Getting into the great outdoors, enjoying the views, breathing in the fresh mountain air, or even challenging yourself on some of the more intense routes, hiking appeals to a range of people. Oklahoma has some of the most magnificent routes of the states in the US. Below we’ll take a closer look at hiking in Oklahoma state.
There are roughly 437 outdoor activity routes in Oklahoma, which include hiking trails, backpacking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Oklahoma boasts thousands of miles of trails through its wilderness and state park areas, ranging from easy day trips to challenging overnight hikes.
Hiking in any state is a great way to get out and bond with family and friends. But what are some of the benefits of hiking in Oklahoma? What are some of the most popular routes? And what is available for those who want to push themselves the extra mile?
Oklahoma Hikes And Relevant Information
Known as the “Sooner state”, Oklahoma is perfect for those go-getters who like to push themselves physically and meet the world with gusto. This positive attitude is especially applicable for hiking!
Oklahoma hikes cover a diverse range of habitats, with some hikes situated in the granite outcroppings of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, while others are located in the wetland areas of southeast Oklahoma, like the trails passing through the cypress swamps.
Some hikes across the state take you through prairie lands where you may even spot the occasional bison herd (the state animal). Along most of the routes, you are bound to bump into various birds, mammals, and even reptile species in wildlife areas.
For those who prefer wildflowers or walking next to creeks and lakes, Oklahoma has those as well.
With the vast number of hikes in Oklahoma, there are plenty of options to suit your fitness levels and your interests. Hikes range from easy to hard and from short trips to hikes lasting for several days.
Of all the outdoor activities, there are roughly 279 family-friendly hikes around the state, and of these, 276 are renowned for their spectacular views and waterfalls. There are also 65 wheelchair-friendly routes to take.
Some routes are purely for hiking, while others support rock climbing, and others allow mountain biking along their paths.
Hiking and general outdoor activities are great options for those living in or visiting Oklahoma, with so many options available.
Easy Trails In Oklahoma
For those who are not frequent hikers, have children, or may not be physically capable of strenuous hikes, Oklahoma has an array of easy-level hikes all under 5 miles. Some examples of these hikes include:
1. Bluff Creek Park Paved Loop Trail
- Route distance: 1.2 miles with an elevation of 32 feet.
- Route duration: 30 minutes
- Route type: loop
- Route description: Located in Bluff Creek Park. The park paved loop is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. This route affords scenic views of the nearby creek and is a relatively popular, multi-use route.
Dog walking, trail running, and family outings are popular features on this Bluff Creek route, open year-round. Shade is not an issue due to the large trees in the forest along this route.
For those with smaller children in strollers and wheelchairs, this route should prove doable. The unpaved mountain bike trail is also available for those who would like a slightly more challenging route; however, the trail has many branches, and a map might be necessary.
Although the views are limited, there are still deer, birds, and other wildlife, along with views of the creek and benches along the way to stop and enjoy the moment.
One of the biggest draws is this trail’s proximity to the city and its escape for residents.
2. Tree Trail
- Route distance: 1.2 miles, with a 125-foot incline.
- Route duration: 34 minutes
- Route type: loop
- Route description: Located in the Beavers Bend State Park. This hiking trail is close to Broken Bow and starts and ends at the Forest Heritage Center Museum. The trail passes through the forest and is suitable for all experience and skill level hikers.
The trail is child-friendly, dog-friendly (provided they stay on lead), and populated by those hiking, running, and enjoying trips into nature. Although it is an easy route, some sections of steeper inclines require climbing, and this route is therefore not stroller friendly.
Some highlights of this trail include a Native American sculpture and the Beavers Creek floodplain (of which you cross over on a bridge). Those who are lucky (and quiet enough) may also see some deer and squirrels along the route.
Peppered along the route are placards and information boards providing you with insight into the area’s history, and white markings on certain trees mark the route.
For those who seek a further walk, additional trails branch off of the main trail.
The views along this route of the floodplain are quite spectacular, with a cooler temperature along the river and under the trees. The trail runs along the creek, and children can play in the water (mostly shallow and slow-moving).
3. Wichita Mountain Forty-Foot Hole Trail
- Route distance: 1.4 miles and a 154-foot incline.
