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winding lake at black mesa state park in oklahomaNestled close to the tip of Oklahoma’s panhandle, the Black Mesa State Park is a popular public recreational space for those who like to escape into solitude, from the pressures of city life.

Containing the tri-state border, which links The Sooner State with New Mexico and Colorado, the Oklahoma state park is a very popular spot for hiking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and stargazing.

It takes its name from the thick coating of black lava rock that covered the mesa over 30 million years ago, and also features the highest point in Oklahoma – the Black Mesa, from which the park takes its name.

If you are looking for a place to enjoy a digital detox in a beautiful, remote landscape, then this is the place for you. Not least from the top of Black Mesa, which showcases incredible panoramic views.

About the Black Mesa State Park

Black Mesa State Park is located in Cimarron County. It lies about 15 miles from the Black Mesa Nature Preserve, which features the state’s highest point.

Operated by the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department the park covers 349 acres, while the nearby nature preserve incorporates 1600 acres.
As it is in a fairly remote location the park involves a bit of a drive from some of the biggest cities around it.

For instance, it will take you about 6 hours to drive there from Oklahoma City, and about 5 hours 30 minutes from Wichita. While from Albuquerque it will take close to 5 hours and Colorado Springs around 4 hours.

The park experiences seasonal extremes in weather. This means it can get very warm in the summer, and pretty cold in the winter, when the mercury can dip well into the low single figures.

Be sure to bring plenty of water with you in the hotter months, and warm clothing in the colder months.


For those who enjoy outdoor recreational pursuits, the park offers plenty of opportunity for boating, kayaking and canoeing, as well as water based activities like fishing and swimming.

It is also a very popular spot for hiking as well as star gazing too.

Lake Carl Etling At Black Mesa State Park

One of the park’s main recreational features is Lake Carl Etling.

Formed in 1959 by a dam that was built on South Carrizo Creek, this waterway has a surface area of 159 acres and a shoreline of 8 km.

Today, it’s a popular spot for swimming and water based recreational activities like kayaking, canoeing and boating.

There are also plenty of picturesque spots around the fringes of the lake for you to enjoy a picnic too.

Fishing At Black Mesa State Park

Fishing is also a regularly practiced activity at Lake Carl Etling, especially for trout which is prevalent in the area.

Hiking At Black Mesa State Park

Throughout the park there are several hiking trails to test all abilities. One of the most popular of all the trails is the one that will take you to the top of the Black Mesa.

This trail meanders its way through the Black Mesa Nature Preserve, deep within the furthest extremes of the Oklahoma panhandle.

The trail ends at Oklahoma’s highest point, some 4,973 feet above sea level. From where you will be able to take in fantastic views of the surrounding landscape and mesas along the way.

Stargazing At Black Mesa State Park

Renowned for being a Bortle 1 zone, the park hosts the darkest skies out of any state park in Oklahoma. This makes it a massive attraction for those who enjoy taking in the majesty of the night sky.

August is an especially popular month for star gazers, as this is when the annual Perseid meteor shower is visible. One of the most magnificent meteor showers seen in the Northern Hemisphere, it is arguably at its most impressive when viewed from remote areas like the Oklahoma panhandle.

As well as stargazing, the park offers up some incredible sunrises as well, which are well worth getting up early for.

Nature & Wildlife

Black Mesa State Park is a haven for bird lovers with the likes of golden eagles, pinyon jays, scaled quail, and black-billed magpies regularly spotted.

Other wildlife you might see in the area includes black bear, mountain lion, bobcat, bighorn sheep, mule deer and antelope.

Pets At Black Mesa State Park

The Black Mesa State Park is a pet-friendly park, although dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

They are allowed in certain parts of the campground and trails.

Camping At Black Mesa State Park

As there are not that many lodging options in the area, camping is a very popular activity for those who want to visit the park.

Open 365 days a year, the campground here is adjacent to Lake Carl Etling towards the tip of Oklahoma’s panhandle.

It is set across three different areas, one of which provides an RV campsite with electric and water hookups. There are also plenty of tent campsites here too, which can be reserved online, along with the RV sites.

If you do choose to camp here you will need to bring all your own supplies. The campground occupies a very remote, and desolate space which has no shops, restaurants, fuel or medical facilities in the immediate vicinity.

In fact the nearest fuel station and food store is about 50 miles away at Boise City.

Amenities at Black Mesa State Park

Given its remote location, it should not surprise you to learn that the park has limited amenities.

However, it does have restrooms with showers, a central dump station, playground, boat ramp and also picnic facilities.

Park Location

Black Mesa State Park
County Rd 325
Kenton, OK 73946
Phone: 580.665.8396




Below is a brief video showcasing a number of attractions at Black Mesa State Park: