step before making it to the first rest area and observation point. This point is just a short distance from the trailhead and offers a great elevated view of the deep red veins of the mountains still near the base.
As we continued to wind through stairs and steps ranging from metal steps to earthen ones, we arrived upon the second observation area, this one a picnic table located in the only shade along the trail. This viewpoint was slightly different than the previous with a bit more detail being painted, almost able to see beyond the ridge which separates you from the roadway.
Just a few turns and sets of stairs later we had reached the final scramble to the summit. This area is the most difficult of the trail as there is a handrail however it is much higher than your natural step and no stairs area available. Instead you must use sure footing or scramble. While this wasn’t difficult to me, I noticed that it wasn’t as easy for others and there was a noticeable struggle for footing.
This area only is around 15 yards in distance but it is slippery and has a considerable amount of loose gravel. My suggestion is make sure you don’t have things in your hands when you make this attempt and wear shoes fitting for hiking.
The views from the summit area spectacular. Because It is a mesa you can navigate the entirety of the top with ease and see many landmarks and pieces of unique geology including Lone Peak, the highest butte, the red washes, areas entirely void of vegetation and numerous ponds and lakes.
The view is worth the climb.
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