Surprisingly (at least to me), the state of Oklahoma sees nearly as many people pass through its borders as the state of Florida does each year. While it’s no surprise that Florida is a popular tourist destination, it’s a bit more surprising that Oklahoma gets so many visitors. In fairness, many of them are just passing through while heading to other locales and popular travel destinations, but the fact remains that Oklahoma has nearly as many visitors each year as “destination” states, such as Florida. While we know you’re in a hurry to get to your vacation destination, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little fun while passing through.
From a native perspective (mine), here are 5 favorite destinations in my home state of Oklahoma. Next time you find yourself on the way to Anywhere, USA, use some of that time to explore what the great state of Oklahoma has to offer.
Turner Falls Park
Turner Falls Park is actually the oldest park in the state. It features a 1,500 acre area around the falls that is often compared to the Grand Canyon and the Black Hills due to the incredible geological window it gives us into the past. The falls themselves are 77 feet tall and they start high above the park in the Arbuckle Mountains where the low lying areas form Honey Creek. After falling 77 feet, the water becomes an amazing natural swimming pool that kids and adults are sure to love.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
At just under 60,000 acres of pristine mountains and rolling prairie, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Lawton, Oklahoma, is home to dozens of free-ranging animal species. Depending on the day, you may see American Bison herds, Texas Longhorn Cattle, bobcats, coyotes, prairie dogs, fox, or armadillo. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can hike to the top of Mount Scott, which features amazing views of the patchwork lakes, beautiful rock formations, or the serene hiking trails. Bring a camera!
Robbers Cave State Park
Step back into the past and climb the steep sandstone bluffs while you pretend you’re an outlaw with Jesse James and his gang. Robbers Cave is a popular destination for horseback riding and the best views are often found while riding a horse through the miles of trails that weave in and out of the park. If you’re looking for some rest and relaxation, settle down at the Belle Starr View Lodge for a panoramic view of the lakes below.
Glover River is the last large free-flowing river that isn’t hindered by dams or government water sheds or releases. The river offers secluded and tranquil scenery that can appease even the most fickle traveler. If you find yourself with some free time, try renting a canoe or doing a little bass fishing while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Black Mesa is nestled into the furthest northwest corner of the Oklahoma panhandle. The Mesa features Oklahoma’s highest point at 4,973 and features hiking trails that lead right to the summit. Once at the top, you’ll be struck by the natural beauty and the views of the tri-state area below. Keep your eye out for wildlife such as the golden eagle, bighorn sheep, or the ever elusive black bear.
Now, for most of the country, Oklahoma will never truly be a vacation hotspot, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to see here. For those of us that live here, or spend a great deal of time traveling through the great plains, we know that there are always sights to see and new experiences to take in. Enjoy your stay in OK!