I’ve always wanted to visit the Black Mesa area in the far western panhandle of Oklahoma, the highest point in the state. Even though we are located in the panhandle ourselves (barely), Black Mesa is a long drive, approximately 3 1/2 hours. That is farther than driving to OKC. When the weather is nice we love to take day trips that include discovering, exploring, eating or hiking. It is always a great experience and good family fun. I’m a huge believer in doing things with my family rather than buying “things”. The experiences are by far always the best memories. So, as most parents know, taking any drive over 30 minutes with a toddler is not easy. There are lots of, “Are we there yet?” , “Are we almost there?”. We try to play a few car games, but those entertain only so long. My husband downloaded the movie, “The Secret Life of Pets”, and that helped quite a bit with the long drive.
After a few pit stops for bathroom breaks, we finally made it to the park. The park was very clean and well kept. We visited in March, so I’m not sure how well it’s kept up in the Summer months when things are probably busier. They had very nice looking campsites. There were several campers and tents set up. There was also a group of boy scouts camping out. When I searched Pinterest I found several photos of the night sky in the Black Mesa area that were phenomenal! You are seriously in the middle of nowhere, and there are no city lights to obstruct the night skies so I can see how this would be a fantastic place to star gaze. I packed a picnic lunch, so we found a table first and ate our lunch. It was a perfect day for a picnic and it was very quiet and peaceful where we sat. Afte we ate we walked down to the water, we saw fish swimming around and my youngest wanted to toss a few rocks in the water. We walked up to the playground area next, our toddler was begging to play. The playground doesn’t have much and is a bit dated, but I liked it. It reminded me of my childhood. We also took a short hike just across the street from the playground. There was a cave looking spot that we wanted to check out.
We decided to go up to the Ranger Station to pick up some maps next. We got a map of the State Park and another one of “Black Mesa”, the state park and “Black Mesa” are not in the same area. You have to drive a few more miles to reach the actual highest point in Oklahoma. I was hoping to post my maps on here, but I gave one to a family that was lost. I do have the one of the state park, see below. I found one on the web, but it is not as good as the maps they provide at the park. Here’s a link to the “Black Mesa” map. You can also find a bit more information on the TravelOK website.
They have a display of petrified wood, so we visited that first. It was nothing super exciting, but nice to see and touch. My youngest was being cute and posed next to the wood for pictures. I’m not sure what made her do that because I never really ask her to pose. I mostly ask her to smile, and not stick her tongue out. lol!
We knew we would not be doing the hike at “Black Mesa” because it takes several hours to complete and that was not going to happen with my little family. So, we found a nice hiking trail at the State park, Bird Haven Trail. It was a nice hike with some moderate walking up and down the mesa, including great views of the park when you reach the top. We also saw quite a few birds, which given the name of the trail, was not surprising. We didn’t see a single person on the trail while hiking. Which was surprising, because it was the perfect day to be outdoors. The trail was longer than we expected, so we finally had to make our own way down the mesa and back to the car. It was a nice hike, but we left our water in the car and we were all thirsty. My youngest also had to use the bathroom very badly. We stopped at the restrooms, and they were very nice and clean. Always great to find when you’re in a smaller park and a very secluded area.
As we were leaving the park we drove to the overlook and had a nice view of Lake Carl Etling and the group campground. Our next stop, Black Mesa.