I got a late start and this took a lot longer than I expected. However, I really did enjoy the drive cross-country through Mustang, Union City, Cogar, Binger and up to Red Rock Canyon from the south. It was a gorgeous view of wildflowers all along the highway and not a few sandstone cliffs near the highway as I got closer. Red Rock Canyon is no anomaly, just a special case of cliff walls converging on a narrow valley floor. This was an ancient oasis on the California Road, which basically followed the Canadian River through Oklahoma. The south end of the canyon offers pretty gentle slopes hidden behind foliage.
I tried to follow the red trail markers, which led me up a set of steep switchbacks onto the east ridge. This part was relatively nice, but then it hits a section that has seen a grass fire. This causes all the cedars to flare up, killing the tree but leaving the dead trunk and most of the limbs. So it was a lot of dead cedar trunks now mostly fallen over with younger cedars and other trees sprouting up through the ruins.
Once I got near this high rocky peak, the nice trail stuff was gone. I was pointing my camera upslope; this is pretty steep. In fact, it got increasingly difficult to find the trail across wide stretches of undulating red sandstone. These sloped pitches end at the rim of the canyon, and it’s very easy to fall off without realizing you are at the cliff. I got somewhere on the other side of this peak before I lost the trail completely.
This is one of the side pockets in the canyon. This particular spot is set aside for reserved group camping. The competition is fierce and some groups have kept their annual reservation every year since before I was born.
It was like this image for over a mile continuing northward and I was about ready to come down, but there was no safe escape. I kept checking the places where runoff had carved out a channel, but it always ended in a drop too high for me to consider risking a jump. It kind of ruined my hike that the trail was so poorly marked.
Eventually a found a deeper than usual channel at the head of a camping pocked. Part of it is in shadow, but I traversed the wall from left to right in the image, using hand holds and some footholds until I was close enough to drop down without injury.
By this point I was up close to the entrance to the canyon. This is the view as I left that pocket. This park has its own water system and spigots are scattered generously throughout the park. The water is free, tasty and comes out of the ground cold. I took advantage of it to refill my water bottle. Then it was a long slow walk back to my car at the other end.
There are two or three rappelling walls and this is the biggest. If you could get up close enough, you’d see rope marks worn through the lip of the wall at the top. Because school isn’t out and it’s a Wednesday, there weren’t any climbers. In fact, there weren’t many tents or RVs, and the only other pedestrians was a group of kids from a private school on an outing. They were audible throughout most of the park.
This was the last I saw of the canyon walls as they got softer and lower toward the southern end. I’m going to see if I can look up some topo maps with the official trails drawn on them. I may try to come back again some time and explore the rest of the trails. This place is worth seeing more than once.