Looking for a scenic drive that’s a relatively short distance from Pratt? The Gyp Hills Scenic Drive with an added Sun City loop provides a rugged landscape that typically promises a variety of wildlife as well.
The hills of Barber County may not be alive with the sound of music, but the Red Hills are currently green and filled with plenty of birdsong, especially around sunset.
Begin your drive in Pratt and head south on 281 to Medicine Lodge. Follow Highway 160 west out of Medicine Lodge for three or so miles until you come to a small sign reading “Gypsum Hills Scenic Drive.” The drive is paved for five or so miles before you turn off onto a dirt road, which winds its way through the hills.
Don’t just drive through, though. This is the kind of trip that’s not complete unless you step out of the car—or at least shut the engine off and roll the windows down—and listen. What you will hear, unless it’s very windy, is a sweet stillness, broken only by bird song or the roar of a jet plane overhead. As you stare into the distance at the endless miles of red hills, mottled with varying shades of green and occasional wheat fields, you may not want to leave. “It’s like being on another planet,” someone from Comanche County once told me. Truly, it is. It’s amazing what a rugged and beautiful landscape you will discover. And it’s right in our backyard.
If you have time after reaching the end of the dirt road at Highway 160, turn west instead of east. A few miles up the road you will find the drive to Sun City, another picturesque byway that is paved except for the last mile or so leading into town.
Many make Buster’s Saloon their destination in Sun City. Our group brought along food and had a picnic in the park, which appears to be the former Sun City school grounds with a flagpole right in the middle. Be careful where you sit on the park bench, as it’s fairly old. The park was a lovely place to enjoy a sandwich this past Tuesday evening, and robins serenaded us while we enjoyed the meal.
The hills continue for a few miles north on Sun City Road as you head back toward Pratt. Besides seeing a couple of deer, we also witnessed a half a dozen or so telephone poles topped with pairs of turkey vultures, likely scouting out supper.
The total distance for the loop via Sun City is about 97 miles.