The summit of Granite Mountain viewed from the divide between Post Oak Creek and Styx Canyon
Oklahoma's Wichita Mountains are a vertical feast amidst the famine flatness of the Great Plains. No portion of the range is as rugged and wild as the Charon's Garden Wilderness and it offers up several fine peaks, a descent number of which exceed 2,000. Of these, one of the finest and most prominent is Granite Mountain. This peak, the southernmost 2,000er in the wilderness area, offers remote, rugged scrambling, scenic rock formations and spectacular vistas. It can be climbed as primary destination or strung together with other peaks such as Twin Rocks or Charon's Garden Mountains. Either way, Granite Mountain makes for one of the memorable outings in the Sooner State.
One of the great drawbacks of the Wichita Mountains is that so little of the range is accessible to the public. Between the "animals only" area that makes up the northern half of the wildlife refuge, Fort Sill (an army base) and private ownership, the vast preponderance of the great granite wonderland of the Wichitas is beyond the grasp of those adventurers who seek to explore these mountains. Consequently, the Charon's Garden Wilderness is the great healing balm for the hiker and peakbaggar. Though small, the wilderness is densely packed with high peaks and rugged canyons. The territory beyond the narrow margin of Post Oak Creek, the summit of Elk Mountain and the primitive camping area south of Sunset Peak is rarely traveled, which means that it retains a deeply wild character far greater than its diminutive size. Standing alone as the grand southern sentinel over the Charon's Garden backcountry, Granite Mountain is one of the most rugged peaks in the wilderness. It is thus, one of the prime destinations for those who seek fantastic views and great peaks.
Granite Mountain seen while climbing out of Styx Canyon
The fourth highest peak in the Charon's Garden Wilderness, Granite Mountain is a large dome composed of reddish-pink weathered granite. In shape, it is strikingly similar to Twin Rocks Mountain
, its slightly higher neighbor to the north. However, unlike Twin Rocks, which has classic dome features on all sides, Granite Mountain's eastern flank has a fairly large basin folded into it. This basin presents a different element to the peaks ascent, since the hike through the small meadows and large granite slabs, backed by the basin headwall to the north passes through an area that sees few human visitors. Indeed, once inside the basin, it feels like it is a world until itself. In the Wichita Mountains, this is a feeling usually reserved for the bottoms of the remote canyons, rather than just below the summit of one of the ranges highest peaks. Consequently, it makes for pleasant hiking en route to the summit. The converse is true for the other sides of the mountain, for they are all steep, nearly vertical rock faces. This is particularly the case on the north side, where the summit falls away steeply into the unnamed canyon that separates the peak from Twin Rocks Mountain. Above Styx Canyon on the mountain's west side, Granite Mountain forms part of the granite perimeter that boxes in the lower canyon. A steep but obvious draw provide access to the summit from this side.
Although Granite Mountain is fairly close to the trailhead, it is not climbed as often as some of the other peaks in the Charon's Garden Wilderness. Though more remote, the Crab Eyes
sees more visitors, as do the popular peaks Elk Mountain
and Mount Lincoln
. Indeed, though it is anonymous to most people, it is most often viewed from the southern trailhead as people hike the Charon's Garden Trail or drive north on Post Oak Road. Despite being appreciated by only a few of those who enter the Charon's Garden Wilderness, Granite Mountain is a proud guardian of the Wichita Mountains southern fringe.
Mount Lincoln seen from the flanks of Granite Mountain
Granite Mountain can be approached from numerous directions. The most commonly used approach is from the east, scrambling up the mountain from the Post Oak Lake drainage. A good approach is also viable by climbing over a rocky ridge separating Twin Rocks Mountain from the Crab Eyes and then descending down Styx Canyon to the base of Granite Mountain. More detailed information can be found here
Charon's Garden Wilderness Map
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.
Backcountry camping area between the Crab Eyes and Sunset Peak
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.
Refuge Camping Site
The headwall of the large basin on the east side of Granite Mountain
Granite Mountain 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.
Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge,
Route 1, Box 448,
Indiahoma, OK 73552
- Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge