Top Ten State Park Experiences

With such diverse outdoor recreation opportunities, how do you select from the 32 state parks in Oklahoma? This list of the top state park experiences in Oklahoma will help you find the perfect park for your outdoor escape.

ATV enthusiasts flock to Little Sahara State Park near Waynoka where they can fly over dunes that stretch across 1,600 acres and are up to 75 feet tall.
Photo Credit: Lisha Newman

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From towering sand dunes and refreshing lakes to forested retreats and cool caverns, Oklahoma’s state parks are ready to whisk you away on a great outdoors adventure. Whether lacing up a pair of hiking boots or looking for some relaxing fun in the sun, it’s time to venture out and witness the scenic beauty of Oklahoma’s varied ecoregions and impressive natural resources.

Experience this picturesque network of public lands by visiting an Oklahoma state park and sample the state’s diverse landscape. Get ready for fresh air and welcoming sunshine when you include these top state park experiences in your journey.

Lake Murray State Park & Lodge – Ardmore

Considered “Vacation Central” in southern Oklahoma, Lake Murray State Park is a haven for water sports, boating and fishing. Hosting a variety of activities in and around Lake Murray in Ardmore, this state park offers a popular ATV area for off-road vehicles, an 18-hole golf course with pro shop, equestrian trails, tennis courts, the iconic Tucker Tower nature center and swim beaches peppered up and down the shoreline of one of Oklahoma’s most scenic lakes. Lake Murray State Park is a favorite among campers with nine RV campgrounds containing 300 RV campsites and nearly endless primitive tent sites. Book a stay in one of Lake Murray Lodge's 32 guest rooms or choose one of the park's 56 cabins.

Alabaster Caverns State Park – Freedom

Take a tour of the world’s largest natural gypsum cave that is open to the public at Alabaster Caverns State Park in northwest Oklahoma. Try your hand at spelunking, take a walking tour, camp or enjoy a picnic on grounds. Alabaster Caverns allows wild caving from March through September, where a party of at least three can explore the area’s four caves. To go wild caving, you will need a permit from the park office, as well as a hardhat, flashlight, boots and long-sleeve shirt. For those who just want to see the main cave without the physical commitment of wild caving, daily guided cave tours follow a family-friendly paved trail.

Greenleaf State Park – Braggs

Greenleaf State Park, located in wooded, hilly northeast Oklahoma, is simply a jewel. One of Oklahoma’s original seven state parks, Greenleaf’s structures and cabins were built during the 1930s and 1940s by the WPA. One of the best ways to see the park and Greenleaf Lake is by hiking or biking the 18-mile rugged mountain trail. This path through the woods begins and ends in the park and features two primitive campsites and a swinging bridge that crosses the lake. Greenleaf Lake, with its heavy vegetation, is a haven for largemouth bass and sunfish. Don’t forget to visit the park’s nature center and swim beach.

Little Sahara State Park – Waynoka

Located just south of Waynoka in northwest Oklahoma, Little Sahara State Park is a favorite playground among off-roaders and ATV enthusiasts of all skill levels. Fondly known as the state’s sandbox, Little Sahara earns its name with over 1,600 acres of sand dunes, with some that reach a towering 75 feet in height. Bring your dune buggies, motorcycles, Jeeps and ATVs and ride to your heart’s content. If you don’t own a dune-ready vehicle, simply rent one at the nearby ATV rental store, Stewart's ATV & Buggy. Vehicles must have roll bars and bright-orange flag mounts. Challenge each other to a race across the dunes and take advantage of the park’s RV sites, tent sites and picnic areas.

