Selected County Highpoints of Oklahoma •
Black Mesa • Highpoint: State of Oklahoma
• Highpoint: Cimarron County
• Black Mesa State Park

Parking lot. That's my old red truck

Walking to the obselisk

Snowy mesa scenery

Me at the obelisk, 1999

Walsh Mountain, Greer Co.

Tillman County's highpoint

Antelope Hills
Roger Mills County

One of the mesas
(Antelope Hills)

The other one
(Antelope Hills)

Bunch of us at the highpoint at the Oklahoma Convention, 2002 (Elam Benchmark, Texas County).

Date: (1) May 25, 1996; (2) March 14, 1999 • Elevation: 4,973 feet • Prominence: negligible • Distance: 4 miles • Time: 2 hours • Gain: 600 feet • Conditions: Awful in 1996, Beautiful with remnant snow in 1999


The highest point in Oklahoma is atop Black Mesa, a huge landform that lies mostly within New Mexico and Colorado, but juts just enough into Oklahoma to give it its highest point. The mesa is in the far-west panhandle of the state, and the highpoint just a few hundred feet from the New Mexico state line. This part of Oklahoma features a number of mesas overlooking the Cimarron River. It is very pretty out this way.

I am an Okie, just barely. I was born at Fort Sill while my father was stationed there. We moved away when I was still a little baby. I did not return to the state until 1993. Then I came back twice more, in 1996 and 1999, for the state highpoint. I was back again in 2002, then not again until 2019.

First visit, 1996: I visited Black Mesa on the end of a three-day driving tour through the high plains, tagging state highpoints that abut Colorado. I began today in Burlington, Colorado, which is on the Kansas state line. The weather was dreadful, with heavy storms and ominous black clouds. I visited the highpoint of Kansas, Mount Sunflower, then drove through Colorado, aiming for the Oklahoma panhandle and Black Mesa. The weather did not improve at all, staying cold, rainy and dark. By early afternoon, I had located myself to the tiny town of Kenton, Oklahoma, south of Black Mesa.

I stopped into The Merc, a small general store, and essentially the only business in the town. The proprietor, Alan, was friendly and knew everything about how to get up Black Mesa. He even showed me books on the state highpoints. What? Other people actually do this? We chatted for awhile and he gave me all sorts of useful information. It was through him that I learned of the National Highpointer's Organization, which I joined afterwards.

I drove to the trailhead parking lot, and parked. A small stile-ladder allows access up and over the barbed wire fence. I followed the trail (Jeep tracks at first) as it meandered across the flat desert. I had reasonable visibility, about a half-mile's worth, and after about 15 minutes came upon a surprise: three other hikers. They were coming down from the top and heading back to their car. We chatted before moving on.

After a mile, the tracks ascended up the side of the mesa. I was now on top of the mesa in dense fog, and I could see about 20 feet. The rain fell heavier, augmented by gustier winds. I seriously considered turning back but always told myself "a couple more minutes". I was jogging, just hoping to come upon the stone pillar marking the highpoint. Finally, after about 20 minutes of blindly hiking atop the mesa, a shadowy figure emerged from the mist: the obelisk. I tagged it, signed the register, took two lousy photographs and immediately hightailed it back down.

As I hiked back down and lost elevation, I emerged out of the fog and once again had some semblance of visibility. I jogged most of the way down, battling the wind and rain, and now the lightning. Within an hour, I was back to my car, muddy and soaked. I changed back into dry clothes and headed back to Kenton and the Merc. At the Merc, I enjoyed a good burger and conversation with the proprietors. They made this portion of the trip worthy.

I still had some distance to travel and a few hours of sunlight remaining to do it in, so after about an hour in Kenton, I hit the road into New Mexico, following the highway south toward Clayton. The rain was extremely heavy, with hail and lightning, and black skies. I sped south, always keeping an eye out for funnel clouds. I wanted no part of any twister, but if one were to appear, I had my camera ready. I may as well get some photos.

Luckily, I saw no twisters, and arrived in Clayton safely. Without making a stop, I proceeded west toward Interstate-25 and the city of Raton, about 100 miles away. It was about 5 p.m. and I could see sunlight way off on the western horizon. The view toward the east was black, while to the south it was muddled with clouds of all different hues, plus ominous horizontal ribbon-type clouds in a corkscrew motif. As long as all this was in my rear-view mirror, I had no quarrel with it. What I did find interesting was all the east-bound travelers heading toward Clayton bailing from the highway, driving across the median and merging onto the west-bound lanes. They probably sensed the same bad weather-mojo that I did.

