Trip Date 08/03/2017
Posted On 09/13/2018 17:47:10
Camping | Hiking | Oklahoma | Lawton | Doris Campground Review | RV Camping in Oklahoma | Hiking in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
A nine hour drive brought us from Weston, MO to Lawton, OK - the longest single day distance that we have towed "RV There Yet?" in our first three weeks as RV owners. Doris Campground was in the perfect location for us to spend some time exploring the area surrounding both the Wichita and Quartz Mountains.
If you enjoy scenic drives and are open to devoting some time to camping in southern Oklahoma, take a look at this post which reviews our two night stay at Doris Campground. The park is located on the Wichita Mountains Scenic Drive, and the Oklahoma's Quartz Mountains Scenic Drive is also in the nearby vicinity.
Campground Amenities at Doris Campground
While the abundance of nature and wildlife at Doris Campground are definitely appealing, there are some downsides to the campground as well. The gates at Doris Campground are open from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM each Sunday through Thursday from April 1 - October 31 and until 11:00 PM on Fridays and Saturdays. Between November 1 and March 31, gates close two hours earlier on weekdays and one hour earlier on weekends. Advance reservations are accepted for group campsites, however single-unit campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis only.
Upon arrival at the campground, the unstaffed entrance station has maps available to help campers navigate through the park to find an open site. Driving through Doris Campground is on a narrow one lane road with low hanging tree limbs throughout the park. Once a campsite is selected, the cash or check payment must be deposited into one of the self-pay envelopes available back at the entrance station. (Our two night stay totaled $40.00 for a site with electricity but no water.) During our stay, we did see a park host regularly driving through the campground. Our assumption is that one of the host's responsibilities is to collect the payment envelopes and confirm that all guests have paid for their site.
Dumpsters are located throughout the park, a central dump station is available for RVs and the campground itself was clean. Most restrooms, on the other hand, were dirty outhouses with pit toilets and no privacy doors - although they did have adequate toilet paper. A restroom complex with flush toilets and a drinking fountain is located on the road across from Loop E. Additionally, a restroom / shower complex is located near the intersection of Loops C and D (closed during winter). Neither of the restroom facilities were among the cleanest that we've seen!
In our opinion, the biggest downside to Doris Campground during our stay was the water at the park:
- the lake water was not suitable for swimming;
- all public "drinking water hydrants" had posted e-coli warnings; and
- upon returning home, we had to learn how to sanitize our water tank which we realize we should NOT have filled during our stay!
Located in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, campers at Doris Campground have an excellent chance at seeing some wildlife - either in the campground, on the many trails in the refuge or on the road to or from. In addition to the American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, white-tailed deer and Texas longhorn cattle who roam the refuge, you might also see other mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians plus a large assortment of plant life during a visit. Although there are signs cautioning campers to be alert for buffalo and longhorns, the only wildlife that we encountered on our walk through the campground were birds, squirrels, rabbits, deer and a turkey.
Campsite Amenities at Doris Campground
Doris Campground has a total of 90 single-unit campsites plus three group campsites:
- 47 sites for tents or RVs without water or electricity ($10.00 nightly);
- 23 sites with 50-amp electric (no water) for tents or RVs ($20.00 nightly); and
- 20 walk-in primitive sites for tent campers ($8.00 per night).
We grabbed a campground map, chose Loop B as our first choice location and planned our driving route. As we knew there was no water at individual sites, we headed straight to a drinking water hydrant to fill our tank (our memory was still fresh from our previous two nights with limited water). We made campsite 47, the first available site that we came upon in Loop B, ours for the next two nights. The site is long enough to park both a Ford Expedition and 33 foot trailer end to end, which is a plus for campers desiring to stay connected to their tow vehicle during an overnight stay. (We did take advantage of the lengthy parking space by connecting our RV to our tow vehicle on the evening before we left in order to get an early morning start for our long drive home.)
