Hike, bike, scout about, fish for trout and camp like a champ: explore OKCís nearby state parks
Despite some of the cold stuff coming down out of the sky lately, it is March and that means spring is indeed on its way—and thus that also means it’s time to get outside and enjoy some nature. Some great places to explore the local flora and fauna (well, mostly flora, which is probably best, let’s be honest), perhaps even on an overnight basis, are Oklahoma’s state parks. We here at The Better Life HQ have been exploring some of the nearby locations just so we can report to you, dear reader, a few ways to best enjoy some of these spots.
- Roman Nose State Park (near Watonga, OK; approximately 1.25 hours / 75 miles from downtown OKC) – This beautiful lakeside park offers great hiking and mountain biking trail, resulting in memorable views atop the gypsum cliffs at aptly named Inspiration Point. You can also enjoy an 18-hole golf course, a swimming pool and even hayrides (in season) in addition to fishing, canoeing and paddleboating (both of the latter available to rent). Just north of the state park proper lies Lake Watonga, which is a great place for trout fishing as well as bass, catfish and more. As Roman Nose is just far enough away from the metro to “get away from it all” including a lot of OKC’s light pollution, TBLers have enjoyed some starry-eyed stargazing in addition to mountain biking and the views from Inspiration Point, and even a little fishing.
- Lake Thunderbird State Park (near Norman; approximately 30 minutes / 27 miles from downtown OKC) – Lake T-Bird is large and in charge of two marinas, two swim beaches, more than 200 RV sites, playgrounds, an archery range and a wide variety of hiking (and even equestrian!) trails of various lengths, in addition to a relatively large number of scenic lakeside primitive camping spots. TBLers especially enjoyed the views of a morning fog lifting off the lake as a prelude to a great day hike in the Clear Bay area.
- Greenleaf State Park (near Braggs, OK; approximately 2.5 hours / 150 miles from downtown OKC) – This is a popular park for a few reasons. First, it’s generally regarded as very scenic and appears on a variety of “best camping parks in Oklahoma”-type lists around the internet. Second, the original WPA-constructed facilities are still in use and have been well maintained, adding to the atmosphere. Third, this is a popular park for families, as the facility boasts playgrounds, basketball and volleyball courts, a swim area, a discovery center, miniature golf, and even a kid’s pond where 16-and-unders can fish without a permit! Permit yourselves to enjoy Greenleaf State Park, especially if you’ve got little campers in tow (though as the park is quite popular, Greenleaf may not be the best place to “get away from it all” and enjoy the quiet side of nature, as TBLers can attest).
- BONUS: Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park (near Hinton, OK; approximately 1 hour / 56 miles from downtown OKC) – This former state park is now privately operated, which is good news because it means you can still enjoy the unique red sandstone cliffs and canyons, which are favorites for rappellers and climbers. Other standout features of the park are original wagon-wheel ruts left by settlers on their way west in the mid-19th century, as well as great hiking trails, a swimming pool and playground, and a fishing pond. TBLers really appreciated the luxurious swimming facilities after a rather warm hiking adventure in mid-July, as well as being able to camp in the shadow of the cliffs and trees, offering great shade!