When I was a kid, I remember going on several camping trips with my family or Saturday morning walks on nearby hiking trails. So when a lot of my travel plans were put on hold last year, I found myself going back to those roots and taking time to explore more of the great outdoors.
I started small, retracing walking paths from my childhood, before taking out-of-town trips to state parks and wildlife refuges. I relished the adventure of discovering a new place while also loving the fact that I was getting to work out my body. It wasn’t long—some time in the early fall months—before I learned of Black Mesa, the tallest point in Oklahoma. And of course, I knew I had to climb it.
Black Mesa is located in Kenton, Oklahoma, an incredibly small town near the western border of Oklahoma—or what we call “the panhandle.” It’s a plateau that stretches over Colorado, New Mexico, and Colorado. Coming in at 4,973 feet (1,516 meters), it’s the tallest point in Oklahoma. However, at its highest, it measures 5,705 feet (1,739 meters)—this is in Colorado.
Black Mesa is also home to several wildlife, like lions and lizards. I’ve also heard that this is one of the best places in Oklahoma to see some of the brightest stars. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to do any stargazing while I was there, but my experience was still so worthwhile. I mean, just look at the views I did get.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. What we really need to talk about is what the hike up was like. Now, for some of you—the avid rock climbers or the marathon runners—5,000 feet in elevation and roughly 8.5 walking miles may not be a big deal. Honestly, I didn’t think I needed that much physical preparation before going either. I figured I’d been on a couple new hikes just a few weeks before going on this one, I was fairly in shape, it couldn’t be that hard, right?
And it wasn’t. I mean, there are definitely areas where you can feel the incline in your legs from extra exerted effort, but for the most part, the hike itself is fairly easy. The hard part is the timing.
It took me at least 4 hours to hike the whole thing, to the top and back. Granted, I did stop along the way to snap a couple pictures and snack on some popcorn. But I was also alone—meaning it may take you longer if you’re going with a large group or you have small children with you.
You can also venture off a little even while on the trail. I don’t think there’s much to wander off and see while you’re still at the bottom, but once you get to the top, you can go off in all directions as far as the edge of the mesa. There’s even a column up there that marks the highest point in Oklahoma.
In addition to information about Black Mesa, there’s also some pretty cool statistics about how far certain states are in either direction of the column. I walked a short while north to see a little bit of Kansas. It was pretty plain if you ask me (just a little bit of humor for you).
Overall, for anyone looking for a memorable adventure—families and solo travelers alike—I would definitely recommend making the trip out here. It takes some time to really experience, but it’s a fun outdoor activity and the views really are something else. There are plenty of places to stop along the way, just in case you get tired on your hike. There are even little benches marking the miles you’ve walked.
You can also camp out in the Black Mesa State Park itself, which is different from the trail, or the Black Mesa Bed & Breakfast. Other lodging options are a bit limited as the nearest town with any kind of hotels, gas, groceries, and that sort of thing is about 30 miles away. But at least if you decide to stay a night, you might be able to catch a glimpse of that infamous night sky Black Mesa is also famous for.
I am pretty proud of myself for hiking the tallest point in Oklahoma. It feels like a travel/outdoors-y accomplishment I was able to complete safely in my own backyard. And now that I’ve been to the highest point in Oklahoma, I’m wondering if maybe I should take a trek down to the lowest point too? Let me know what you think in the comments section down below! You can also share some of your best outdoor hike stories with me in the comments! I might pick a few to do in this upcoming year. Thanks for reading!
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