See http://www.otrd.state.ok.us/ for the official web page of Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department for more information about the individual state parks (not too many details, though). They have a nice Hiking Trails, Bike Paths, Equestrian Trails brochure that you can usually pick up at an Oklahoma Visitor Center.
Oklahoma Pictures (3 pictures)
Beavers Bend State Resort Park Directions: About 200 miles/about 3:15 hours from Plano. There are a couple of ways to get there. The easiest/fastest seems to be taking I-30 from the Dallas area to I-259 north (exit 178). Stay on 259 to Oklahoma and just past Broken Bow. Take a right onto 259A with a sign saying Beavers Bend this way. The visitors center is a couple of miles ahead. Stop in the center and pick up a trail map. Free. Trails: There are several small (about 1 mile) nature trails in the park that are easy, smooth, 2 to 3 person width trails. The big hiking trail is the David Boren Hiking Trail (DBHT). The DBHT is a 12 mile one-way trail that is marked with white spots on trails. The trail is well defined and is mostly 1 person width. There are four sections to the trail where you can park and start hiking. I choose to hike the Skyline Trail (6 miles). Area: Forestry and you go up and down and up and down and up and down. Picture When I did the hike: Several times. Recommendation: It's a nice trail and a good workout. The occasional whistle from the little train in the park was a little annoying. It's a good park to take the family to as there are many activities in the park. I've been there a couple of times and done the whole trail (but not at one get go). The Skyline Trail is the best section and good conditioning for elevation hiking.
Ouachita National Forest Directions: Free. Trails: Lots of trails. I like doing parts of the big trail (Ouachita Trail). I did the Horsecollar loop once and didn't really like it - it's a multi-use trail (hikers, bikes, equestrian). I'd stick to the hikers only trails. Area: Mountains and trees. When I did the hike: Several times. Recommendation: Good place to go and not many people.
Ouachita National Forest - Beech Creek Trails Directions: I30 to I259 North to Big Cedar, Oklahoma. Take a right on OK 63 for about 5 miles. You should see a sign for Ouachita National Forest on the right and take a right on to FR6026 - a gravel, one-lane road. After a little under 5 miles, you are given a choice of 3 directions to go - go straight (take a right for the Blue Bouncer loop) onto FR K-68A - a dirt road - a short ways to the parking area. FR K-68A used to go all the way to the trailhead for the Beech Creek Trail, but is now blocked off a short ways in. There are no facilities. About 250 miles, 4 hours from Allen, Texas Free. Trails: Way out in the middle of no where, there are 4 trails in the Beech Creek conservation area of the Ouachita National Forest. All 4 trails are marked with white blazes, and the non-vertical blazes indicate the trail is changing direction. They are also mostly dirt (or leaf covered), one-person width trails. The Turkey Snout Loop goes near the parking area - unless you really have a desire to hike a very weedy dirt road for about a 1 mile, hike part of the mild Turkey Snout trail either to the north or south. The trail for both directions is just ahead of the parking area and before the dirt mound that blocks the road. The trail to the north is not as well defined and I had to use the white blazes a lot to figure out which direction to go (including stopping a couple of times to search for the next white blaze) - granted the ground was covered with leaves, so the trail might be clearly in the spring or summer. The fairly mild trail goes up a small hill and around for about 2 miles before ending back on the dirt road. It is about 1/3 mile further up the road to the old parking area. The trail to the south (I took this back) is very mild and flat and a little more defined. There was only one confusing spot as to which way to go after crossing a creek (enough stones not to get wet) - heading back to the new parking area, go left after crossing the creek. This section is about 2 miles and comes out about .3 miles into the Beech Creek Trail. The Beech Creek Trail starts at the old parking area and is a well defined trail (I hardly had to use the blazes) that goes along the creek and has some ups-and-downs as well as some level areas. I went about 2 hours along this trail before heading back. The Walnut Mountain Loop starts/ends 1.3 miles into the Beech Creek Trail and comes out on the dirt road a little ways past where the Turkey Snout trails ends at the road - there is a sign indicating where the Walnut Mountain Loop starts/ends on the road, but you have to keep an eye out for it. Trail Length: Beech Creek Trail - 6 miles, one-way Turkey Snout Loop - 5 miles Walnut Mountain Loop - 10 miles (more difficult) Blue Boncer Loop - 10 miles (more difficult) Trail Map: http://www.fs.fed.us/oonf/oklahoma/hike/bctrmap.html Area: The pretty woods and hills and mountains of the Ouachita Mountains. Picture When I did the hike: December 21, 2002; June 25, 2003 Recommendation: For those days when you _really_ want to get away from everything. It is a very nice area and you'll likely have it all to yourself and you have your choice of trails for level of difficulty. Don't go on a rainy day or when it recently has been raining. Note that because the trail is not often used, it gets very over grown in the summer and you'll be trudging through the weeds, which can be unpleasant.
