Southwest Oklahoma should be at the top of every family’s list of road trips this year after the recent unveiling of Quartz Mountain State Park’s newly renovated lodge and grounds. This $10.5 million project has already become a captivating gem for Oklahoma, offering visitors a more luxurious experience while they enjoy the endless outdoor recreation this area has to offer.
Our family loves to visit the area in early to mid-May so we can appreciate all the wildflowers in full bloom across the park’s gently rolling hills and grasslands. From boating to bouldering or just relaxing on the shores of Lake Altus, Quartz Mountain State Park is a wonderful weekend getaway for the entire family.
Quartz Mountain State Park was built under the guidance of the National Park Service, utilizing the manpower of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and was completed in 1937 to become one of Oklahoma’s seven original state parks. In the 1970s, a partnership was formed with the Oklahoma Arts Institute, leading to the addition of an outdoor amphitheater, a performance hall and art studios that have collectively become our state’s premiere artistic epicenter for talented Oklahoma students each summer.
Unfortunately, a tragic fire destroyed the lodge in 1995, but it was rebuilt and reopened in 2001 when the park was transferred to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Nearly two decades later, management of the park was turned back over to the Oklahoma State Parks in 2020 and Quartz Mountain is ready to be rediscovered after the grand opening of the park’s new lodge.
Hit the Road!
Quartz Mountain State Park is located in Lone Wolf, about two and a half hours from the OKC metro. I recommend taking the route through the charming town of Medicine Park since it provides a perfect halfway point along the drive where families can take a break from the car to dine, shop and hike. The main road through the heart of town is lined with restaurants and shops, so it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat and stroll alongside the cascading waterfalls of Medicine Creek.
Wander over to Discovery Outpost, a quaint cobblestone cabin, for an incredible selection of retro toys and gadgets, imaginative books and unique gifts. Let kids stretch their legs on the Medicine Park Black Loop Trail for a hike along wildflower-lined paths and outstanding views overlooking Lake Lawtonka. As you make your way toward Quartz Mountain, your family will be rewarded with a scenic drive through the Wichita Wildlife Refuge, complete with opportunities to view bison, prairie dogs and longhorn cattle among expansive grass prairies. If you have time, take the 3-mile drive up to the top of Mount Scott for breathtaking summit views.
Quartz Mountain State Park offers five separate camping areas with nearly 100 primitive and RV camp sites. Eight fully-equipped cabins are available just steps away from Lake Altus. For a more opulent vacation experience, book a stay in one of more than 100 rooms and suites at the newly restored Quartz Mountain Lodge, where a grand lobby welcomes visitors with original woodwork showcasing high ceilings, exposed trusses and art-covered walls.
Thanks to recent renovations, modern updates, new carpet and contemporary furniture can be found throughout the facility. Don’t miss the newly improved indoor swimming pool! Many of the rooms have beautiful lake or mountain views and each of the suites is outfitted with a kitchen, fireplace and living area. The lodge’s new courtyard invites families to gather outdoors around one of many fire pits, join in a game of shuffleboard or let the kids play in a shallow stream that runs through the attractively landscaped grounds.
While dining options are a bit limited in the area, the Quartz Mountain Lodge conveniently offers guests a new on-site restaurant, Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen [editor’s note: closed as of 4/27/2022], now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant is recognized for delicious comfort foods like burgers, nachos and sandwiches, along with local brews from Stonecloud Brewing. They also have an extensive breakfast menu to get you fueled and ready for a busy day of exploring.
If you’re looking to dine outside of the park, check out McCollom Market, located in the town of Hobart, just 25 minutes northeast of the Quartz Mountain Lodge. This fun little sandwich shop also serves up hearty baked potatoes for a nutritious lunch or you can satisfy your sweet tooth with ice cream to go. Hobart also has a rave-worthy donut shop, Molly’s Donut’s, impressing guests with a wide selection of donuts, cinnamon rolls and savory croissants. If your family needs to load up on any other supplies or snacks, there is a Walmart in Hobart for any last-minute needs.
The park lies in a “buffer zone” between dry, western climates and wetter, eastern climates, lending to its diverse range of habitats, plants and animals. Flowers, like Indian Blanket, coreopsis, prairie larkspur, sunflower, milkweed and spiderwort, cover the grassy plains in the spring. Keep your eyes peeled for eastern bullfrogs and narrow-mouthed salamanders near the lake. Bobcats, cottontail rabbits, deer mice, coyote and beavers also make their home here.
When out hiking, wear sturdy hiking or tennis shoes since the terrain can be rocky and several species of snakes, including rattlesnakes, can be found in this part of the state. Also, watch for cactus needles as they are commonly encountered on the park’s trails. Always pack plenty of water and snacks before starting a hike to stay safe and keep kids happy on the trail.
Our family’s favorite hike in the park is Baldy Point Loop, a gorgeous 2-mile trail with sweeping views of the flower-covered hills in the spring and opportunities to watch climbers scale massive rocks in this granite paradise. New Horizon Trail is only a half-mile roundtrip hike, but be prepared for a fairly steep climb with a bit of rock scrambling leading up to the summit of Quartz Mountain. The climb will be worth it, though, as hikers are rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.
A few other trails start near the lodge, including Cave Trail, a 10-minute walk from the Great Plains Amphitheater leading up to a small cave that children delight in exploring. Twin Peaks Trail is a paved, 1-mile roundtrip path that starts near the bridge on the south side of the lodge and winds around the lake’s cove to a surprisingly stunning view of Lake Altus. Sunrise Trail is a quarter-mile moderate climb beginning at the Great Plains Amphitheater and leading hikers up Quartz Mountain for new perspectives of the ancient mountain range.
Water Play and Family Fun
The backdrop of the Wichita Mountains against the shores of Lake Altus are some of the finest beach views Oklahoma has to offer. In addition to a swim beach area, the resort offers paddle boat and canoe rentals. There is also a mini-golf course nearby for families to practice their putting skills. Anglers can fish for trout, large-mouth bass, walleye and catfish in this serene lake setting.
Take the kids to the park’s nature center for some interesting exhibits and hands-on learning. It’s a wonderful resource to gather more information about native plants and animals commonly found in the park, plus your family can pick up maps and hiking checklists.
If you own an all-terrain vehicle, the park has its own designated ATV riding area with 2 miles of trails open from April through October each year. Families can also enjoy go-karts, a Ferris wheel, bumper cars and water slides at Quartz Mountain Fun Park, a nearby seasonal amusement park. The fun park usually opens in March or April, weather-permitting, so it’s best to call in advance to confirm their hours of operation.
Quartz Mountain State Park is Oklahoma’s newest revamped destination worth visiting in 2022. This gateway to the Wichita Mountains has always been a wonderful spot to unplug and enjoy the tranquil surroundings, but the new resort sets the tone for an even more relaxing trip. The rugged beauty of the Quartz and Wichita Mountains are truly an Oklahoma treasure and sure to leave lasting memories with your family for years to come.