Hiking is a great way to spend time outdoors. It’s good for your body, as well as your mental and emotional health. And choosing the right hike can play a key role in how successful a day it is.
Finding the ideal trail for your next hike can feel overwhelming at times. If you’re on vacation, or you’ve recently relocated for instance, a solid recommendation for can’t-miss trails is super helpful. Access to facilities, scenic viewpoints, and degree of difficulty are all important factors to consider when planning your next hike.
So today, we’re going to go over our recommendations for the 11 best hiking trails in Oklahoma.
As a landlocked state, Oklahoma doesn’t offer tropical beaches or epic mountain vistas found in other parts of the country. However, don’t let the prairie landscape discourage you from checking out this often overlooked destination.
Oklahoma City is consistently rated one of the best places to live, due to affordable cost of living and strong job market. The vibrant performing arts community, plentiful museums and historical exhibits, as well as the walkable downtown area make Oklahoma City an attractive option for single people and families to relocate.
Oklahoma has more than 200 man-made lakes, four distinct seasons and surprisingly diverse topography. There are also several natural landmarks that highlight Oklahoma’s allure. Lake Tenkiller State Park is located in the foothills of the Ozarks. The water is clear, sunsets are spectacular, and the lake covers more than 130,000 acres, so there’s plenty of space for everyone.
Southern Oklahoma is the home of Turner Falls, the largest waterfall in the state. It’s a family-friendly, entertaining stop with natural swimming areas, a rock castle and hiking trails. There are also two intriguing natural wonders that shouldn’t be missed: the gypsum cave at the Alabaster Caverns State Park in Freedom… and the Great Salt Plains State Park near Jet, Oklahoma. The gypsum cave is the largest of its kind in the world.
Digging for selenite crystals at the Great Salt Plains State Park is a unique experience because no other place in the world allows you to hunt for these treasures featuring an hour-glass shape.
For those who prefer scenic drives, southeastern Oklahoma offers a 54-mile route known as the Talimena Scenic Byway. The prime time to visit is during leaf-peeping season in late October and early November. The stunning foliage in the Ouachita Mountains adds to the sightseeing experience. Some say the view is breathtaking in every season. You can spend an hour or an entire day, enjoying the 15+ vistas along the way. There are rest areas, restaurants and lodging available.
Key Benefits of Hiking (Physical and Mental)
Multiple studies and extensive research have proven that spending time outdoors is good for our bodies. Board-certified family physician Ray Sehelian, MD encourages his patients to get outside, citing that hiking helps us relax and is good aerobic exercise. Hiking benefits our physical and mental health for a variety of reasons:
Now that we’ve covered the physical and mental benefits of hiking, here are our top recommendations for hiking trails in Oklahoma.
Our Picks for the 11 Best Hiking Trails in Oklahoma
1. Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
Located in southwest Oklahoma near Lawton and Ft. Sill, this wildlife refuge offers plentiful opportunities for hiking, fishing, camping and bird watching. There are multiple hiking trails. 9 are rated as easy, 12 are considered intermediate, and 4 are described by other hikers as difficult.
Forty-Foot Hole is less than 2 miles and considered an easy hike. More moderate hikes include The Bison Trail and the hike to the Mount Scott Overlook, which are both about 6 miles.
For more up-to-date information please visit this website.
Address: 32 Refuge Headquarters Road, Indiahoma, Oklahoma 73552-9760
2. Keystone Ancient Forest
This 1,360 acre nature preserve is between the Arkansas River and Sand Springs, a western suburb of Tulsa. Volunteers staff the new visitor center, there is plenty of parking and trails for every skill level.
The Keystone Ancient Forest loop is a 6.7 mile hike and takes about 2 and 1/2 hours to complete. Additional hiking options include the Childers, Frank and Wilson Trails. Not all are paved. Some trails offer a view of the lake.
For more information regarding hours of operation and details regarding pet policies please check out this link.
Address: 160 Ancient Forest Drive, Sand Springs, OK 74063
3. Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area
What’s not to love about a rugged park just minutes from downtown Tulsa? Turkey Mountain spans over 300 acres overlooking the Arkansas River.
Various species of mature trees, dirt trails and large ponds provide visitors with an incredible opportunity to hike in the forest. Some terrain is rocky. Appropriate shoes and sun-protective clothing are recommended. Only the paved trail is well-lit and dogs must be leashed at all times.
For more information about curfew, equestrian access, or to download a map, please visit this website.
Address: The main parking lot and restrooms are located at 67th and S Elwood Ave, Tulsa, OK 74132
4. Chickasaw National Recreation Area
A recreational area maintained by the National Park Service, Chickasaw National Recreation Area is halfway between Dallas, Texas and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma near the town of Sulphur. Visitors can fish, swim or go boating at Lake of the Arbuckles, see the natural and freshwater springs, watch for bison, swim in Travertine Creek, and hike.
