Crab Eyes in Charon's Garden Wilderness, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK, is a unique rock formation. While it is popular with technical climbers who don't mind the somewhat long approach, it also makes a nice hiker's destination with a class 4 climb to reach the base of the summit rocks. One nice thing is, despite its popularity, this is a less visited part of Charon's Garden Wilderness. Don't be surprised if you don't see another soul once you depart Charon's Garden Trail.
Bryan and Curtis on Crab Eyes.
Crab Eyes is located in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Park at Sunset picnic area, then hike the trail to Charon's Garden. There are no immediate signs to the wilderness, but take the road that is behind the two picnic area pit toilets.
Not this way!
After a short distance that road will cross a stream and there will be a sign indicating the entry to Charon's Garden Wilderness. Follow that trail along the bank of the creek. In the spring and summer, this trail will be well-shaded with dense foliage. After a few minutes you will arrive at another creek crossing. Here, you can either take the trail to the south, which leads to Valley of Boulders along the Charon's Garden Trail (again, there are no signs). Or, you can cross the creek and continue heading generally west. After passing through more dense foliage and making another creek crossing, the trail will make a gentle southerly turn. Stay on the trail, heading westerly by making one hard right-hand turn where the trail splits, until you arrive at a ridge where you can spot the Crab Eyes in the distance. If you arrive at the location shown in the image to the right, it would be best to retrace your steps several hundred yards and see if you missed that split in the trail--this way will require lots of bushwhacking and boulder hopping that you can generally avoid on the other trail. Follow the trail to the base of Crab Eyes (there will be more offshoot trails, but just keep heading towards Crab Eyes). It won't be too long before you arrive at a small overlook facing directly towards Crab Eyes. The trail peters out in the small canyon below the overlook. This route page takes over from there.
Overall route up Crab Eyes.
The non-technical route up Crab Eyes is partly a class 1/class 2 trail, and partly scrambling up rocks. Cross the small canyon below the overlook and scramble across the rocks on the other side. The magenta path is slightly more difficult with a few large drop-offs on big boulders. The green path offers an easier route that crosses smaller boulders. Once you are immediately below the Crab Eyes you will be where many of the technical climbs begin. Continue following the somewhat visible trail, as shown on the image. At this point the climb is class 3. You will soon arrive at the large boulder resting directly on top of another one shown in the image below. This is a good place to drop most of your gear before continuing to the summit.
Boulder humping required. Curtis (right) had to retreat from his path and follow Bryan.
Your path from here is to shimmy between the two boulders. The separation between the two was just barely enough to cause a size 10 boot to hang up, so you'll want to keep yourself as slender as possible as you pull and push yourself through this fun little obstacle (Note for photographers: Have your camera ready for this rock humping shot!).
The final rib to the top of Crab Eyes.
After you exit that tight spot, you can stand and walk up the slanted rocks to the top. There is about a 15-20 foot drop-off between the rock you'll be walking on and the rock behind it. Don't slip--it's wide enough to trap you very far down.
Water. Depending on the time of year there may be treatable water nearby, but don't count on it (during the hike in you pass a pond, but bison have been known to urinate and defecate in it). Climbing shoes would be nice, but we climbed in hiking boots.
"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go gack to its old dimensions."
--Oliver Wendell Holmes