The Crab Eyes are a unique rock formation in the northern part of the Charon's Garden Wilderness in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma. The name comes from two large parallel boulders delicately balanced on a thin column of granite. The views from the Crab Eyes is spectacular, with Elk Mountain, Mt. Lincoln, Granite Mountain, Twin Rocks Mountain, Charon's Garden Mountain and Sunset Mountain all visible.
The Crab Eyes
The formation seems incredibly unlikely, especially in light of the fact that the balanced rocks are composed of unglaciated granite. Nonetheless, the enormous boulders are balanced precariously on the top of a large granite column. One of the two boulders is actually balanced on top of a third boulder, rather than the column itself. The formation has been attributed to the eroding effects of wind.
Climbing is popular on the Crab Eyes and there are numerous routes established on the east, west and south walls. The north side of the Crab Eyes column tapers off gradually. This is the route to the top for the non-technical climbers.
Be sure to stop and eat at the Meers Store after a day of hiking and climbing!
The non-technical route to the top.
From the trailhead at the Sunset picnic area cross the bridge over the pond and follow the shoreline west to the official wilderness boundary. Here the official Charon's Garden trail begins. Proceed west, following the creekbed (which is usually dry). When the trail turns south away from the creek, a well established use trail can be observed crossing the creek bed. Follow this trail west, climbing out of the drainage and up a grassy ridge where views of Elk Mountain and the Charon's Garden interior open up. The Crab Eyes also come into view. Continue west for a half mile or so. When one is roughly parallel with the Crab Eyes you can either bushwhack south to the base of the Eyes or follow one of several faint climbers trails. These can be unreliable, but as long as you continue heading south towards the Eyes, they are easy to find.
Once at the base of the column, there are numerous climbing routes to the top. For non technical climbers, the north end of the column tappers off gradually and it is possible to climb to the top. One must first ascend a short crack and then simply walk up the long granite rib to the top.
An excellent view of the granite rib can be found
. Thanks to Mark Doiron for posting the image.
Another variation is to climb the first crack and then proceed about 15 feet along the rib. Looking down and to the right one will notice a small tunnel that continues below the rib. It is possible to pass through the tunnel and then climb some boulders to the top.
The approach to the Crab Eyes
The Crab Eyes from the approach route
From I-44 take Highway 49 (exit 45). Go west 10 miles to the Refuge gate. Proceed through the park, past the visitors and turn right at the stop sign. Continue west and turn left into the Sunset Picnic Area.
If coming from Highway 62, take Highway 115 (Cache exit) north to the Refuge Gate. Proceed north. The road will turn west and continue until turning left into the Sunset Picnic Area.
The Crab Eyes is located in the Charon's Garden Wilderness Area of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Unlike most wilderness area, this one is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). No permits or fees are required to climb, but camping is by permit only. Wilderness rules and ethics apply.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Route 1, Box 448,
Indiahoma, OK 73552 (580) 429-3222.
West face of the Crab Eyes
Camping in the wilderness is by permit only. These can be obtained for $2.00 at the visitors center or by mail. Permits are issued for a maximum of ten people in the backcountry at one time. Only the northern portion of the wilderness is open to camping and no fires are permitted. Watch out for bison and longhorns, since they tend to wander through this area.
Doris campground is a few miles away and is a good option if you do want to sleep in the backcountry. Another great option is the group campground on the eastern border of the wilderness. It is much cheaper than the Doris campground and you can head up into the wilderness directly from there if you do not mind some bushwhacking.
Department of the Interior
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
R.R. #1 Box 448
Indiahoma, OK 73552
Refuge Camping Site
When To Go
The Wichita Mountains can be accessed year-round. Spring and fall are generally the best months. Spring brings excellent wildflower displays, notably paintbrusha nd blanket flowers. Fall has surprisingly good color. Both are generally cooler than summer. Summer is still a descent time to go, but it can be hot. Winter offers an unusual time to visit the Wichitas. While the rains may render the rock unclimbable, the abundance of waterfalls, the increased vivdnesss of the colors and the solitude make this a good time to hike in the backcountry.
External Links Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
Wichita Mountains Climbers Association