We are driving along an Oklahoma road through Hinton and we could see a few mesas in the distance, flat prairies, and evidence of the 1920’s Dust Bowl era all around us. However, if it were not for the Red Rock Canyon State Park sign, we would never have known it was there. This canyon is hidden about a quarter of a mile from the main road and the road into the canyon drops down 150 feet in switchback style.
Balancing Rock standing away from the canyon wall.
Here we were greeted by large slabs of a dark brownish red slab of sandstone from the Permian Age. The sandstone walls are part of what geologists call the Rush Springs Sandstone Formation and these colors are caused by the oxidized iron minerals in the individual sand grains naturally cemented together making up the old sandstone. Because of the dark red color of this layer of rocks, it is said that this area is the heart of Oklahoma.
Scott taking photos in the golden hour of the morning
Once, in the canyon, we found these amazing 40-60 feet high walls of red sandstone. Because we arrived at sunrise, a planned two and a half hour drive, the light was perfect and enabled us to take photos showing off the beauty of this canyon. Here, high canyon walls towered over the flat two and a half mile canyon road. From my research, I learned the ground is completely from the eroded Permian Age sandstone.
A road in the canyon has many trees and wild grasses growing alongside it.
The canyon floor area is completely different from the prairie 150 feet above. We were not expecting to see the brilliant green colors throughout the park; this trip was in July, one of the hottest months of the year for Oklahoma. Normally it is extremely hot with temperatures in the upper 90’s and everything dry enough to warrant fire danger warnings; however, in this park, you found nothing of the sort. It was pretty amazing to see this oasis below the prairie.
One of the interesting features we found on these cliffs were some vertical lines etched into the stone. We were unsure what these lines were and wondered briefly if they were graffiti. However, it was not graffiti, but decades of use by Rock Climbing and Repelling Clubs throughout Oklahoma. The rock climbing is only allowed in this one specific area to keep the damage in one spot.
One of the things we do as we visit a state park is to drive the full length of the park. This means we drive through each camping loop to see what there are for tent and RV campers, take a peek at the facilities to see what’s available, and find the trailheads to do a short hike or two. This park has three hiking trails: The nature trail which takes you past the pond and in towards the front of the canyon. This pond was used as a water source for the Cheyenne Indians as they wintered in this canyon.
Simply called “The Pond.”
The California Road Natural Trail which is where you will find the ruts left from the wagon wheels of those traveling to California back in the early 1800’s. This was the path the California bound pioneers used this path to get their wagons down to the canyon for protection from the elements and find water, much as the Cheyenne people had done.
The trailhead for the California Road Natural Trail.
Unfortunately, Scott was having issues with his foot and he was not able to explore the trail I found hiding behind a large grove of Caddo Maples. I did not go far, but I just had to see where this these stairs led. They started out with steps made from railroad ties and then turned into a natural set of stairs around a tree’s roots. Suddenly there was a large slab of sandstone with an indention from thousands of feet climbing up the trail to look down into the canyon.
Stairs to adventure.
This park is a place that we will be visiting again. It has good electrical and sewer hookups, plenty of places to explore, and a swimming pool to cool off in on those hot summer days. Our time here was almost magical, in a way. Between the spring feed stream, lush canyon floor, and the red rock wall, we felt it was another world. However, it was time for us to move on to our next destination, another state park so we could share that one with you too.