7 Jaw-Dropping Oklahoma State Parks You Didn’t Know Existed (But Should)

You don’t have to travel far to find an adventure in Oklahoma State Parks!

Oklahoma is more than just the state where tornadoes happen! It’s also home to several incredible state parks that you may not have heard about before! Our article looks at these hidden gems and provides some tips on planning your next visit. If you love being outdoors, then this article is for you! 

What are some other things on your USA or Oklahoma bucket list? Maybe it’s time to check out these parks and see what else Oklahoma has in store for you!

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Robbers Cave State Park overlook on top of the cave

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7 Epic Oklahoma State Parks

When we moved to Oklahoma in 2016, we had no idea the terrain was going to be so diverse and fun to explore.

Oklahoma’s State Parks are some of the most underrated and best-kept secrets in the country, perfect for folks looking for an Oklahoma weekend getaway.

Discover your new favorite spots in Oklahoma, and maybe even the USA, by reading this article!

Oklahoma is a land of hills, valleys, rivers, and lakes. It’s no surprise then that it has some fantastic parks. It might be surprising that there are some hidden gems in the state, with not many people knowing about them, such as salt flats, sand dunes, caves, and waterfalls! Continue reading on to find out more about these unique Oklahoma State Parks you probably didn’t know existed.

1. Salt Plains State Park

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Salt Plains State Park

Salt Plains State Park is a unique area that has been called one of Oklahoma’s best-kept secrets. From its rolling hills to salt flats and nearby wildlife refuge, it makes for an excellent place to explore the great outdoors. In addition, with easy access to a nearby lake, it’s one of the best places in Oklahoma for birdwatching! There are over 300 species of protected birds living in the wildlife refuge.

The park is out of this world! An ocean once covered Oklahoma, and the salt plains are left over from prehistoric times.

Visitors can dig for selenite crystals if you’re up for a different kind of adventure.

This is the only place on the planet where hourglass selenite crystals are found.

Best Time of Year to Visit the Salt Plains

The salt flats in Oklahoma are open to the public from April 1 – October 15 daily.

The best times of the year would be to go when it is cooler, as it gets hot and humid during July-August and there is no shade once you’re on the salt flats.

We visited during mid-July and it was incredibly HOT!

More Details: Salt Plains State Park

The salt flats are softer than the surrounding area, so you’ll want to be careful walking or driving so you don’t get stuck.

If you plan on digging for crystals, bring a shovel, sunscreen, water, and food. The area is extremely rural.

Restrooms are available near the dig area and at the main state park area.

Dogs are allowed.

The entrance fee is $10 per car or $8 for Oklahoma residents.

2. Little Sahara State Park

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Little Sahara State Park

Little Sahara State Park is another one of Oklahoma’s best-kept secrets (not to be confused with Utah’s Little Sahara Recreation Area). With incredible views of sand dunes that tower 25 to 75 feet into the air, Little Sahara State Park looks like it came straight out of a movie set!

The state park consists of over 1,600 acres of sand dunes from when the Cimarron River flowed over the area during prehistoric times. The park is located near Waynoka in northwest Oklahoma.

Today, the state park provides visitors with an excellent place to spend the day walking around, camping, and enjoying the scenery of this unique area. In addition, it is a popular ATV, dune buggy, off-road vehicle, and dirt biking destination.

If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience, then this is definitely the place to go.

Camping is available but limited, and there is no shade at the campgrounds. Be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time, especially if visiting during popular times of the year.

Little Sahara State Park is an awesome place to take unique photos in Oklahoma. Check out what we use for adventure travel photography gear!

Best Time of Year to Visit Little Sahara

The park is a popular place to visit in the late fall and early spring.

However, we wouldn’t recommend visiting in the middle of summer because it’s extremely hot, rural, and there is no shade once you’re on the sand dunes.

More Details: Little Sahara State Park

Restrooms are available near the campgrounds.

Dogs are allowed.

3. Gloss Mountain State Park

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Hiking the Cathedral Mountain Trail

Gloss Mountain State Park is a great place to go for rock scrambling, hiking, and exploring. The park contains diverse landscapes, including cliffsides with spectacular red rock views and various types of terrain.

Visitors can hike the Cathedral Mountain Trail along a designated trail composed of rocks, wood, and metal stairs with some handrails. The trail is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

It’s one of the more unique parks in Oklahoma since most state parks in Oklahoma focus on water-oriented activities and scenery.

Gloss Mountain is a great place to go if you’re looking for an excellent adventure that exposes you to nature in all of its glory. Just when you think Oklahoma is only prairie land, you find a red rock desert-like oasis that transports you to a Sedona-like atmosphere!