Mountain Top - Ouachita National Forest Directions: From the east, go to Rt 270 and turn right/south on to Rt 259 for about a 1 mile to Rt 1 (Talimena Scenic Drive) - about 7 miles south of Heavener. Go about 2 miles west on Rt 1 to just past the Emerald Vista/Winding Stair Campground. There is a right turn on to a short gravel road and small parking area just ahead (also an old dirt road on the south side of Rt 1). From the west, take Rt 271 to 6 miles north of Talihina and 22 miles south of Pateau. Turn right/east on Rt 1 (Talimena Scenic Drive) and enjoy the pretty (slow going) road as it heads along the mountain ridges for about 18 miles. Continue on Rt 1 past the Horsethief Springs parking area for a couple of miles. Look for a gravel road on the left side of the road (with a dirt road/turn-in on the right) - if you reach the Emerald Vista turn, you missed it. Turn left on the gravel road and a short distance ahead is the parking area. Vault toilet. Free. Trails: Walk the gravel road back to Rt 1 and cross Rt 1 and continue straight on to the dirt road - just ahead on the right is the one-person width trail, with a brown sign for the Mountain Top trail. The blue-blaze trail does not go too far from Rt 1. The trail is in the thin trees. Continue straight at the right turn for the short loop junction. After .4 miles from that junction, the trail goes up to the road - step over the guard rail and the trail continues across Rt 1. The trail goes a little bit away from Rt 1 and reaches a junction with the Ouchatia Trail - there is a pretty overlook just to the north of that junction. Take a right on to the white-blazed Ouchatia Tail and it is some-what pretty (prettier than the south section of the loop) as it heads for .6 miles back to the parking area. Trail Length: 1.5 mile loop (can do a shorter .9 mile loop) Area: Mountains, trees When I did the hike: Friday, November 11, 2011 Recommendation: It wasn't the prettiest area of Rt 1, but if you are on a driving outing, it would be nice for a short hike to get you out of the car. There are better long hikes along Rt 1. [There are also 2 short (less than a mile) loop trails in the Kerr Arboretum - on Rt 1, 2 miles east of Rt 259 exit.]
Cedar Lake - Ouachita National Forest Directions: From the east, go to Rt 270 and turn right/west on to Holson Valley Road (sign for Cedar Lake) - about 6 south of Heavener and 1 mile north of Rt 1 (Talimena Scenic Drive). Go for a little over a mile to the right, signed turn for Cedar Lake. From the west, take Rt 271 to 6 miles north of Talihina and 22 miles south of Pateau. For the direct way, go about a mile on Rt 271 north of the Rt 1 turn and turn right/east on Holson Valley Road and take the rough paved road about 15 miles (guestimate) to the Cedar Lake area right turn. For the more scenic way, to right/east on Rt 1 (Talimena Scenic Drive) and enjoy the pretty (slow going) road as it heads along the mountain ridges about 20 miles to Rt 259. Turn left/north on to Rt 259 and then at the T-junction, turn left on to Rt 271 and go about a mile and then turn right/west on to Holson Valley Road (sign for Cedar Lake). Go for a little over a mile to the right, signed turn for Cedar Lake. Flush toilets at a number of spots in the campground areas. Trails: There are a number of places to access the trail. The trail stayes near the lake, with a number of pretty lake views. Follow the white blazes that mark the good trail. The fall colors can be pretty, but wasn't stunning (lots of yellows, but lots of green pine trees). There are bridges across the creeks and the trail is mostly mild with some short, not hard ups and downs on the far side of the lake. At the south end of the lake where the trail intersects with a horse trail, take a left (if you are going counter-clockwise) and go over a bridge and you are back on the hiking trail. Trail Length: About 3 mile loop Area: Trees, good sized lake, mountains in distance When I did the hike: Friday, November 4, 2011 Recommendation: It's a nice little area, but not in the mountains. Make it a longer outing than just the lake area - make sure you drive (and/or hike) the pretty Talimena Scenic drive.
