Over the next few months, I will be highlighting specific state parks, hopefully giving you some ideas to consider for any fun, upcoming trips. The first is Gloss Mountain State Park.
When I think of this particular park near Fairview in northwest Oklahoma, I think of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote, “The simple perception of natural forms is a delight.”
While driving along U.S. 412 in Major County, I love how out of the relatively flat terrain these natural forms called mesas stand majestic, distant and reclusive, yet retain an aura of mystery. Jetting up from the grasslands, these red mesas are cloaked in crystals and sparkle like diamonds.
I find it fascinating to think this was all made by water centuries ago. And today, as you visit Gloss Mountain State Park, you can see how this creates Oklahoma’s diverse terrain.
This is an unattended park, meaning there is no lodging or campsites, but many times a volunteer is there to help visitors. There is also a valuable brochure at the gate that is extremely helpful.
The park encompasses 640 acres of land, with the biggest and longest mesa being referred to as Cathedral Mountain. It is at the base of this particular mesa where you can find an information kiosk and picnic pavilions.
Hiking is the main activity at the park, but for introductory family hiking trips, there is an easy way at the base, near the kiosk. The stairs zigzag their way toward the top of the bold mesa. At times, the stairs can be steep, but at approximately midpoint, you will also find a few welcoming benches on which to take a break. The last 10 to 15 feet of the trail is a little tougher to scale, as it is rugged and rocky, but there’s a handrail that can help you hoist yourself up.
The view from the top is quite spectacular, and one can see for miles and miles. It’s absolutely beautiful, and on a clear day, you see what seems like forever. The terrain on top is nearly flat, and marked trails will take you on a loop around the top of Cathedral Mountain.
Earlier, I wrote the mesas appear to be cloaked in crystals and sparkle like diamonds. That’s because it is here you will see the high selenite Gypsum content everywhere. These geological gems deliver a sense of awe.
There is always a chance one can see wildlife, such as horn toads, mountain boomers and, if you look up, you might see some turkey vultures soaring effortlessly through the sky.
It is important to note the signs throughout the park reminding visitors they share this special place with snakes. Especially during the summer months, be aware rattlesnakes and prairie rattlers are around this area.
You are strongly encouraged to stay on all the main trails when you are there but always be looking and listening.
Some may argue about the name of the Gloss Mountains, as some refer to them as the Glass Mountains. I discovered this debate started in 1875, when a cartographer made a transcription error, replacing the “a” with an “o” and the name stuck.
Once you’ve been there, you will realize these glistening landmarks are glassy and glossy. You will find a marker in the state park explaining the history of the sometimes-ongoing confusion. But don’t put too much energy into that.
Take plenty of time while on top of Cathedral Mountain to stop and just enjoy the view. You will see beauty everywhere. It is truly a peaceful, serene delight.
Dino Lalli is the producer, co-host and one of the reporters for the weekly television travel show Discover Oklahoma.
Blue Coast Juicy Seafood takes over the space that housed Mimi's Cafe on 71st Street.