Exploring the Gypsum Hills

A heat lightning storm across the gypsum hills of Oklahoma

Gloss Mountain State Park, or Gloss Hills State Park, is a unique natural attraction located in Major County, Oklahoma. The park is named after the mesmerizing glossy appearance of the mesas and buttes found within the area. These formations are composed of highly reflective selenite gypsum, giving them a shimmering and glass-like appearance. The local indigenous tribes, such as the Cheyenne and Arapaho, refer to the area as “Shining Mountains” due to the distinctive sheen of the rock formations.

The park is situated at an elevation of approximately 1,600 feet (488 meters) above sea level, offering visitors panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

The unique selenite gypsum formations in the Gloss Mountains were created millions of years ago through the gradual evaporation of an ancient inland sea. The park provides several hiking trails that allow visitors to explore the beauty of the Gloss Mountains up close. The trails range from easy to moderate difficulty and offer opportunities for bird watching and wildlife spotting.

Gloss Mountain State Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, bobcats, coyotes, rabbits, lizards, and numerous bird species. Birdwatchers can spot birds like Western meadowlarks, turkey vultures, and golden eagles. During the spring and early summer, the park becomes alive with vibrant wildflowers, creating a picturesque and colorful landscape.

Meandering red dirt road meets the stormy sunset

Handheld at ground level

ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/320″

Due to its remote location away from major urban centers, Gloss Mountain State Park offers excellent conditions for stargazing, with minimal light pollution and clear night skies.

One of the most iconic formations in the park is known as Cathedral Mountain, featuring towering cliffs and jagged spires. It is a popular spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts. Although Gloss Mountain State Park does not offer camping facilities, you can find nearby campsites and RV parks for overnight stays.

Gloss Mountain State Park is a captivating natural destination that showcases the geological wonders of Oklahoma and provides visitors with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the state’s unique beauty.

My last visit to Gloss Mountain was filled with photographic wonder at every turn! We were blessed with a vibrant golden hour and a heat lightning storm that lasted for hours. This is just ONE of the geological wonders we will be exploring afer hours in my adventure workshop for photographers, Chasing Central Oklahoma Light.

  • Milky Way over gypsum hills of Oklahoma with cacti in the foreground
  • Milky Way over Gloss Mountain State Park

Both images above are stacked and blended in Photoshop using advanced astrolandscape techniques which we will be covering in the Adventure Workshop.

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