Robbers Cave State Park Directions: About 190 miles/3 hours from Plano. Take US 75 north, US 69 will merge with 75, stay with 69 (75 branches off) to McAlster [note: 69 is a rough road at spots - it's highly likely you don't have a flat - also watch out for the speed traps around Atoka], take 270 to Wilburton (follow the Eastern Oklahoma State College signs), take 2 (a left at the light) to the park (there's a sign that says Robbers Cave this way). The restaurant, store, nature center, and recreation area is the first turn off on the left (you can pick up a trail map in the nature center). To get to the cave area/trailhead, either take Robbers Cave road from the recreation area or take 2 to the first left after the "Robbers Cave Wildlife Maintenance Area" sign which is on the right. Free. Trails: There are several trails in the park. I've actually never been to the 1.5 mile loop on the east side of Highway 2. The trails tend to be one person width trails, rocky at spots, and have some change in elevation including some good climbs (and they tend not to be gentle grade climbs). There are small (less than a mile) yellow dot and red dot trails around the cave area (the dots are usually found on trees). The head of the longer trails start to the left of the parking area for the caves. This the blue dot trail. After a mile, you'll have your choice of heading towards the Lost Lake or the Mountain Trail/Deep Ford. The Lost Lake trail will loop you back to the cave area after 1.9 miles. By taking a left on to the Mountain Trail, you'll be following double blue dots for half a mile (keep an eye out for the sharp turn off the trail down into the "canyon"). Then you are presented with a choice of taking the 1.8 mile Cattail Pond Trail, which intersects with the Lost Lake trail, or continuing on the Mountain Trail. The Mountain Trail continues for a long, long time - the map says 4 3/4 miles. The trail ends at a low wet water crossing where you have the option of turning around and taking the trail back or crossing the creek and walking the road back (it's a little shorter and not much elevation change). I rarely encounter other people on the Mountain trail. It took me 2 1/2 hours to hike from the parking lot to the low water crossing and 1 1/2 hours to hike the road from the low water crossing back to the parking lot. Area: Forest, rocky, mountains, lakes, and green. I've been to the trail many times and the weather has ranged from cool and rainy to perfect to hot, hot, hot. I've seen the occasional deer and tons of lizards and frogs. The only time I have had trouble with bugs was the hot, hot, hot day. If you take the Mountain trail, be on the lookout for spider webs across the trail (there usually aren't too many, just enough to keep you on your toes). Picture When I did the hike: Many times. Most recently: May 8, 2004 [Note: The trails have been cleared of downed trees or other routes made (often short, steeper routes) since the rough winter of 2001. There are still many down trees visible in the forest and it will be a several years before the area becomes as pretty as it used to before that winter.] Recommendation: This is my favorite spot relatively close to Dallas and I've been there many times, despite the 3 hour drive. For your first visit, spend a couple of hours roaming around the cave area and then take the short loop to the Lost Lake. Come back a second time and take the Mountain Trail. It is a long, tiring hike (I'm always struggling the last hour and am thrilled when I finally make it to my car). Note that the cave area is popular and tends to get crowded after 11:00 on weekends when the weather is nice.
Short Mountain Hiking Trail Directions: I-75/69 North to I-40 East to I-59 South (just west of Sallisaw). On I-59 go about 8 miles (over the bridge and a mile or so further) to the Short Mountain Rec. Area signs and follow the signs to the park. The trailhead is a very short ways up the dirt road on the right - the restroom is to the left of the turnoff. The drive from my place was about 250 miles/3:45 hours. Free. Trails: The brochure I had (didn't have a trail map) describes the trail as a 5.4 mile trail with steep climbs at the ends and a chance of seeing bald eagles from November through March (I went January 1). The trail is a mostly one-person width, but wider in some areas. The trail is pretty well defined, but there are a number of branches you can take and not really any markers (I saw a couple of orange markers on the way back, but didn't see them going). For the start of my hike, I stuck to the trail that stayed closest to the lake and was rewarded with some pretty views (for the "true" trail, take a right a the fork; for the pretty views, take a left). Near a ridge, the trail seemed to peter out on me, but I came across the true trail without too much trouble after a little bit a looking around while going up. Once you climb the hill (it didn't wear me out enough to be a mountain), the trail is mostly flat. I wandered around on the top, the trail again petered out on me, I back tracked to the tower and hooked a right a short bit along the road next to the tower. The trail eventually hooked back to the ridge trail and I headed back towards the car. Area: I didn't see any bald eagles, but there were plenty of birds. The trail goes through a woody area (thin trees) and has a number of pretty views of the lake. Unfortunately, there was a little bit of trash and some graffiti at spots. When I did the hike: Saturday, January 1, 2000 Recommendation: It's a nice place and worth a visit once, but a little short of a hike for such a long drive. After this hike, I headed to Runestone Park and then a pretty drive along scenic highway 1 in the Ouachita National Forest.
Heavener Runestone Park Directions: I-59 to Heavener. The sign for the turnoff is on the east side of the road and is right under the Heavener business district sign. Follow the signs to the parking area. Free. Trails: There is the nice, boring paved/stoned trail down to the Runestone and back. You have to take this (or at least part of it) to get to the Runestone (a Viking carving in a rock). The fun part is the one-person width "Nature Trail". With as much elevation change in the trail, it is more of a hiking trail. The brochure I have describes it as a 1 mile trail, but it seemed a little longer. To start the trail, go to the right along the boring trail a little bit until you see a sign on the hill saying nature trail. Go up to the picnic area and the the trail continues on the other side. The trail loops over, around, down, back, and then a climb up back to the gift shop. Or you can start the trail behind the gift shop and loop the other way. Area: A thin, woodys area along a hill/small mountain. When I did the hike: Saturday, January 1, 2000 Recommendation: It was actually quite a workout (I also ended up doubling some of the trail as I couldn't find the start). Not worth a trip just for this (unless you are in the area), but fun to do for a side trip.
Turner Falls Park Directions: $5. (private park) Trails: No true trails, just roaming around. Area: Recommendation: Dirty (as in trash), no trails, blah.
Waurika Lake - Walker Creek Trail Directions: Free. Trails: Area: Recommendation: Flat, full of spider webs (and spiders). Don't go.