The kids and I made a trip to explore the famed Forty Foot Hole in the Wichita Mountains recently. Excursions to the Wichitas have always been one of our favorite ways to spend a gorgeous, obligation-free day. It’s doable as a day trip and a short hour-and-a-half drive from the Oklahoma City area.
Wildflowers bloomed long into early summer this season, and I was anxious to hike the area before they disappeared. One early morning near the first of June, we decided to head out to hike and explore before the heat was upon us.
What is the Forty Foot Hole in the Wichita Mountains?
Forty Foot Hole is essentially a deep body of water within a canyon formed by West Cache Creek in the Wichita Mountains near Cache, OK. It’s a breathtaking piece of landform art, deep in the heart of Oklahoma. The relatively short hike can be accessed via the Kite Trail.
How to Get There
We found that the quickest trail to follow is the Kite Trail, and we prefer using the AllTrails app while following it. The trail is relatively short, but has some difficult areas and is not marked well in some spots. Other unmarked trails shoot off from it, causing some uncertainty. I always feel confident while using the app. Otherwise, it would be far more difficult to stay on track. It is worth the subscription because cell service is poor in the area, however, the app will still work. You can download it and use a free 7-day trial for your hike. The hike is described as “easy” on the app, but I would describe it as a little more moderate.
We drove to the Boulder Picnic Area by the Kite Trailhead to begin our hike. (There are some public restrooms along the road that you can stop at just before you reach the picnic area.) After applying sunscreen and gathering our backpacks, we headed out and hiked about .75 miles to the edge of the canyon overlooking the hole.
You’ll see the creek off to your left as you begin your trek and you’ll see how the area transforms from plains to a rocky canyon. The trail will take you away from the creek for a while as you meander through rocky terrain and native vegetation. You have to slightly deviate to the east from the Kite trail eventually using a side trail (while paying attention to your AllTrails app location). Some of the small trails that split off from the Kite Trail can lead you to it (there’s not just one right way to go). You navigate toward the creek as it enters the canyon to find the actual Forty Foot Hole. It’s about a 1.4-mile round-trip hike.
The Kite Trail continues to wind around further to the Lost Lake Picnic Area. We continued on and found the lake, saw the dam, and then walked back toward the Forty Foot Hole again from the lake. You can also park at Lost Lake by the dam and begin your trek from there instead.
There are markers along the path with a bird that looks similar to a kite, but they’re easy to miss and aren’t frequent. As long as you veer toward the creek in the canyon, you’ll find it. Be sure to watch your step and look out for snakes and unlevel rocks. There are some steep areas.
When the water is high, you can see small falls along the creek. Just remember, swimming is not allowed.
Once there, we climbed all around the area (while being watchful of snakes) and explored from various vantage points.
The wildflowers were still in bloom and made the hike all the more wondrous.
We spent about 2.75 hours total hiking, exploring, meandering, and resting, but it could be done quickly in about 40 minutes. Bring plenty of trail snacks and water. Regardless of the time of year, you’ll need it!
Best Time to Visit
It’s best to visit the Forty Foot Hole during any season except for the hottest part of summer. If you decide to venture out in the summer, you have to get out early and finish your hike before around 10 a.m. to noon to beat the heat. The rocky terrain has little shade and keeps hikers away during hot daytime hours.
We prefer to visit after plenty of rain. If you’re hiking in the area during a long stint without moisture or rain, you’re unlikely to see as much flowing water or waterfalls along the creek.
We’re all about those shimmering, trickling streams of water! Just watch out for slick spots.
Can You Swim in the Forty Foot Hole?
No, swimming is not allowed at the Forty Foot Hole. The area is a part of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Learn more about the preserve here.
Where to Eat
We rewarded our efforts with a trip to a Mexican restaurant in Medicine Park afterward. We enjoyed the outdoor patio and its view while eating our chips and queso. It will be re-opening soon under new ownership and will be known as Tu Familia Mexican Restaurant! Check back for updates.
Other Things to Do
Looking for more to do in the area? We highlighted some ideas here. You can swim in the local swimming hole in Medicine Park. Find a bite to eat or shop to your heart’s content in one of the unique shops and restaurants along its main street. It’s like a miniature mountain ski town, if you ask me, but without the snow.
What to Bring
- Map / App
- Trail snacks / picnic meal
- Lightweight, packable rain gear
Wrap-Up: Forty Foot Hole Adventure
A trip to the Forty Foot Hole is worthwhile and full of adventure. We never take the exact same path along the trail twice. It varies depending on season, rainfall, and weather. Oklahoma likes to keep us on our toes in that department, so always check the forecast in advance.
Remember that the hole is within the canyon itself. If you go too far along the Kite Trail you’ll miss it. If you start at the Boulder Picnic Area, follow Kite Trail, then meander over to the creek as it enters the canyon. It’s just east of the trail. Keep a map handy and enjoy every step of the way! Yes, literally.