Beavers Bend State Park – Broken Bow

For towering pines and clear waterways, look no further than southeast Oklahoma’s gem, Beavers Bend State Park in Broken Bow. The park’s postcard-like setting is one of the most popular and scenic areas in the state. Go fly-fishing in one of the South’s best trout streams, hit the links at the 18-hole Cedar Creek Golf Course, or hike along the wooded David Boren Trail. Situated along the shores of Broken Bow Lake, the Mountain Fork River and Glover River, Beavers Bend is an outdoor oasis. Book a room at the park’s Lakeview Lodge and enjoy spectacular lake views from a suite, or reserve a cabin and savor rustic comfort along the river front or in wooded hideaways, or bring your RV or tent and enjoy one of the park’s campsites. Everything from biking and boating, to horseback riding and river float trips are available at Beavers Bend. You can even go scuba diving in Broken Bow Lake or enjoy the park's miniature train ride during the summer months.

Roman Nose State Park – Watonga

Visit Roman Nose State Park near Watonga and descend into a beautiful canyon blanketed in gypsum rock cliffs for an array of recreational activities. Hike, mountain bike or ride a horse on the multi-use trail system and then head over to the on-site golf course for 18 holes set amidst the park’s breathtaking canyon walls. RV camping is available along the shores of Lake Watonga and the recently redesigned Roman Nose Lodge offers modern amenities, comfortable rooms and a unique mid-century design. Home to three natural springs, Roman Nose State Park also offers spectacular fall foliage viewing opportunities as well as canoeing, swimming and trout fishing in season. As an added bonus, teepee rentals are available April through October.

Tenkiller State Park – Vian

Tenkiller State Park is a huge draw for those who enjoy water sports and lakeside fun. The park is nestled along the shore of Lake Tenkiller, a deep lake characterized by tall rock bluffs and gravel shorelines. With its emerald-tinted water, it’s no surprise that divers from all across the region travel here. The lake even features a dedicated scuba diving park, complete with a sunken bus, boats and aircraft fuselage. For a leisurely outing in the park, grab your camera or binoculars and walk the 1.5 mile paved nature trail to view numerous species of birds and other native creatures. Tenkiller State Park also features a nature center, lighted boat ramps, kids’ fishing pond, cabins, RV sites and tent sites.

Salt Plains State Park & Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge – Jet

Salt Plains State Park is known for an 8,960-acre body of saltwater, which is roughly half as salty as the sea, yet offers excellent fishing for saugeye, white bass and hybrid striped bass. Also a haven for birdwatchers, Great Salt Plains Lake and Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge are used as a stopover for migrating waterfowl, including the whooping crane and American white pelicans, during their travel through the Central Flyway. The refuge is also famous for its 11,000 acres of white salt flats, the only place where hourglass-shaped selenite crystals form. Spend the day digging for crystals, swimming in the lake or traveling along bike trails. Cabins, campgrounds and comfort stations are also available.

Black Mesa State Park & Nature Preserve – Kenton

Take your outdoor experience to new heights with a visit to Black Mesa State Park & Nature Preserve in the far northwest Oklahoma town of Kenton. At 4,973 feet above sea level, Black Mesa is the highest point in Oklahoma. Try hiking to the top of Black Mesa using a trail located at the nature preserve, some 10 miles from the state park. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the rugged Oklahoma landscape below. Black Mesa marks the point where the Rocky Mountains meet the shortgrass prairie and is home to a wide variety of wildlife including golden eagles, pinyon jays, bighorn sheep and antelope. Pose for a photo at the three corners marker where you can stand in Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico all at once. Bring your hiking boots and a compass, and after a long day’s adventure, set up camp in the park and relax under the stars.

Robbers Cave State Park – Wilburton

Famous as a former hideout for outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr, Robbers Cave State Park is an outdoor paradise tucked away within southeast Oklahoma’s softly undulating Sans Bois Mountain range. Visitors are invited to hike up to the park’s outlaw cave amidst sandstone hills and cliffs, rappel down rock walls, horseback ride along miles of forested equestrian trails with Robbers Cave Stables or simply enjoy the scenic beauty of the park’s surrounding 189 combined lake acres. Check out the 20-room Robbers Cave Lodge for lake and valley views, or rough it in style with modern RV sites and tent campgrounds. Whether relishing a serene canoe ride on Lake Carlton or hunting for wild game in the adjacent wildlife management area, Robbers Cave State Park is poised to make your outdoor vacation dreams come true.

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