Oklahoma is home to 32 state parks, and each has different natural features and activities to enjoy. Visiting some of these parks during the time you spend in Oklahoma is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors and to explore the best of the state. Depending on the length of your visit, you will probably only have time to visit a few of Oklahoma’s state parks, so you should plan which one you want to explore during your visit before arriving in the area. Here are the 10 best state parks in Oklahoma.
10. Robbers Cave State Park
Robbers Cave State Park is in Wilburton, and it earned its name as the caves within the park were used by outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr as a hideout. The caves are set in sandstone hills and cliffs, and there are hiking trails that take you over the rugged terrain to the caves. In addition to hiking, rappelling, horseback riding, wildlife watching, and wild game hunting are popular at this park. The main lake in the park is Lake Carlton, where visitors enjoy fishing and canoeing. However, there is a combined total of 189-acres of lakes within this park.
9. Black Mesa State Park & Nature Reserve
Black Mesa State Park & Nature Reserve sits just under 5,000 feet above sea level in the town of Kenton in northwest Oklahoma. Black Mesa is Oklahoma’s highest point, so it is a popular place for hiking. The trail to the peak takes you from the state park, through the nature reserve, and then up Black Mesa. At the summit, you can enjoy breathtaking views of Oklahoma’s diverse and beautiful landscape. Black Mesa marks the spot where the shortgrass prairie and the Rocky Mountains meet, and the surrounding landscape is home to a wide range of wildlife, including golden eagles, antelopes, bighorn sheep, and pinyon jays. There is a point in the park that marks the juncture of Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado.
8. Tenkiller State Park
This state park sits along the shores of Lake Tenkiller in Vian, Oklahoma. The deep lake has emerald waters and is surrounded by gravel shorelines and tall rock bluffs. Most people who visit the park focus their time on the lake. Scuba diving is one of the top activities, as there are sunken buses, boats, and an aircraft fuselage below the lake’s surface. Another enjoyable activity in the park is the 1.5-mile paved nature trail, which runs alongside the lake and through the surrounding area. Other features of the park include lighted boat ramps, a nature center, cabins, campsites, and a kids’ fishing pond.
7. Great Salt Plains State Park
One of the best state parks in northern Oklahoma is Great Salt Plains State Park, which is in Jet. It has an 8,960-acre body of water where visitors can fish for hybrid striped bass, white bass, and saugeye. The park also has 11,000 acres of white salt flats, and it is the only place in the world that forms hourglass-shaped selenite crystals. Great Salt Plains State Park is home to both Great Salt Plains Lake or Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge. Many birdwatching enthusiasts visit this park as there are migrating waterfowl, including American white pelicans and whooping cranes. Other activities include campgrounds, swimming, digging for crystals, hiking, and mountain biking.
6. Roman Nose State Park
In terms of the diversity of the activities there are to enjoy, then Roman Nose State Park is one of the best options as there are activities to enjoy for people of all ages. One of the park’s main features is Lake Watonga, where visitors can swim, fish, go boating, have a go at canoeing, or camp along the shoreline in tents or a teepee. Another feature is the gypsum rock cliffs, where people go rock climbing or head through the trails on the cliffs, which are suitable for hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding. Alternatively, visitors can head to the 18-hole golf course that is set between the canyon walls.
5. Little Sahara State Park
Little Sahara State Park is in Waynoka, and it is so-called because there are more than 1,600 acres of sand dunes, some of which are more than 75-feet tall. It is also known as Oklahoma’s sandbox due to the sandy terrain. The park is the perfect playground for off-roading in ATVs, Jeeps, motorcycles, or buggies. There are also multiple campgrounds for those who want to spend a night at the park.
4. Beavers Bend State Park
Vacation Idea recommends spending time at Beavers Bend State Park during your visit to Oklahoma. The varied terrain means it is ideal for a wide range of outdoor pursuits. It boasts 180-acres of shoreline along Broken Bow Lake and Mountain Fork River, and there are hardwood forests, mountainous terrain, and several streams. Some activities to enjoy at the park include trout fishing, boating, scuba diving, hiking, biking, and horseback riding.
3. Greenleaf State Park
Greenleaf State Park is one of the best natural attractions in Braggs, Oklahoma. It is one of the original seven state parks in Oklahoma. Cabins and other structures were added to the state park during the 1930s and 1940s. There is an 18-mile rugged mountain trail running through the park that is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. The trail begins in a wooded area and goes across a swinging bridge over the lake and through two campsites. Fishing is another popular activity at the park, especially for sunfish and largemouth bass. People also enjoy swimming in the lake or relaxing on its beaches. Another feature of the park is the nature center, where visitors can learn about the area’s natural environment.
2. Alabaster Caverns State Park
Located in Freedom, Alabaster State Park is a popular spot for both wild caving and guided cave tours. The largest cavern in the park is open to the public for guided tours led by an experienced tour guide, and there are family-friendly paved trails. Across the park, there are many other caverns in the network for wild caving, although you need a permit from the park office for this activity. You will also need the appropriate clothing and equipment for caving, such as a hard hat, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy boots, and a flashlight.
1. Lake Murray State Park
According to Travel OK, the best state park to visit in Oklahoma is Lake Murray State Park. It is one of the most popular attractions in the state for locals and visitors alike. The park is in Ardmore, and the main feature is Lake Murray, which is one of the most scenic lakes in Oklahoma. Lake Murray is used by visitors for water sports, boating, and fishing. The park also houses a golf course with a pro shop, an ATV area for off-road vehicles, numerous campgrounds, a lodge with 32 guest rooms, and 56 log cabins.
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Written by Dana Hanson
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