Oklahoma State Parks You Didn’t Know Existed

You don’t have to travel far to find an adventure at 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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Epic Oklahoma State Parks

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Robbers Cave State Park lookout

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

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.

Other Salt Plains State Park Details

The salt flats are softer than the surrounding area, so be careful walking or driving not to 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.

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.

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.

Other Little Sahara State Park Details

Restrooms are available near the campgrounds.

Dogs are allowed.

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!

Other Gloss Mountain State Park Details

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

Dogs are allowed.

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!

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 at sunrise and early in the morning to beat the heat.

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

Other Robbers Cave State Park Details

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.

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.

Other Natural Falls State Park Details

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

Dogs are allowed.

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

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, and swimming. With plenty of trails that lead you through the woods along 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 play on 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 could stick around the area and take in a swim or two, kayak, fish, or you might prefer to hike one of the other trails instead.

The Park has a wonderful campground area, 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.

Other Greenleaf Park Details

Dogs are allowed.

If you plan to hike during warmer weather, don’t forget your bug spray for ticks and mosquitos!

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.

Unique 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 that will keep you busy all day long! 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 today! Don’t forget to bring your camera!

  • Salt Plains State Park
  • Little Sahara State Park
  • Gloss Mountain State Park
  • Robbers Cave State Park
  • Natural Falls State Park
  • Greenleaf State Park

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

Ashlee & Pablo


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About The Author

Ashlee Fechino

I’m a travel and outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness through an outdoorsy lifestyle. I want to help people live their best life by sharing free adventure guides. The USA has been my backyard most of my life, and it’s the place where you’ll find most of our escapades! I’m married to an expat Argentine, chihuahua Mom, and am passionate about the environment. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, hiking, and SUP’ing!

10 COMMENTS

  1. Julie | 17th Jul 21

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

    • Ashlee Fechino | 18th Jul 21

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

  2. Krista | 17th Jul 21

    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 | 18th Jul 21

      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 | 17th Jul 21

    didn’t realize Oklahoma had so many great spots!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 18th Jul 21

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

  4. Sue | 17th Jul 21

    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 | 18th Jul 21

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

  5. Josy A | 18th Jul 21

    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 | 20th Jul 21

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

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