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A Detailed Guide To Oklahoma's Hiking Trails

Updated: Mar 24, 2023



Oklahoma doesn't have the extremely elevated mountain peaks found in states like Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, but you might be surprised by how enjoyable its hiking trails can be. And, there are likely more than you thought, spread all across the state.


Nearly all of these trails (and their parks) bring something new to a day of hiking. Some take you into the woods, and others send you into the sun. Some give you beautiful views, and others provide you the chance to get close to wildlife. Many of them have bodies of water nearby, from lakes to natural springs. And a lot of them have extra things to do to extend your day in the outdoors.


Use this hiking guide to discover which trails might be more your speed (or distance, rather), and get the inside scoop on which ones I like the best.


*I'll continue updating this list as I visit more nature hiking trails in The Sooner State.



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GLOSS MOUNTAIN STATE PARK

Cathedral Mountain Trail | Location: Fairview, OK


Difficulty: Easy

Length: 1.5-mile loop

Elevation Gain: 206 ft


About The Hike » It's almost incorrect really to call the Cathedral Mountain Trail a hike since it's only 1.5 miles in total — if that. There is a fairly steep incline at the beginning with a railing, and from there, you're basically on a plateau, so it's an easy route. The plateau is not extremely high, but anyone who is afraid of heights likely wouldn't love this trail.


What You'll See » While the hike isn't impressive, the park is a beautiful sight. Firstly, the red dirt/clay (really, it is port) found in Oklahoma is very prevalent, so the plateaus that you'll see are unique in that. The red surroundings make for some great photos! Additionally, the Gloss Mountains are also sometimes called the Glass Mountains due to the high Selenite content, a type of quartz, which looks like shiny glass. So along your walk, you'll see a lot of sparkles! Lastly, the other cool aspect of this trail is that there are a few plaques along the way explaining the terrain as well as what you're viewing in the distance, such as the names of the bodies of water around you.


Know Before You Go »

  • Visitor's Center: None

  • Admission: FREE

  • Parking: The parking lot is located right at the base of the plateau and beginning of the trail, and it's FREE.

  • Bathrooms: YES. There are bathrooms in the parking lot.

  • Camping: While there is no camping in the park, there are some campsites nearby through Gloss Mountain Outfitters, though it's nearly a 30-mile drive.

  • Food: None. However, there are towns near the park where you can stop to get a bite to eat.

  • Cell Service: You'll likely have normal service here.


My Opinion »

If you're heading to a town that's near this area or driving that route through to Kansas, hiking here would be a fun thing to do to stretch your legs on the way. However, Gloss Mountain State Park by itself isn't really worth a 2-hour drive there and a 2-hour drive back, so if that's your main activity for the day, see if you can find something else to pair it with. For example, on the way back to OKC, I stopped at the Frank Raab Nature Trail in Canton.




TURNER FALLS PARK

Turner Falls Park Hiking Trails | Location: Davis, OK


Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Length: 3.5-mile loop

Elevation Gain: 344 ft


About The Hike » Turner Falls Park is located in the Arbuckle Mountains, is the oldest park in Oklahoma and consists of 1,500 acres. There is just one trail that basically runs from the highest point down through the recreational areas and back up. One portion of it is very clear with a dirt path. Another portion runs through the forest and doesn't show up quite as clearly, especially since it intersects campsites and the main road. Any signs that might have been there for visitors are not helpful anymore, so I suggest using AllTrails to find your way, though some users say the map is incorrect there as well. While the hike isn't very difficult as a whole, the path down to the waterfall is steep and tricky, so watch your step!


What You'll See » Although it might sound funny, the first thing to note is that you'll see a lot of people at this park. It's a hot spot for families in the summer due to the 77-ft waterfall (Oklahoma's largest waterfall) that drops into a natural swimming pool. The waterfall and pool are a part of Honey Creek, which is spring-fed and travels through the Arbuckle Mountains. The recreational area also includes some caves and the ruins of Collings Castle, which was built in the 1930s, that you can explore. If you walk up the stairs at the castle and up the steep ramp that follows, you'll find an overlook of the waterfall area, a perfect place to snap a photo.


Know Before You Go »

  • Visitor's Center: I didn't see a visitor's center or office (there could be one!), but you'll run into workers or rangers who might be able to answer your questions/assist you if needed.

  • Admission: The entrance fee varies depending on the time of the year and whether you're visiting on a weekday or a weekend. For example, admission is higher from May through September than October through April because it's warm enough to swim, the most popular activity. Weekends are also more expensive than weekdays. For instance, on a Monday it's $16 for adults, but on a weekend, it's $20. Children are cheaper or free, depending on their ages, and seniors and active duty military get discounts. See the park's admission page for details.