I made it into Raton and took a hotel room. While watching the Weather Channel that night, they showed footage of the supercells developing in the Texas Panhandle, and some footage of twisters touching down near Pampa. I had dodged a bullet.

Second Visit, 1999: During my Spring Break from teaching, I decided to drive back to Black Mesa and hike it again under nicer conditions. I also intended to drive all the way to northern Louisiana and properly hike its highpoint, which I had failed to do on my first visit in 1997. I may be the only person to ever drive from Phoenix to Louisiana via the Oklahoma panhandle, but hey, back in '99, gas was cheap.

I left home the day before and drove to Tucumcari, New Mexico, where I stayed the night. The next morning started cold but with bright blue skies. A few days ago, the whole Plains had been hit by a big snowstorm. I was hoping that by waiting a few days, the snow would have melted back to reasonable levels, which it did. I saw none of it in Tucumcari, and only patches of it as I drove north through Clayton into Oklahoma.

The drive was interesting and scenic. North of Clayton, there was a lot of ground-fog in the area, so visibility was often just a mile or two. In the mist I would see these big rocky pillars and formations, these being odd remnant plugs from the long-ago volcanism of the area. I drove into Oklahoma to the Black Mesa parking area, arriving about 10 a.m. local time. The ground was covered in about two inches of fast-melting snow. While the trails were muddy, the whole area was very lovely.

I followed the same route as I did in 1996. In about an hour and ten minutes, I had arrived to the obelisk, meeting with a couple that had driven from Flagstaff. We chatted with one another. They were heading east, so after a few minutes, they started back down, while I stayed behind to eat an apple and enjoy the scenery. Before they left, they shot a photograph of me.

Shortly, I began my hike down. I caught up with them about half way, and we hiked together back to the cars. The warming temperatures had melted quite a bit of the snow that was on the ground barely two hours earlier. Total, it took me just under three hours for the whole hike, including over a half hour at the top. This was one of the most satisfying highpoints I have done, since the weather and scenery was so fantastic. It more than made up for my soaking experience my first time up in 1996.

After a brief stop back in Kenton to sign their visitor's log, I headed east toward Boise City. The route quickly climbs out of the valley floor and attains the flatness of the Southern Plains. This is just scrubby flat cattle country, so flat and featureless that even I have trouble keeping a bearing without referring to a map. However, looking toward the west one can see Black Mesa jut above the groundline, with its dark color suggesting its name.

Back on the road, I whizzed through Boise City and started down into Texas toward Amarillo and Lubbock. Once in Lubbock, I had to address my next plan of action: drive a ton more miles into Louisiana for its highpoint, which I missed out on in 1997, or just go back home to Arizona. Although I wanted to re-visit the Louisiana highpoint properly, it was still over 600 miles away and I had trouble justifying all that driving for such a measly highpoint. On the other hand, I figured that it would be even more preposterous, and more expensive, to buy a plane ticket, rent a car and visit the Louisiana highpoint that way. So I decided to go for it. I drove another couple hundred miles before taking a hotel in Eastland, about two hours west of Dallas. I was in Louisiana the next day.

In 2002, I returned to Oklahoma with the plan to visit a whole bunch of county highpoints, generally in the western half of the state. Believe it or not, there are actual hills sprinkled around the state. The southwestern part of the state features a bunch of rocky little mountains, which meant I actually had to break a sweat for a few of these. The weather was generally calm. What follows below are a few selected county highpoint stories from that 2002 trip.

Carl Neighborhood
• Highpoint: Harmon County

Date: May 26, 2002 • Elevation: 2,060 feet • Prominence: 40 feet • Distance: a few feet • Time: 2 minutes • Gain: 2 feet • Conditions: Spooky


I entered into Oklahoma from Texas, the end of a long day in which I had visited Sierra Grande in New Mexico, then two county highpoints in the north panhandle of Texas as thunderstorms developed. I then spent the next couple hours racing the storms east into Oklahoma.

