How many of you have been or are about to go to Altus, Oklahoma or Lawton, Oklahoma? Like many of you, my husband has found himself on TDY in Southwest Oklahoma quite a few times, and I was happy to go along. I have a love for Wild West history so I couldn’t help but explore and soak it in. I’d like to list my favorite things to do in Southwest Oklahoma and share a little history in the hopes that you too will fall in love with this area many call Texoma.
Things to do in Southwest Oklahoma
Things to do near Lawton, Oklahoma:
My all time favorite is the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. This activity is FREE! Here you can drive through the Wichita Mountains and view Longhorn cattle and buffalo roaming wherever they please. Remember do not approach these animals. I know the buffalo are technically called bison, but Augustus McCrae calls them buffalo so they will forever be buffalo to me. Any other Lonesome Dove fans out there? Also, don’t miss the Prairie Dog Town on the west side of the refuge. I love watching them chirp and bark! Drive to the top of Mt. Scott for a breathtaking view of the mountain range, lakes, and surrounding areas. Are you a fitness guru? You can hike up the road on Mt. Scott or try one of the many trails scattered throughout the refuge. Look closely and you just might see a roadrunner or armadillo!
While at the Wildlife Refuge, be sure to stop by Meers for a meal and a truly unique dining experience. They’re known for their “Meersburger” and my personal favorite…peach cobbler with homemade ice cream. Get there early and bring cash, as cards are not accepted and the lines grow long on the weekends.
Nestled at the base of the Wichita Mountains is the small town of Medicine Park. It was built as a resort town in the early 1900s and is known for its cobblestone buildings. They have cabins for rent, a motel, restaurants, shops, a swimming hole, and multiple festivals. The unique architecture, along with it’s history as a hang out for outlaws such as Bonnie & Clyde, make visiting this town a must.
Fort Sill is the only active fort remaining from the Indian Wars. You can tour their museum and part of the original fort. You will learn about the famous Apache warrior Geronimo and how he spent his last days here. You”ll also be given a chance to learn about Quannah Parker, the last chief to the Comanche Indians, who’s very influential life took place throughout this area. After touring Fort Sill drive over to the Comanche National Museum & Cultural Center, where you can learn more about the history and fascinating culture of the Comanche people. Did I mention both of these Museums are FREE! While you’re at the Comanche National Museum travel 0.2 miles and you’ll arrive at the Museum of the Great Plains. This museum has a kids area and reenactors at their outdoor trading post.
For those of you in Altus, Lawton is the place to go for Target, TJMaxx, chain restaurants, the mall, etc. There is also a small airport here which is much more convenient than Oklahoma City’s. It is almost an hours drive to Lawton but as I like to say, “The driving in Oklahoma is so easy you can literally keep your eyes closed with the wheel straight and end up at your destination.”
Things to do near Altus, Oklahoma:
Quartz Mountain is located 20 miles north of Altus and is a favorite of mine. At Quartz Mountain you will find a resort, camping, hiking, bike trails, small beaches, canoe/paddle boat rentals, water slides, kids rides, and putt putt. Quartz Mountain offers great hiking trails. However, if you have a stroller or are looking for a leisurely walk then check out the paved trail across the bridge from the resort. This trail offers great views without the work.
The Museum of the Western Prairie is impressive for it’s size. It was only $3 for military members and had a lot of great history about the area.
There are car races at the Altus Speedway. I never ended up making it here but I’ve heard rumors that visitors can actually race the cars during the half time show. I believe this aspect is closed to active duty military members but it sure sounds like fun for the rest of us!
Shopping in the Square
The shops in downtown Altus are absolutely darling. Make sure you check them all out!
RODEO WEEK…Let me repeat…RODEO WEEK! This is in late August and is kicked off with a cattle drive across the Air Force Base that the Base Commander actually takes part in! DO NOT MISS the downtown parade during Rodeo Week. They actually herd Longhorn cattle south on Main Street and then head east on Broadway towards the rodeo corral. How often are you given the chance to see Longhorn cattle being herd through the streets?! Pro tip: Watch then come down Main Street and then head over and watch them come down Broadway.
My favorite restaurant in Altus is probably Pick Up Taco but be sure to try the other great locally owned restaurants! Some of my other favorites are Billy Sim’s BBQ, Taqueria Hernandez, and Sakura.
Another absolute must is the Backdoor Steakhouse in Blair, Oklahoma. Their food is great and the atmosphere is exactly what you’d picture for a steakhouse in Oklahoma. It’s just a short drive north of Altus. Who knows, you may even run into Toby Keith who is known to frequent the steakhouse when in the area.
The base offers a swimming pool, splash pad, mini golf, and a restaurant, Charlie’s, where you’re bound to run into some old friends.
Day Trips/Overnight Trips:
Mangum Rattlesnake Derby
Southwest Oklahoma has so many rattlesnakes that each year they have a festival celebrating the rattlesnake. If you’re really up for an adventure you can join the locals and go rattle snake hunting after safety training. I believe this takes place in April and I’ve sadly never been around at the right time to check it out. Mangum is located 24 miles NW of Altus.
Amarillo, Texas makes for a great day trip. Make sure you go to the Big Texan to eat as it is an experience all by itself. There is a musician who comes around to play country music (cowboy style) at your table for a donation of your choice. Do not let this cowboy pass you by! While in Amarillo don’t forget to stop and check out Cadillac Ranch. Also, while over here check out the breathtaking Palo Duro Canyon. You can drive through the canyon but hiking and camping is also available. Amarillo is 152 miles NW of Altus.
Forth Worth, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas has the stockyards which will give you a taste of an Old West town. They herd longhorns through the street daily. There’s plenty to explore in this beautiful city. Fort Worth is 199 miles SE of Altus.
Black Kettle National Grasslands
So much of Southwest Oklahoma used to be grasslands. You can see a preserved area at the National Grasslands. We never made it here but I hope to go if I’m ever back in the area. Located 88 miles NW of Altus.
Little Sahara State Park
I haven’t been here but you can rent ATVs and ride the sand dunes. Located 147 miles NE of Altus.
Bar H Dude Ranch
Bar H Dude Ranch is in Clarendon, Texas. I regretfully never made it here as I had a broken foot. But, you can rope and ride if you’d like the opportunity! They also offer chuck wagon dinners! Located 104 miles NW of Altus.
Archer City, Texas
This is for any Lonesome Dove or Larry McMurtry fans. He still resides in this small town and owns the book store, “Booked Up”. This town has festivals celebrating cowboy culture so check them out. Located 94 miles SE of Altus.
Long Weekend Trips:
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe, New Mexico is absolutely amazing. Talk about history and scenery! Also, you’re not far from Los Alamos…the town where the atom bomb was developed. We also went to Bandelier National Monument where you can tour the cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people.
Big Bend National Park
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK! I put this in capitol letters because if you have the chance then you should definitely go. This park sits right on the Mexico border and offers amazing views and experiences. You can take hikes that lead you right up to the Rio Grande. Wednesday-Sunday you can enter Boquillas, Mexico through an official crossing in the park as long as you have your passport. Take the trail along Boquillas Canyon and you may get a chance to listen to The Singing Jesus! The park is out in the middle of nowhere. However, we felt safe the entire time. There are a few towns you can stay in if you don’t wish to stay in the park. We stayed in Marathon, Texas and Lajitas, Texas. If you take this trip I definitely recommend you explore the tiny towns of Marathon and of Terlingua.
I hope this information will help you enjoy your time in Southwest Oklahoma! Altus will forever have a place in my heart and maybe, just maybe, it will find a way into yours.