Plan to spend around an hour at Gloss Mountain State Park. The main attraction is the hike to the top of the mesa along the Cathedral Mountain Trail.

Best Time of Year to Visit Gloss Mountain

Visitors will enjoy hiking the Cathedral Mountain Trail during cooler months of the year.

It is not a very busy park during the middle of the week either, which is great since visitors share a narrow hiking trail to the top of the mountain. So visit during the week to beat any crowds!

More Details: Gloss Mountain State Park

There is no camping here. There are restrooms in the parking area.

Dogs are allowed.

There are signs all over that say to be rattlesnake aware.

Trip tip: Little Sahara State Park and Gloss Mountain State Park are roughly 30 minutes apart if you’d like to see both destinations in one day!

4. Robbers Cave State Park

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Robbers Cave State Park

Robbers Cave State Park is another unique park located in Oklahoma’s Sans Bois Mountains (and one of our personal favorites). It is home to a huge cave which visitors to the area can explore. Inside the cave is a relic of the past that has been known to stir up debate among residents and other visitors in the area – it was a former hideout for wild west outlaws such as Jesse James and Belle Starr!

Robbers Cave State Park and the surrounding Wildlife Management Area are made up of over 8,000 acres. The area is home to plenty of wildlife and a beautiful forest. People travel from all over the state of Oklahoma just to venture inside this incredible cave full of history and stunning hiking trails.

You’re in for a real treat if you decide to visit Robbers Cave State Park. With plenty of activities such as rappelling, hiking, camping, and unbeatable scenery, it’s an excellent place to go on a weekend getaway in Oklahoma!

Best Time of Year to Visit Robbers Cave

You can visit the area year-round. However, if you’re planning to visit during the summer, plan hiking early in the morning to beat the heat. The trail parking area to Robbers Cave opens at 8 am.

The fall is another incredible time of year to visit with the hardwoods changing colors.

More Details: Robbers Cave State Park

Robbers Cave was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

There is lots of camping available shaded by the oak-pine forest.

There are restrooms near the campgrounds and at the trailhead for the Robbers Cave and Rough Canyon hikes.

Dogs are allowed.

The entrance fee is $10 per car or $8 for Oklahoma residents.

Trip tip: We personally love hiking through the oak-pine forest and exploring the granite rock formations. The hike to Robbers Cave is incredible! You simply cannot miss doing the short hike to the cave.

5. Natural Falls State Park

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Dripping Springs waterfall

Did you know Natural Falls State Park was featured in the movie Where the Red Fern Grows?

Natural Falls State Park is well known for its incredible 77-foot waterfall called the Dripping Springs.

Natural Falls State Park is also home to some gorgeous scenery you might not expect in Oklahoma, including rolling hillsides with plenty of rocks strewn about them. It’s an excellent place for hiking or just exploring the natural wonders of the area.

The park is close to the Oklahoma-Arkansas border in Colcord, Oklahoma, in the Ozark Mountains. It’s a great pit stop to take photos and do the short hike to Dripping Springs on your next road trip through Oklahoma or Arkansas.

Best Time of Year to Visit Natural Falls

Since Oklahoma has relatively mild winters, you can visit this state park year-round. The hike to Dripping Springs is a short 1-mile, and you can even hike during the middle of the summer. In addition, the trail has some shade.

More Details: Natural Falls State Park

You might be wondering if you can swim at Natural Falls State Park. Sorry to disappoint, but no swimming is allowed.

Dogs are allowed.

There is a campground.

The entrance fee is $10 per car or $8 for Oklahoma residents.

6. Greenleaf State Park

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Swinging bridge along The Ankle Express Trail

Greenleaf State Park is a wonderful place to go for hiking, exploring, camping, and swimming. With plenty of trails that lead you through the woods with lake scenery, it’s easy to see why so many people enjoy this park!

But this isn’t just any old state park in Oklahoma; here, you can experience something unique – a swinging bridge!

A swinging bridge is nothing more than a wooden bridge that’s suspended above the ground. They’re fun to walk across and gives you a chance to see something unique. It might be one of the things that sets Greenleaf State Park apart from all the others in Oklahoma! It is magical to hike the Ankle Express Trail through the woods to reach the swinging bridge! Greenleaf State Park also has one of the longest backpacking trails in OklahomaThe Ankle Express.

Plenty of other activities can keep you busy when you go to Greenleaf State Park. You can stick around the area and take in a swim, kayak, fish, or you might prefer to hike one of the other trails instead.

The park has wonderful campground areas, so be sure to plan a camping trip along the water. Our favorite campground area is Cypress Row.

