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The Best State Parks to Visit in Oklahoma

While Oklahoma doesn’t have nearly as many official state parks as places like California (the “Golden State” claims 270 such attractions), it’s certainly not last on the list (that honor goes to Rhode Island, with just 15). But Oklahoma’s collection of more than 35 state parks is certainly a good one.

Cherished for their diversity, these parks are a great escape for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike, whether traveling with families looking for time together, couples looking for a little outdoor romance, or solo adventurers. These seven best state parks to visit in Oklahoma, each with its own set of attractions, together offer a fascinating glimpse into what makes the ‘Sooner State’ so special.

Beavers Bend State Park

A view of beautiful fall trees reflected in the water at Beavers Bend State Park, Oklahoma
Autumn trees reflected in the water at Beavers Bend State Park, Oklahoma.

Beavers Bend State Park, located in southeastern Oklahoma in the Ouachita Mountains near Broken Bow, was founded in 1937 and attracts more than two million visitors annually. Spanning over 1,300 acres along the shores of Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River, this popular park features a lush, forested landscape dotted with towering pine and hardwood trees. Numerous hiking and nature trails meander through the park, including the scenic David Boren Trail with multiple trailheads, making it perfect for those who want to break it up into shorter hikes.

Do you enjoy fishing? Beavers Bend is known for its clear, trout-filled waters, making it a premier fly fishing destination. Other fun things to do here include canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding, while those interested in local history should visit the Forest Heritage Center with exhibits on logging and forestry development in Oklahoma. Are you planning to stick around longer? Accommodations include rustic cabins to modern lodges and well-maintained campsites for tents and RVs.

Robbers Cave State Park

Devil's Slide from Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma.
Devil’s Slide from Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma. Image credits Kit Leong via Shutterstock

Located in the Sans Bois Mountains of southeastern Oklahoma, Robbers Cave State Park covers 8,200 acres and is named after famed outlaw Jesse James and his gang, who reportedly used the area as a hideout in the late 1800s. Established in 1935, the main attraction of the park is the actual Robbers Cave itself. Accessible via a moderately challenging hike, the cave is a fascinating historical site that offers a glimpse into the lives of the bandits who once roamed (and robbed) the area.

Outdoor activities include walking and horse riding, with trails offering beautiful views of the forests and lakes. Coon Creek Lake and Lake Carlton offer excellent fishing, boating and swimming, while the park’s sandstone cliffs are popular for rock climbing and rappelling. For leaf peepers, the Robbers Cave Fall Festival is a great time to visit. It attracts thousands of visitors and more than 200 vendors and offers live entertainment. Accommodations include cabins, a lodge, and multiple campsites, making it easy for visitors to extend their stay and fully explore the park.

Lake Murray State Park

Beautiful scenery of the Tucker Tower of Lake Murray State Park in Oklahoma
Beautiful scenery of the Tucker Tower of Lake Murray State Park in Oklahoma.

Lake Murray State Park, located in southern Oklahoma near Ardmore and close to the Texas border (Dallas and Fort Worth are just 100 miles south), is the state’s oldest and largest park. Established in 1933, this 12,500-acre natural attraction is centered around beautiful Lake Murray, a 5,700-acre reservoir. A must visit here is Tucker Tower, a former summer retreat for Oklahoma governors that now serves as a nature center and museum.

Then put on those hiking boots and hit the Anadarche Trail, a popular seven-mile trail with forest and lakeshore scenery. In addition to swimming and paddle boarding, the lake is stocked with bass, crappie and catfish, making it a favorite spot for anglers. It also has a marina with moorings and boat rentals, as well as extensive camping facilities, including camper and tent sites, and even rustic cabins. Don’t want to rough it? Lake Murray Lodge features 32 comfortable accommodations with modern amenities, and the park’s 18-hole golf course is nearby.

Natural Falls State Park

Natural Falls State Park, Oklahoma
Natural Falls State Park, Oklahoma.

Visitors will find Natural Falls State Park in the Ozark Highlands of northeastern Oklahoma, near the state line with Arkansas. The main attraction at this 120-hectare site, which only opened in 1997, is the beautiful 22-metre high waterfall that flows into a beautiful fern-covered pool. Known locally as Dripping Springs, it was famous in the 1974 film, Where the red fern grows. From the observation platform at the top, you can enjoy beautiful views, while more adventurous visitors can hike to the base for a closer look (keep your camera ready for an unforgettable selfie).

Several other hiking trails can be explored, one of the best being the Red Fern Rim Trail, a loop around the park with a few different views of the falls. Picnic areas, a butterfly garden and a small lake for fishing add to the park’s appeal, while those wishing to extend their visit can rent one of the park’s yurts, pitch a tent or park the camper.

Alabaster Caverns State Park

Sunset at Alabaster Caverns State Park in Oklahoma
Sunset at Alabaster Caverns State Park in Oklahoma.

Established in 1956, Alabaster Caverns State Park is home to one of the world’s largest gypsum caves that is open to the public. This unique 200-acre wonder is home to the spectacular Alabaster Cavern, an 800-foot-long cavern formed from alabaster, a rare form of gypsum. Fascinating tours of the cave provide insight into its geological formations and history, as well as the different species of bats that call it home.

A special bat observation area is also available, where visitors can watch these fascinating nocturnal creatures emerge from the cave at dusk. Other fun things to do here include hiking and picnicking, as well as staying a night or two at one of the park’s camping or RV sites.

Roman Nose State Park

Roman Nose State Park entrance sign.
Entrance sign to Roman Nose State Park, Oklahoma. Image credits Khosro via Shutterstock

Roman Nose State Park, one of the seven original state parks established in 1937, is located in the scenic gypsum hills of northwestern Oklahoma and covers more than 6,000 acres. Named after Cheyenne Chief Henry Roman Nose, this picturesque park features several springs, lakes and canyons that create a diverse landscape ripe for exploration.

It also features several resort-like amenities, including a scenic golf course and swimming pool, both built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The same group also built the park’s cabins and historic lodge. In addition to the excellent hiking network, there are other outdoor activities such as fishing, boating and swimming. RV and camping sites are also available.

Gloss Mountain State Park

Bluff at Glass Mountains State Park in NW Oklahoma
Bluff at Glass Mountains State Park in Oklahoma.

Located in the heart of the Oklahoma Panhandle, near Fairview, Gloss Mountain State Park is known for its striking red mesas and buttes that create a dramatic and unique landscape. The main attraction on this 640-acre site is Cathedral Mountain, a 1,570-foot peak accessed by a steep but rewarding hike. The path to the top includes metal steps and railings to aid the ascent, and although it is hard work, the panoramic views of the surrounding plains and plateaus are worth the effort.

The park is also home to a variety of native Oklahoma wildlife, including mule deer, coyotes, and an array of bird species. Picnic areas are available for visitors to relax and enjoy the scenery, and the park’s relatively remote location provides a sense of peace and solitude. Although there are no formal camping facilities, there are nearby campsites and accommodations available.

The last word

Although it doesn’t have the number of state parks that some US states possess, the ones in Oklahoma are definitely worth a visit. With their diversity of beautiful landscapes and outdoor activities, they are ideal destinations for travelers looking for both adventure and relaxation, not to mention a chance to reconnect with nature. From the historical intrigue of Robbers Cave State Park to the watery beauty of Natural Falls State Park, each of these great state parks to visit in Oklahoma offers plenty of opportunities to explore the country’s unmissable natural treasures.

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