What I really wanted was a hotel where I could get clean, eat, rest and take cover from the stormy weather. But first, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit the highest point of Harmon County. From the town of Erick, I went south on State Route OK-30 for twenty miles, then west on a lesser paved road with a home-made sign saying "Carl Neighborhood". In places, the road's pavement was overtaken by encroaching brush and weeds. The whole area looked abandoned. I arrived to the highpoint area, the spot close by a junction of two local roads.

To my amusement, or chagrin (I am not sure which), the highpoint sits within the fenced yard of a house. I looked around and it appeared to be abandoned. I hopped the fence, ran to the little bump, then ran right back to my truck. I didn't linger and retraced my steps back to the interstate, staying the night in Elk City.

This highpoint visit went well, in that I didn't get shot at or abducted. The whole place looked creepy. Add some fog and moss and it could have been a Scooby Doo cartoon setting. I did see a lot of turtles alongside the road (for some reason), and large rat-like critters called nutrias.

Walsh Mountain
• Highpoint: Greer County

Date: May 27, 2002 • Elevation: 2,303 feet • Prominence: 623 feet • Distance: 2 miles • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 570 feet • Conditions: Humid but calm


I was now in the southwest part of Oklahoma, which is not as flat as people might think. There are a lot of interesting granitic extrusions that jut above the landscape. Many of the county highpoints down this way are atop these hills, which aren't necessarily so little, either. Such is the case of Walsh Mountain, highpoint of Greer County.

From the appropriately-named town of Granite, I followed local roads and the maps until I was west of the peak, which sat on private property. I drove in to the main residence and knocked. A woman answered, and once I explained my request, she was as sweet as could be. Not only did I get permission, but I got a free 15-minute chat out the encounter, too. I think she enjoyed the random company.

I followed a service road to the top, following it past some animal pens, then up sections that were both steep and muddy from recent storms. However, the hillsides were covered in wildflowers, so it was very pretty, too. I was on top after 15 minutes, a half-mile hike with 570 feet of gain. I found the benchmark nearby some buildings, looked around the countryside, then hiked back down.

Back at the house, I said goodbye and got another 15 minutes of local history. The property has been in her family since the 1870s. She was a super person and I am glad I met her.

Peak 1580
• Highpoint: Tillman County

Date: May 27, 2002 • Elevation: 1,580 feet • Prominence: 170 feet • Distance: 1 mile • Time: 30 minutes • Gain: 150 feet • Conditions: Sticky


The highest point in Tillman County is a small granitic hill near the small town of Headrick. From highway OK-62, I followed an older road now used these days by joggers, bicyclists, and fishermen, who cast their lines from an old relic truss bridge that spans the Red River.

I parked near an old gate at a gravel pit, and shimmied under the fence. The hike went quick as I skirted the pit, gained the rocky "steps", and made the top after about 20 minutes in warm, sticky weather. Because I might have been on private land, I stuck around just long enough to swig some water before I started back down to my truck. No one bothered me.

Brown Benchmark
• Highpoint: Woodward County

Date: May 28, 2002 • Elevation: 2,544 feet • Prominence: 84 feet • Distance: 0.2 miles • Time: 10 minutes • Gain: 40 feet • Conditions: Calm


From the town of Harmon along US-60, I went north a short distance along local roads to a radio tower, which sits on the highpoint hill. It was very easy to navigate my way here. I parked, shimmied under a fence, jogged up the short incline, tagged the top and returned to my truck, the journey taking 10 minutes. That was it. However, I have a good story to tell.

Back in 1993, I stopped in Woodward (Woodward County's seat) for a night. I was driving a big meandering loop from Arizona and was in Oklahoma to visit my birth place, Fort Sill. I left the state when I was about a month old as my father was reassigned to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I had not been back inside my birth state until today, a span of 26 years. Us Okies need to return every now and then to our home state.

I had come up from Texas, spent a half-day in the Fort Sill area, looking around, touring the museum, things like that. Then I started driving, generally aiming northwest. I wanted to drive in the panhandle into Colorado. Otherwise, I had no itinerary in mind. I just drove.

I stopped in Woodward because it was getting late I needed a place to stay. I cleaned up and then went to check out Woodward's nightlife. I entered into a small bar that looked friendly. I sat at the bar. It was not crowded, maybe five people. There was a show on TV showing a zebra giving birth, something you'd see on a National Geographic special. Some local rancher guys commented on this in such a heavy drawl I could not make sense of what they said. I nursed a beer and generally minded my own business.