Best Time of Year to Visit Greenleaf State Park

The best times of the year to visit Greenleaf State Park are spring and fall. However, if you’re planning to hike, we recommend waiting for cooler temperatures.

Most of the campground is in the trees, and you can get away with summer camping and lake activities if you don’t mind the heat.

More Details: Greenleaf State Park

Dogs are allowed.

If you plan to hike during warmer weather, you’ll definitely want to bring bug spray (link to our favorite bug spray) for the mosquitos and ticks.

The entrance fee is $10 per car or $8 for Oklahoma residents.

If you’re camping, the entrance fee is covered by the campground reservation fee.

7. Quartz Mountain State Park

Hiking to Baldy Point – Quartz Mountain

If you are looking to get away into Oklahoma’s beautiful and remote Wichita Mountains, Quartz Mountain State Park has something that will interest any outdoor lover! The scenery at this destination is second-to-none, with hiking trails winding throughout the park.

Camp beneath stars so thick they seem to be threading their way across an open book. The area is remote, so there is barely any other light pollution.

And if sunbathing by the lakeside isn’t quite enough for your taste, no problem. There are also rock-climbing opportunities and a short, paved bike path to explore.

Best Time of Year to Visit Quartz Mountain

Visitors can explore Quartz Mountain State Park year-round. If you’d like to hike, we’d recommend visiting during the fall, winter, and spring. If you’re there to play on the lake, then summer is a great time to visit.

More Details: Visiting Quartz Mountain

There are a few different camping areas with water and electric hookups. The restrooms are older, but there are flushing toilets and showers. Visitors can make camping reservations online.

When hiking, there are signs all over that say be rattlesnake aware. We did see a little pygmy rattler (not to discourage you – just to help you and your pets stay safe).

The hikes are some of the best in the state!

This is one of our absolute favorite state parks to hike in Oklahoma!

Final Thoughts on Jaw-Dropping Oklahoma State Parks

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Little Sahara State Park

Oklahoma is known for its stunning landscapes and serene, untouched beauty.

The state has 38 state parks waiting to be explored by any outdoor adventurer or adventuring couple.

This list of Oklahoma State Parks may not always be the most popular destination, but they offer various activities and stunning landscapes. From hiking trails, mountain biking, and camping, these parks have something for everyone. You won’t regret taking your next adventure here, so go ahead and explore these amazing places!

Don’t forget to bring your camera (this is what we use) to visit these 7 best state parks:

  1. Salt Plains State Park
  2. Little Sahara State Park
  3. Gloss Mountain State Park
  4. Robbers Cave State Park
  5. Natural Falls State Park
  6. Greenleaf State Park
  7. Quartz Mountain State Park

If you are camping at any of the parks, the entrance fee is covered in your camping fees.

We hope you have fun exploring these natural wonders of Oklahoma!

Ashlee & Pablo


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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

10 Comments

  1. Julie on July 17, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    I had no idea there were salt flats in Oklahoma!! So cool! So many fun options to explore!



    • Ashlee Fechino on July 18, 2021 at 11:54 am

      Hi Julie! The salt flats in Oklahoma are really neat. You’ll have to visit sometime.



  2. Krista on July 17, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    I had no idea that there was so much varying landscape in Oklahoma! Also had no idea there were salt plains there, or massive sand dunes. So glad you wrote this post, it’s inspired me to travel to this state!



    • Ashlee Fechino on July 18, 2021 at 11:54 am

      Hi Krista! So glad you found our article. We hope you can visit Oklahoma someday. It is really an underrated state with a lot of neat places to explore.



  3. alex on July 17, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    didn’t realize Oklahoma had so many great spots!



    • Ashlee Fechino on July 18, 2021 at 11:52 am

      Hi Alex – Oklahoma State Parks are incredible. There is so much diversity in the state.



  4. Sue on July 17, 2021 at 10:49 pm

    These parks sound like such great hidden gems that I’d never think to find in Oklahoma! I’d love to visit them some day!



    • Ashlee Fechino on July 18, 2021 at 11:52 am

      Hi Sue! Thanks for commenting. We hope you get to see some of Oklahoma’s awesome State Parks someday!



  5. Josy A on July 18, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    I often like the look of State parks even more than their more famous sisters, the national parks – probably because they seem less busy, bust just as beautiful! These Oklahoma state parks all looks great fun for hikes – and it is pretty amazing how varied the terrain is!

    I LOVE the look of the salt flats and the Robbers Cave!



    • Ashlee Fechino on July 20, 2021 at 11:57 am

      Hi Josy! Thanks for reading. We agree – state parks are so spectacular and often less crowded. Oklahoma State Parks are awesome!