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What to do in Wichita Mountains
Formed more than 500 million years ago, the Wichita Mountains have an unusual landscape that juxtaposes low granite hills and rugged forest with grassy, wide-open prairie. The area is serene and unpretentious, and lures families from Oklahoma City and Dallas-Fort Worth seeking a relaxing escape within a few hours' drive. The area is known for outdoorsy pursuits like hiking, fishing, biking and rock climbing.
Where to go in Wichita Mountains
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is home to a herd of 650 bison, as well as elk, Texas Longhorn cattle, prairie dogs and more. There are guided family-friendly hikes every Saturday at 9 a.m., or for a bigger challenge, hire a guide from Venture 2 Climb and learn to navigate the granite walls and boulders that draw rock climbers from around the country. Craving a dip? Head to the Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area (LETRA), where you'll find a sandy swimming beach and double water slide, as well as rentals for canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and small speedboats.
Where to stay in Wichita Mountains
Krehbielhaus is a low-slung, carefully restored private home on the Buffalo Dream Ranch that's rented through Airbnb. The house dates to 1935 and has been redone with stylish touches like vintage magazine posters and colored glass window panes. The owners will pop by and introduce you to their friendly Galloway cattle and, if your timing is good, frisky heifer calves. There are two bedrooms, each with a queen-size bed, as well as a crib that converts to a toddler bed. You might even find a detailed note about how to get a blaze started in the wood-burning stove or fire pit—not to mention the wood already neatly arranged. Another standalone home, the three-bedroom Bunkhouse, has an eclectic, cowboy vibe and a spacious interior. The master suite has a charming, Aspen-log king bed and a large corner soaking tub; another bedroom has two sets of similarly rustic bunk beds. Outside you'll find a wraparound porch, fire pit and separate stereo system: It's the perfect setting for enjoying the view of Mount Scott, one of the area's highest peaks.
Where to eat in Wichita Mountains
Simple pleasures like cherry limeade, milkshakes, burgers and onion rings are carried out by carhops at Wayne's Drive Inn, which opened in 1950 and has become a classic Lawton pit stop. Meers Store & Restaurant is the lone business remaining in the former mining town of Meers. From the simple yellow storefront, which was moved to its current spot in 1922, the restaurant serves some of the state's most famous burgers, known as Meersburgers. They come plate-sized and are made with local Longhorn beef from the family's own herd. For dessert, the ice cream is homemade and pairs well with a slice of just-baked seasonal cobbler.
Looking for more of the best vacations with kids? Check out TODAY's Family Travel Guide.