Charons Garden Mountains Trail is a 6.9 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Indiahoma, OK that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until October.
Charon's Garden Wilderness is a beautiful part of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It is a rugged landscape of rocky cliffs and narrow canyons, full of fascinating rock formations and (in the spring) blooming wild flowers. Despite its relatively low elevation (around 2000 ft above sea level) and rather small variation in altitude, it is as close to Alpine landscape as you are going to get in Oklahoma. The landscape is rugged and rocky but also lush and full of life. Protected from farming due to its inaccessibility and rocky ground, it supports a variety of flora and fauna, including free roaming bison, elk, whitetail deer... and good number of rattlesnakes, so watch out when scrambling over the rocks. The Charon's Garden Trail connects southern trailhead located between Treasure and Post Oak Lakes to the more frequented Sunset trailhead. Starting at the south end has several advantages: it allows you to connect Charon's Garden Trail to the Elk Mountain trail and this way you get nice summit at the end of the hike out. Also, when you hike back, you end up between the two beautiful likes, framed by the rocky hills behind them, and you can end up your hike by chilling on a cliff above the Treasure Lake, drinking in the views. Start at the southern trailhead and start hiking north, following signs for the "Wilderness Path". Less than a mile into the hike, there is a short side hike to a small waterfall (Post Oak Waterfall). It is well worth the detour. Continue north, following the trail and occasional signs. You will follow the creek closely. There are several established trails, but some may dead end depending on the water level in the creek. Some backtracking may be required. When you get to the boulder field, the trail will follow the western slope of the canyon, helping you avoid the boulders. Remember the place where this trail descends back to the valley behind the boulder field. If you want to avoid scrambling over the boulders on the way back (fun but can be challenging if you pick the wrong path over the boulders), you will need to connect back on this trail on the way back. It is not obvious how to get back on this side trail. The rest of the hike to the Sunset Trailhead is pretty easy to follow and not technical at all. You will hike past the beautiful Sunset Lake and the surrounding picnic areas at the Sunset Trailhead and connect to the trail to the Elk Mountain. The trail is pretty easy to follow and take you to the top of the Elk Mountain, from where there are great views of the surrounding plains (and the roaming buffalo if you are lucky). Hike back, following the same trail in reverse.
In honor of Christopher Columbus Day, we got lost :D
So, I started on the south side entrance. It is extremely easy to find and easy to follow the trails. But if you want a more challenging and adventurous trip. Get to where the the lane splits and you can either go to the trail or the waterfall and go to the trail. Shortly after the little water basin with the little overflow the trail crosses a creek. After that stay to the right and start climbing. Anything you can do to stay away from the beaten trail. Lots of challenging climbs and descents. Makes you think and plan a route. And if u ever get lost make sure u have your trail app on and it will give you the general idea of where u are. I spent a good 3 hours just walking the rock walls and exploring the rock rooms. Than I took a detour on my way back to the start and hit the waterfall. It's small but still really cool to see. I won't say that I swam in the hole at the base of the waterfall cuz that would be wrong...
Great hike bouldering was challenging but fun. Make sure to take plenty of water or a filter to drink out of the steam. Side hike to post oak water fall is well worth it.
Love this trail. You can just imagine pterodactyls perched on the high boulders and cliffs. Bring water, and maybe even gloves if you want to scramble around on the rocks in the canyon.
Did most of this trail on Easter and it was virtually empty besides our group. Absolutely stunning views of the reserve! Definitely didn't expect to be going through a canyon in Oklahoma. The boulder field towards the end was tricky and took some fairly difficult navigating, but it was a blast! Next time, we'll make sure to finish it up and summit on the adjacent trail.
We really enjoyed this one. Lots of nice scenery! Beautiful waterfall! Boulders to climb around and over. We will go back
Strenuous? Yes. Rigorous? Yes again. Fun? Yes again. Someone please tell me what animal is leaving large piles of dung deep into the wilderness trail. There's no way a steer is getting down there. Can steer fly? Would definitely recommend to hiking enthusiasts, and anyone who wants to have a common garter snake slither over their boots.
Great trail. Ended up scrambling past the boulder field. Ran into a snake, so beware. Rock rooms are beautiful. Nice small waterfall.
Very fun trail with lots of backcountry options. From the sunset trail head you can access the backcountry and get great views with options to continue on and see things like the Crab Eyes (two boulders on a ridge that look like their namesake). You can continue to follow the trail towards the Treasure Lake campground but beware that there is a massive boulder field in the middle of the trail. We've never gone through them because we take our dog hiking but if your up for it I've heard scrambling through it is lots of fun (be careful for snakes hiding or bees/wasps). Once your past the field (or if you start from the treasure lake trail head) the southern part of the trail cuts through a canyon and is gorgeous. Several side trails take you to a waterfall or the top of Mt. Lincoln. Trail is vey rocky, lots of cacti, and I've heard snakes are an issue in warmer months (though I haven't seen one yet). Be aware, be careful with your footing and you'll be fine.
My kids and I had a great time hiking here and exploring. There is not a potty there which would have been nice but the HQ wasn't to far away and they let us use theirs. I hope to get back before we head out of town and explore and climb a little more.
Fun to run. Definitely will add it to my training regime. The wife and I scouted it out today.
Hiked this on April 3rd. Trail well marked for the most part. It's not what you expect for Oklahoma , but neither is the rest of the Wichita Mountains. The views and exposed large granite rocks are awesome. It would be nice if the backcountry permits were a little easier to get. I was told they were booked but yet I saw not a single tent. Obviously I did not cover all 5000 acres though. The uneven terrain can make for a moderately strenuous hike. Be careful of getting rim rocked if you go off trail.
Did the trail from the north trail head. The route preferred is from the southern end as described in the trail guide. Absolutely stunning hike. I have found none better in 200 miles of here.