- Route duration: 40 minutes
- Route type: loop
- Route description: Located in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, close to Cache, this route is ideal for all skill and experience-level hikers.
Although this route is easy, some steeper sections may require some scrambling, especially when accessing the hole. Strollers and wheelchairs cannot access this route. This hike is on the more moderate side of easy, especially when climbing down to the river bed below.
The route is most frequently used by hikers/walkers and nature enthusiasts and passes along a river and forest area, providing some spectacular views of a waterfall (during the wet season) and the canyon. There are also wildflower displays and the occasional deer and squirrels along the route.
The trail does have a few marking issues in some areas, and some people do wander off the trail accidentally, so take care to observe the route.
This trail becomes hot during the summer months, but fortunately, there is plenty of shade to rest under.
Moderate Trails In Oklahoma
For slightly more experienced hikers looking for something more challenging, where children are not a consideration, some moderate difficulty hikes include:
1. Elk Mountain Trail
- Route distance: 2.3 miles with an elevation of roughly 571 feet.
- Route duration: 1 hour 19 minutes
- Route type: out and back
- Route description: Located in Charon’s Garden Wilderness in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, close to Indiahoma. This route is popular with hikers, runners, nature enthusiasts, and dog walkers. The trail is open year-round.
This hike has some steep inclines and intense boulder scrambling at the top.
Some of the highlighted features of this trail include the spectacular wildflowers which pop up across the southwestern Oklahoma area. This trail also features a forested area and many protected wildlife habitats.
The views along the hike (and specifically at the top of the mountain) are a significant draw for hikers, along with wildlife, including deer, elk, longhorn, and birds. Dogs on a lead are also allowed for those who enjoy hiking with their furry friends.
One of the issues on this trail is poor route markings, so downloading the map is recommended. For those who do stray from the trail (a common occurrence), there are some fun rocks to climb scattered along the route, provided you stay cautious of dangers and disturbing the environment.
2. Turkey Mountain Via Yellow Trail
- Route distance: 3.7 miles, with an incline of 377 feet.
- Route duration: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Route type: loop
- Route description: Located in the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness, close to Tulsa. This hike is popular amongst hikers, trail runners, families, and nature enthusiasts.
- This hike also allows dog walking (on lead), mountain biking, and horseback trail riding.
There are two trails along this route: the Yellow trail (which is 2.5 miles) on the eastern side of the mountain and the Pink trail (the 3.7 miles) on the mountain’s western side. These trails interconnect.
Some highlights include the spectacular views of the Arkansas River, wildlife viewing (like bird watching), forested areas, and wildflower viewing. There is also a stunning view of the city skyline.
The trail is adequately marked, so getting lost should not be an issue.
Some regions have rocky outcrops, and some scrambling may be required.
3. Inspiration Point Loop
- Route distance: 5.8 miles
- Route duration: 2 hours 41 minutes
- Route type: loop
- Route description: Located in Roman Nose State Park, close to Watonga. This hike is popular with hikers, runners, mountain bikers, anglers, and families.
- Dogs are also allowed on this route on lead, and you may also ride horses in the area.
A significant feature of this hike is access to the river and lake. There is also bird and other wildlife watching, wildflower viewing, and other spectacular views of the surrounding prairies.
The route has a natural spring and a small waterfall (season dependent) in the area, which is lovely to view.
This hike has steeper sections, with some rock scrambling, but not that many.
Some hikers struggle to stay on the trail due to side trails. So downloading a map is recommended.
Difficult Trails In Oklahoma
For the experienced hikers, some of the more difficult trails include:
1. Mountain Trail To Lake Carlton And Lake Wayne Wallace
- Route distance: 7 miles, with an incline of 1230 feet.
- Route duration: 3 hours 39 minutes
- Route type: out and back
- Route description: Located in Robbers Cave State Park, close to Wilburton. This trail is popular amongst hikers, runners, nature enthusiasts, and anglers.
- Dogs are allowed on a lead.
One of the primary draw cards to this hike is the lake, but there are also camping sites, fishing, bird and other wildlife watching, wildflower viewing, and forested regions. There are also some incredible views from the trail.