Then this old man walks in and sits in the seat right next to me. The rancher guys had left by now. The bartender was a young woman in her 30s. She and the old man started chatting. He was obviously a regular. The thing that was awkward was he was right next to me. Apparently that was his regular seat.

I kept quiet at first, but then at one point said something, trying to be friendly, and the old man just said "this don't concern you.". But the lady bartender, probably to make me feel welcome, asked me my name and my story. So I told them why I was in the state. I said the only reason I stopped in Woodward was that it was the last big city before the panhandle. For whatever reason, the old man thought that was a good answer and suddenly, they were very friendly and welcoming.

The next three or four hours, I got told every story he could think of. He was an old-timer who had lived everywhere and done everything, and every third and fourth word was m***** f*****. He used it as a noun, an adjective and in gerund form. His stories were fascinating. This went on until closing time. I thanked him and he left. I never got his name.

I thoroughly enjoyed his stories and had a great time. What was going to be a one-beer stop in some bar turned into a full evening of Oklahoma history, lore and tall tales, with m***** f***** liberally included. I didn't get back to my m***** f*****g hotel until 1 a.m. I slept like a m***** f*****.

Antelope Hills
• Highpoint: Roger Mills County

Date: May 28, 2002 • Elevation: 2,604 feet • Prominence: 194 feet • Distance: 1 mile • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 400 feet • Conditions: Sunny and calm


A pair of mesas in Roger Mills County tie for county highpoint honors. These hills front part of the Canadian River, in the western part of the state. I arrived in the area around 5 p.m., looking at two short hikes. One mesa has a spot elevation of 2,604 feet and the other has a single 2,600-foot contour. Both areas are on separate mesas so I had to do two separate hikes.

I hiked to the 2,600-foot area on the northern mesa first. I parked at a pullout on its northeast side and hiked steeply up an old and very faint trail, then gained the top through a break in the mesa caprock, just a handhold shy of class-3, but definitely a notch above "normal walking". Once on top I paced the length and breadth of this tiny summit and sighted south to the other highpoint area. I did not want to waste time, so I retraced my steps and returned to my truck. This hike took just a few minutes.

For the southern mesa, I drove south about a half-mile and parked along the road, then hiked directly up the east side of the mesa, gaining the top through a jumble of rocks on the mesa's easternmost point. Once on top of the mesa, it was another 300 feet of walking west through juniper and tall grass toward a benchmark post that marks the highpoint.

I quickly retraced my steps and made sure to avoid snakes as I hiked out in the tall grass to my truck. The two hikes together took about 1 hour of hiking time, covered about a mile and cumulatively gained about 400 feet of elevation. There were great views were in all directions, with the setting sun providing long shadows.

Elam Benchmark
• Highpoint: Texas County

Date: (1) May 29, 2002; (2) September 20, 2002 • Elevation: 3,770 feet • Prominence: 30 feet • Distance: 0.5 mile • Time: 20 minutes • Gain: 30 feet • Conditions: Sunny and nice both times


I have visited this lonely county highpoint twice, both within a four-month period: May 2002 on my own, then again in September as part of the state highpointers convention being held in nearby Kenton.

First visit, May 2002: I came up from the state of Texas and drove into Guymon, the county seat of Texas county, Oklahoma. While in Guymon, I found an auto-parts store and got a new air-filter for my truck, which badly needed one after all the dirt roads I'd been driving.

From Guymon, I drove 60 miles to Elkhart, Kansas. From Elkhart, I went southwest on US-56 for 4 miles to County Road 4, and another mile due west on CR-4 to a rise on the road, where I parked. Sitting incongruously on this road was an abandoned ice-cream truck, for some reason. I was barely back inside Oklahoma.

I hiked to the benchmark through knee-high grass clumps. The benchmark witness post stood out above the grass and was something to aim for. I walked to it, whapping the grass with my trekking pole to scare off the snakes. The benchmark was gone, a hole where it once sat now occupied the space. Nevertheless, it was pretty apparent I'd found the highest area, even in this flattish land. The hike took about 20 minutes, covered about a half-mile and about 20 feet of gain. Not too bad for these here parts.

Second visit, September 2002: This was the last of five counties today with 20 of my closest friends on this county highpoint tour. It was getting late in the day and we came in from the nearby Morton County (Kansas), highpoints. We all made the hike then posed for photos. The grass had really grown since I was here last.

(c) 2019 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.