I did my first State High Point hike in 2012. I thought it would take 5-7 years to complete all 49 states (I had already conceded that I would not climb Denali in Alaska). Here I am 8 years later and I just completed number 26. There are 2 failed attempts in the previous 8 years, but even if they had been successful, I would only be 57% finished. When I realized this sad statistic I called up the crew and said – we need to get a January hike booked. Where do you go hiking when you want to get a trip into January? Somewhere in the south, where it MAY not be freezing.
We had already completed all the southern destinations with the exception of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Since OK was the only hike (the other two are walk up’s) we chose it as our destination. Oklahoma’s High Point is called Black Mesa and it is located in the far western part of the state’s panhandle. Amarillo is the nearest airport, and that is where the crew assembled. Also because this hike is on the easy to moderate end of the spectrum, we did something new; added people to our group. Along with myself, Jason and Kerry, John (Kerry’s hubby) and Jack (his 13 year old son) joined us.
We started out from Amarillo at 8 am, and with stops along the way, made it to the trail head parking lot at 11:30 am. Interesting to note here; there is a B&B extremely close to this high point which comes well recommended. This is one of the US’s darkest sky area and would be great for star gazing.
This is a well defined trail with great signage. It is 4.2 miles to the top, and relatively flat for the first 2.7 miles. There are mile marker benches along the way.
Oklahoma was added to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Its nickname is the Sooner State, which comes from the settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date. In other words, the cheaters. The State of Oklahoma was the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907.
OK shares its border with six states (Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, and Kansas). It is the state where shopping carts were invented and the first parking meter was installed.
To your left as you follow the trail there is a mesa that rises about 600 ft, and as you gaze at it you may wonder if you can see the High Point. You can’t. The high point is on the mesa but ahead of you.
The trail is an old jeep trail so you can see a double track for most of the trip. Just before Mile 3 you start doing switch backs up the Mesa and make all the elevation for the climb in about .5 miles. When you reach the top, you still have about a mile to walk to reach the marker. And although it is incredibly flat, you still can’t see the marker.
Just follow the trail and finally you will find the marker. There is a bench and a monument. When we got there the notebook for signing names was completely full, and there were various scraps of paper, rocks and name badges in the ammo box. We left our names on our trail map.
We ate lunch and took some pictures. We ended up being at the summit for about 30 minutes before heading back down.
Unfortunately, the HP is in the middle of the mesa, so there are no drop dead views looking into the valleys until you start going back down.
Black Mesa is ranked 23rd of the State HP’s, at 4,973 ft above sea level. It is located in the Black Mesa Nature Preserve near Kenton, OK. The trail head sits at 4,319 ft for a total elevation gain of 654 ft (most of it in less than a mile up a switch back). The round trip distance is 8.4 miles. It took us 1 hr 45 min to ascend to the summit, and 1 hr 30 min to hike down. Total round trip hiking time was 3 hr 15 min. We spent 30 min at the summit. There are no amenities along the trail or at the summit. Bring 2 liters of water, bug spray, a hat, and clothing for a sudden change in weather. We brought lunch, but the trail is short enough to do without food. In January, there were no bugs and no rattlesnakes – if you are planning a trip in the warm months beware of snakes and dress appropriately. I highly suggest wearing long pants only because the grasses can scratch. You could do this in athletic shoes. The trail is great, easy to follow. There is ample parking at the trailhead and no fees for park entrance or parking. There is a pit toilet at the trailhead, and it was very clean when we were there.
Once we were back in the car, we headed back to Amarillo. More on that in the next post. Until then, Happy Trails!