This route has its fair share of technical hiking, with loose rocks and frequent steep inclines/declines. Overall, a good challenging hike.
The route is sufficiently marked, but there are areas of an overgrown thicket.
2. Horse Thief Spring Trail
- Route distance: 14 miles, with a 1985 foot incline.
- Route duration: 6 hours 56 minutes
- Route type: loop
- Route description: Located in Ouachita National Forest, close to Hodgen. This trail is popular with hikers, nature enthusiasts, horse riders, and geocachers.
- Dogs are allowed on leash.
Aside from hiking, other activities include backpacking, camping, and horseback riding.
This hike is great for scenic views and wildlife viewing. There are two routes. One route runs through the Cedar Lake State Parkup the Winding Stair Mountains (about 6 miles long). The other route passes by Snake mountain and loops back.
There are many spiders and their webs during the fall months along the trail.
Avoid getting lost, as the trail is not always well marked.
3. Rough Mountain Via Ouachita Trail
- Route distance: 8.5 miles with a 2011 foot incline.
- Route duration: 4 hours 47 minutes.
- Route type: out and back
- Route description: Located in Black Fork Mountain Wilderness, close to Muse. This trail is popular with hikers, trail runners, and nature enthusiasts.
- Dogs are allowed on the trail.
Some of the other activities in this area include camping and backpacking.
The highlights of this trail include scenic views, forests, and wildlife viewing.
This trail is challenging, with strong winds at the top of the trail and many switchbacks (around 33) to compensate for the steep incline.
The Longest Trail In Oklahoma
For those who are experienced hikers looking for something more than just a day trip up a mountain range, Oklahoma has a solution for you as well.
Ouachita National Recreation Trail
- The Ouachita National Recreation Trail runs through part of Oklahoma and is a grueling 223-mile long hike. However, only around 46 miles of this trail pass through Talimena State Park in southeastern Oklahoma.
- The trail stretches across the Ouachita National Forest and mountains and is the longest backpacking hike in the area. The trail is popular with hikers, hunters, backpackers, and mountain bikers (up to a certain point).
- The Rich Mountain is the highest point along the trail at 2,610 feet.
- This trail is rated 3rd, in terms of its solitude, of all the trails in the US.
Important Things To Note When Hiking In Oklahoma
Before heading out on a hike in Oklahoma, make sure you consider the following points.
Wearing the Correct Clothing
Dressing appropriately for hiking is of the utmost importance. Your trip can be positively or negatively influenced by the clothes you wear.
When hiking, make sure you have:
- Hiking boots. Better grip, ankle support, and design for the rough terrains.
- Light long trousers. They will protect you from bites, scratches, sunburn, poison ivy, and ticks.
- Dressing in layers. There are often unexpected changes in the weather, so make sure you can take off and put on layers. Be prepared for any weather conditions as much as possible.
- A hat and sunscreen. Protecting yourself from the sun is vital.
Other Things To Bring On A Hike
- Bring plenty of water. Ensure you have at least two liters for short hikes and up to four for longer hikes (one liter of water for every two hours of hiking).
- Snacks. Fruit, trail mix, or energy bars for quick carbohydrates.
Never Hike Alone
It would be best if you never hiked on your own. There are many dangers associated with hiking, even on easy routes. Muggings, sprained ankles, broken bones, slipping and falling, sunstroke, snake bites, and many other issues are all potential hazards.
Check The Weather Forecast And Have A Check-in Person
Oklahoma is renowned for its fierce weather and sudden changes. Make sure you know more or less what is expected, and rather not risk hiking on days when heavy rains or thunderstorms are predicted.
Ensure that someone not on the hike also knows you will be hiking, and “check-in” with them, or at least give them an expected return time.
Dangers To Watch Out For In Oklahoma
Aside from severe weather conditions, be aware of poison oak and poison ivy, as they can cause stinging allergic reactions.
There are also three venomous snake species to look for: the copperhead, cottonmouth, and rattlesnakes.
Hiking in Oklahoma is ideal for people of all ages, experiences, and physical capabilities. With close to 437 outdoor activities, there is no reason not to get out into nature and enjoy the spectacular views and adventures. Just be sure to go prepared and not overestimate what you can do.