  • Parking: There are levels of parking, with each a different price. For example, Level 1 Parking is closest to the waterfall and is $20 for the day. Level 2 Parking is further away (and at a higher elevation) and costs $10. Level 3 Parking is even further away but is free. If you plan on doing the hike, then I highly recommend Level 3 since you can park at the higher point of elevation, the "beginning" of the trail loop is near you, and you can walk down to the waterfall, spend the day there and then hike back up to your vehicle.

  • Bathrooms: YES. They are located at the waterfall.

  • Camping: YES. Camping is a popular activity at this park. There are also RV sites, shelters and cabins. Be sure to reserve your spot in advance!

  • Food: YES. There are snack bars that offer hamburgers, hotdogs, nachos, etc. Arbuckle Fried Pies is also just about a mile from the park. Depending on which direction you come from, you'll pass it on your drive there.

  • Cell Service: Likely none.


My Opinion »

Despite the trail not being spectacular, due to parts of it being hard to follow and trashy from the campsites, pairing the hike with the other activities in this park creates a fun spot to spend a summer day. So, I suggest you make the most of everything! Walk down to the waterfall, find a cave along the way, visit the castle ruins, swim to cool yourself off and then hike the other side of the loop back up to your car.



ROMAN NOSE STATE PARK

Inspiration Point Loop, Canyon Loop, Natural Springs Trail | Location: Watonga, OK


Difficulty: Moderate

Length: more than 6.8 miles of trail

Elevation Gain: 518 feet (when hiking the trail with the highest point)


About The Hike » I'm rating this trail "moderate," as there are consistent elevation changes — you'll go up and down a lot. So, despite the elevation not being drastic, if you do the full Inspiration Loop, it will tire you out. The paths here are fairly open and easy to follow. I even saw a biker using it when I visited. And keep in mind that the trail doesn't take you out very far into the park. It mostly keeps your hike contained to one area and then crisscrosses and loops around to make good use of the space.


What You'll See » There isn't a lot to "view" here, but the trees are a pretty sight as you walk since most of them are junipers with blue fruits that look like berries. At the highest point (follow the Inspiration Point loop to get there), you'll get an overview of the park and its lakes. And before you get to the Inspiration Point Loop, you'll be able to read some plaques about nature, cross a wooden bridge and see a natural spring, which one of the signs will point out. Apparently, the Natural Springs Trail, which is in another area of the park, includes a hidden waterfall, natural springs and wading spots. It's definitely something I'll have to check out the next time I visit!


Know Before You Go »

  • Visitor's Center: According to the park's map, the office is located in the golf pro shop just past the "Roman Nose State Park" sign. But if you ever have any questions, I'm sure they can also be answered at the lodge/restaurant and the grocery store/bait shop.

  • Admission: FREE

  • Parking: It's FREE, and there are basically two entrances to the trails, so there are two places you can park. The first lot is at the lodge with the trailhead near the dumpster area, and the second is at the Roman Nose General Store where you walk on a path between Boecher Lake and Watonga Lake to get to the trail.

  • Bathrooms: YES. You can find (nice) bathrooms at the lodge/restaurant and also likely at the other buildings and throughout the park.

  • Camping: YES. There are campsites and cabins. Additionally, the Roman Nose Resort offers lodge rooms, and The Fairway Cottage can accommodate 10 guests.

  • Food: YES. Swadley's Foggy Bottom Kitchen, located in the lodge, is available to visitors, but keep in mind that it's closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.

  • Cell Service: I had service, but other hikers I met along the way did not.


My Opinion »

It's a good place to get your workout in while enjoying nature. The trees create a peaceful beauty here and help you feel as though you've really gotten away from the world for a while. I didn't have time to visit the natural springs, so I'll definitely be going back! And despite the slight elevation, this is also a trail I'll bring friends to who aren't super into hiking but want to walk and spend the day outside in nature.



GREENLEAF STATE PARK

Greenleaf Trail (Lower, Middle and Upper Segments) | Location: Braggs, OK


Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 18.8 miles of trail

Elevation Gain: 1,896 ft at most


About The Hike » The very first portion of the hike makes for a pleasant walk through the woods and includes a few signs with nature facts. To get to the rest of the trails (and the swinging bridge), keep in mind that you do have to walk on a portion of the highway that crosses the lake. There is enough room on the shoulder so that you don't really have to be nervous, but be careful if you have children with you. Past the bridge, I was also lucky that there were so many blue and orange markers on the trees to follow because the actual path wasn't clear all the time and was pretty thorny. I often found myself walking wherever it was easiest until I saw more blue signs, which makes me wonder how easy it would be to follow it when it's not winter and the trees have leaves. Overall, with the length of the trail (obviously, it's your choice how far you go) and the elevation in the middle and upper segments, I would say the difficulty of this hike is moderate.