The loop around Veterans Lake is almost three miles. It’s paved and accessible. There are 4 multi-use trails for biking, hiking or horseback riding which connect the Buckhorn and Platt areas.
Check out this website for details regarding weekend accessibility, camping and boat access.
Address: 901 W. 1st Street, Sulphur, OK 73086
5. Oxley Nature Center
Another conveniently located trail system in the Tulsa area is the Oxley Nature Center in Mohawk Park, about a mile north of the Tulsa Zoo.
Most of the trails are level, although some of the terrain can be muddy and not all trails are suitable for strollers or wheelchairs. Pets, bicycles, horses and motorized equipment are not allowed on trails. Mohawk Park and the trails are open to the public from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For regulations, maps and detailed trail descriptions please visit oxleynaturecenter.org/trails
Address: 6700 Mohawk Blvd., Tulsa, OK 74115
6. Osage Hills State Park
The gorgeous scenery of northeastern Oklahoma welcomes visitors to this state park near Pawhuska and Bartlesville. Fishing, camping, playing tennis, or spotting white-tailed deer are all popular activities at Osage Hills State Park. The rolling hills and lush scenery are perfect for hiking and mountain biking.
Terrain varies from easy to moderate, and hikes will take between 10 minutes to more than an hour. This is a family-friendly destination with a lake, waterfall and swimming pool. Pool hours may vary and there are only 30 sites available for RV’s.
Address: 2131 Osage Hills Park Rd., Pawhuska, OK 74056
7. Cathedral Mountain Trail at Gloss Mountain State Park
One of Oklahoma’s unique landmarks is the Gloss Mountains. High selenite content gives these buttes and mesas a fiery, shiny appearance. The Cathedral Mountain Trail is the only hike at Gloss Mountain State Park.
It’s just over a mile and grants visitors stunning panoramic views of the Gloss Mountains. There isn’t any shade, so plan for sun protection and bring plenty of water. The best photo opportunities are at sunrise or sunset.
Address: West of Enid and north of Fairview, off of Hwy 412, Fairview, OK 73737
8. Robbers Cave State Park
This is a family-friendly destination featuring lakes, trails, rappelling, playgrounds, swimming pool, an ATV riding area, and various camping/yurt accommodations. Hiking the Mountain Trail from Deep Ford Campground offers the best views of Lake Carlton and the Sans Bois Mountains. The hike is about 3 miles, with an elevation gain of 600 feet.
For more information regarding park access, amenities and seasonal facilities please visit this website.
Address: 4628 NW 1027th Ave., Wilburton, OK 74578
9. McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area
This state park boasts some of the best lake fishing and hiking in Oklahoma. There are campsites available, and horseback riding and water recreation are permitted. Stargazing is phenomenal. The McGee Creek trails are the most extensive of all the trails mentioned. Hikers can choose between easy trails or more lengthy adventures of 10-20 miles.
For more information about visiting McGee Creek Recreation here, please click here.
Address: 5798 S McGee Creek Lake Rd, Atoka, OK 74525
10. Swinging Bridge at Greenleaf State Park
The swinging bridge at Greenleaf State Park is a popular destination for photographs in Oklahoma. The Ankle Express Trail is the best way to get to the bridge. It’s a five mile hike through the woods and offers picturesque lake views.
Be aware that during the warmer months, rattlesnakes are common along the trail. There are also 2 easy trails for beginners, and an 18 mile trail composed of two loops. This longer hike is best-suited for intermediate hikers.
For additional details about visiting Greenleaf State Park and enjoying its incredible amenities please visit this website.
Address: 12022 Greenleaf Rd., Braggs, OK 74423
11. Roman Nose State Park
One of the original state parks in Oklahoma, Roman Nose State Park features gypsum rock cliffs, natural springs, an 18-hole golf course, two lakes with plenty of water recreation opportunities, and fantastic hiking.
There are 4 interconnected trails. The Lake Loop Trail and Mesa Loop Trail are highly recommended because they lead to Inspiration Point and offer picturesque views. Printed trail maps are available at the lodge.
Check out this website for more information regarding planning your visit to Roman Nose State Park.
Address: 3236 S Hwy 8A, Watonga, OK 73772
Final Thoughts on 11 Best Hiking Trails to Get Outdoors in Oklahoma
Whether you are planning a visit to the beautiful state of Oklahoma – or are a resident in search of a new, fun or interesting outdoor adventure – then these hiking trails are definitely worth checking out! Perhaps they are even worthy of making your family bucket list? At least, I think so.
Hiking is a family-friendly outdoor activity that gives everyone a chance to enjoy their natural surroundings. Whether you’re preparing for your first hike or are a seasoned outdoor enthusiast, here are a few tips to remember before you hit the trail.
And for a list of gear essentials, check out this article. The last thing you want is to have a perfectly good hike ruined because you didn’t have the right shoes or rain gear. The littlest things can make the biggest difference between delight and disaster!