The #1 Wichita Mountains Scenic Byway Is Oklahoma’s Prettiest Drive
It'd be nearly impossible to find a single resident of Southwest Oklahoma that didn't know about the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, but I bet it'd be even harder to find a single person that knew about the Wichita Mountain Scenic Byway. It's probably the best-kept secret in Southwest Oklahoma.
I know gas prices are at historic highs and nobody wants to go exploring beyond the strictly necessary commutes right now, but if you were looking for something new to do, right now is the best time to take this drive. Everything looks so fresh and clean in a coat of green.
If you didn't know, scenic byways exist everywhere in the United States. Oklahoma has eight of them. The most famous of course is Route 66 which sweeps through the plains... the most famous you've likely heard of is the Talimena Scenic Byway that people flock to in fall to see some of the most photogenic and natural seasonal colors in the state down that way. If you've driven through the refuge in fall, you already know it just turns brown with the exception of a few roadside bushes.
Did you know there's a designated route to drive to see all of the wonder and beauty that the mountains offer? I mean, yeah, it'll take you through the refuge roads you're used to, but it will also take you on a route you've likely never driven to see things you've never seen to the north. While it's fun to be in the mix of the refuge, like most mountains, the beauty is best from afar looking in.
Don't twist my words, the mountains are beautiful regardless of where you're seeing them from, but the scenic byway route provides a view you haven't seen yet. To really see the full glory, you have to see things from a distance. It's that "Can't see the forest for the trees" thing.
The Federal Highway Administration's official route can be a little confusing, especially if you're reading the directions, but the map they provide isn't the easiest to read. By their standard, it's a jumbled mess of u-turns and backtracking.
Alternatively, the map provided by Google Maps is pretty straightforward. You can either start at the top of the map and work your way back to the refuge or enter the refuge from Cache and head towards Gotebo.
Turkey Pass is on the map as a start/finish point, but I don't think I've ever seen that road open to the public before. Being located behind the fence, I'm pretty sure you need a special use pass just to get out there. Instead, drive out to Highway 54, head north, and hop on Highway 49 from there... Then you just follow the map back towards Highway 54 near Gotebo, savvy?
I know the pain at the pump is brutal right now, but if you have nothing else to do, this is a great way to spend a few hours, especially while the mountains are flush in green.