What You'll See » There are basically three things that made this park and its trail interesting for me. The first is that the lower segment of the trail (the first half) takes you around the lake. Being someone who loves water, I enjoyed seeing it glisten through the trees. The second is the bridge, which EVERYBODY goes to Greenleaf State Park to see. The swinging bridge separates the lower segment from the middle and upper segments of the trail and takes you across a narrow portion of the lake. No worries! It doesn't swing THAT much, but it's a good spot to enjoy a view as well as take photos. The final aspect of the hike that I liked was this small, bright blue pool I found. I'm not sure if it always looks like a pool or if it only does in the winter months because there is less water flowing, but it was magical! To get to it, take the first trail to the right as soon as you pass the swinging bridge. (I believe the park calls this the South Loop.) Follow it up until you reach the first major curve where it looks like a stream typically passes through. And be careful, it's slick!


Know Before You Go »

  • Visitor's Center: YES. It's small but has a bathroom, maps and a gift shop. (P.S., ask the nice ladies at the counters if you have any questions!)

  • Admission: FREE ... other than parking (see below).

  • Parking: It's $10 for one day. You can pay via a machine at the visitor's office or online.

  • Bathrooms: YES. Bathrooms can be found at the visitor's center or in various locations (campsites) around the park — there won't be any on the hiking trail.

  • Camping: YES. The park has tent campsites, RV campsites and cabins you can book for different fees.

  • Food: None. You won't find any food within the park, but the town of Braggs isn't far away and has a few options as well as a gas station.

  • Cell Service: It's limited. In some areas, I couldn't get anything, and in others (past the bridge), I got signal off and on.


My Opinion »

While I can't speak about what this hike is like during the other seasons, Greenleaf State Park is a great place to visit when there is nice weather in the winter. It's still beautiful, and it's easier to see the trail. Plus, you've got to walk the bridge and see the blue pool at least once! Although I likely won't go back to the park again specifically to hike now that I've been, I will definitely try out more portions of the trail segments if I go back to camp or fish.



WICHITA MOUNTAINS WILDLIFE REFUGE

Mount Scott, Dog Run Hollow Trail System, Charons Garden Wilderness Area | Location: Comanche County


Difficulty: Easy, Moderate and Difficult

Length: 15 miles of trail

Elevation Gain: 1,026 ft at most


* For more information about the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge than what you read here, check out this blog post, which will give you additional details about its hikes as well as some tips to remember before you go!


About The Hike » Just about whatever kind of hiking you're into can be found at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Mount Scott, for example, is 2,464 ft above sea level and is very steep. Visitors can walk up (on the concrete road) or drive up. The gate doesn't open up for cars until later in the morning, so I suggest hiking it before then so you don't have to deal with passing vehicles. The trails in the Charon's Garden Wilderness Area are also fairly steep and, in my opinion, more difficult since they take you through nature rather than on a road. The Dog Run Hollow System, on the other hand, includes mostly non-incline trails and is easy, as far as difficulty goes.


What You'll See » There are so many exciting things to see in this park, namely, the wildlife. Prairie dogs pop in and out of their holes on the side of the roads, and bison and longhorns roam the refuge. Obviously, you'll want to be careful around them, but many people hike in the Wichita Mountains, so there's no need to be worried when you see the animals. The views when you reach the various summits are also majestic, especially on Mount Scott, as shown in the photo above. And if you're interested, you'll also find The Holy City of the Wichitas at the refuge, which is a replica of notable Biblical structures in Jerusalem during Jesus' time. It's home to the longest-running annual Easter Passion Play.


Know Before You Go »

  • Visitor's Center: YES, there is a visitor's center at the refuge. Not only does it have bathrooms and water, but you'll also find a small exhibit about Oklahoma wildlife and a gift shop.

  • Admission: FREE

  • Parking: There is FREE parking at each trail or activity. (Visitors have to park on the road's shoulder to climb Mount Scott if the gate isn't open.)

  • Bathrooms: Yes. You'll find bathrooms at the visitor's center (I assume), The Holy City of the Wichitas and some of the trailheads.

  • Camping: YES. The Doris Campground is a modern camping facility for groups, but you can also backcountry camp in the Charon's Garden Wilderness Area. All campers must reserve their spots.

  • Food: None. However, the towns of Lawton and Cache are near enough to grab a bite if you're hungry.

  • Cell Service: None. This is definitely an area in which you need a printed-out or downloaded map. If the Visitor's Center is open, I'm sure you'll be able to snag one there, but I suggest finding the map online before you go. It will be a lifesaver as you traverse the roads and look for specific trails and parking.


My Opinion »

This is my favorite place to hike in Oklahoma so far! It has all types of trails, and a lot of them, so it makes for a well-rounded day. This refuge also has a higher elevation for hiking than most other areas in Oklahoma, so it's good practice for anyone wanting to increase their stamina. I haven't done all of the trails yet, but I plan to go back, especially because the wildlife is just about everywhere you turn!


 

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