Not having water at individual campsites is a negative in our opinion, yet even worse is the fact that none of the water in the park was safe for drinking during our stay. We did have a good selection of broadcast television stations available during our stay. Our cell phone and data service through Sprint, on the other hand, was quite poor. Each site has a picnic table, grill and fire pit situated on a gravel picnic area which means no worrying about mud after a rainstorm!
While Scott was grilling one of our evening dinners, I kept hearing a noise that I thought was an animal rustling through the leaves at a nearby campsite. Although I had trouble finding a culprit, I finally caught sight of the two legged creature. I quickly grabbed my camera and went on a turkey hunt. I tried to walk slowly in order to be as quiet as possible, but the turkey began scampering toward ... a turkey friend!
As I neared our neighboring site, I saw not two, not three, not four - but five turkeys!
While the campsites all appeared to be clean during our visit, most sites throughout the park are sloped (not flat). As the campground has lots of trees, many sites are well shaded. Due to the spacing of most trees, however, only a few sites will easily accommodate the hanging of hammocks.
Favorite Campsites at Doris Campground
We walked all five camping loops at Doris Campground in search of our favorite sites. Although only two of the campground loops have electricity (Loops B & E), we still set a goal to choose at least one site per loop that we would be happy with should we ever return:
Without water or electricity, in our opinion the sites in Loop A rate lower than those in Loops B & E (especially when traveling with an RV), however our favorites are:
- accessible site 9 due to being well shaded;
- site 11 as it is well shaded (the site is short and backing in may be difficult due to the angle of the site); and
- site 13 due to the long parking space and good shade, as well as trees for hammocks.
Campsites in Loop B have electricity, however no water at individual sites. All things considered, Loop B is our favorite loop and we would choose any site in this loop before seeking out a campsite in any of the other loops:
- site 43 is more level than many sites in the campground;
- site 47 (our site on this visit) is well shaded, however the tree locations make hanging hammocks difficult; and
- site 50 has the best view of the lake.
The partially overgrown Bridge to Little Baldy Mountain Trail is located in Loop B, so we walked across to see the view.
Without electricity or water, campsites in Loop C are less favorable, however our favorites include:
- site 36 due to its large size, good lake view and being well shaded (trees may interfere with RV slides); and
- site 41 due to the site appearing to have easy back-in parking as well as being shaded with trees in good locations to accommodate hammocks.
In our opinion, the sites in Loop D are the least desirable as compared to the other 4 loops:
- sites 25 and 26 rank as our first and second choices respectively.
The Bridge to Environmental Education Center, located in Loop D, is the longer of two bridges in Doris Campground. I'm pretty sure that I saw a sign somewhere saying swimming is not allowed in Quanah Parker Lake and there is no way that this girl would even contemplate getting in the water!
Sites in Loop E have electricity (however no water). Our two favorite sites in this loop are:
- site 53 as it is long and well shaded; and
- site 56, a long site that is more level than most with good shade and hammock trees.
Hiking at Doris Campground
There are a total of 18 Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Trails ranging from a distance of 0.1 miles to 8.0 miles (one way). Each trail is rated on degree of difficulty:
- 2 easy (accessible) trails - 0.1 miles to 1 mile each direction;
- 11 easy trails - 0.4 miles to 8 miles each way;
- a 1 mile long (one way) easy-moderate trail;
- 2 moderate trails, both 1 mile in each direction; and
- 2 trails with a difficult rating - 1.1 miles to 2.4 miles each way.
The easy Osage Lake Trail was one of the trails nearest our campsite, yet it still required us to hop in the car for a short drive to the trail head. The hike took us through the prairie land toward the granite surrounded lake. At a distance of just under 1 1/4 miles round trip, the trail was the perfect distance for an evening hike, plus it was relatively flat. The Osage Lake Trail was well marked and fairly east to navigate, although it did have tall grass on each side that sometimes interfered with our hiking.
If you are looking for more campgrounds in southern Oklahoma, check out our post titled Review: The Point Campground. Located further east than Doris Campground but still in southern Oklahoma, we enjoyed our stay at this campground that was on the shore of Lake of the Arbuckle.
When you are searching for a campsite, what amenities are most important to you, and why?
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