When portrayed on the big screen, Oklahoma often comes off a little flat. It may be a Great Plains state, but our outdoor recreation is more great than plain.
Oklahoma hosts a surprising assortment of outdoor adventures. Whether you’re looking for the perfect swimming hole, mountain hiking trails, city biking trails or the ideal spot for something more extreme, our state has the outdoor adventure for you.
“You need to see it! You need to see the vibrancy. Oklahoma is a place where people develop roots and call home quickly,” said Mike Ming, General Manager, GE Global Research Oil and Gas Technology Center.
Southern Oklahoma features three distinct mountain ranges – the Wichita Mountains in the southwest, the Ozark Mountains in the northeast and the Ouachita Mountains in the southeast. These ranges offer miles upon miles of hiking trails, scenic roads and recreational areas sure to satisfy even the most avid outdoorsman.
But if you’re a city slicker who’s itching for exercise or just wants a breath of fresh Oklahoma air, our metropolitan areas have you covered. Between Oklahoma City’s lengthy bike trails and Tulsa’s accommodating pedestrian walkways, there’s plenty of places for you to get outside and escape the bustle of city life.
Scenic Talimena Drive
The headliner here is the Talimena National Scenic Byway. This 54-mile stretch of nationally protected road winds through the Ouachita Mountains and Ouachita National Forest of southeastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, and it offers some of the best views this side of the Rockies. Although this scenic drive is worth the trip year-round, a fall drive offers the best viewing experience, when the region’s foliage lights up with bright reds, yellows and oranges.
Tahlequah, found in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, is a hotspot for the outdoor enthusiast. From floating the Illinois River during the summer to hiking Sparrow Hawk Mountain or camping at Lake Tenkiller in the fall, the capital of Cherokee Nation runs the gamut of outdoor recreation. Tahlequah also is known for its Red Fern Festival, inspired by the book “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Tahlequah-area-native Wilson Rawls.
Watonga is home to an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities. Roman Nose State Park is set in a vast canyon and offers a unique 18-hole golf course, swimming pools, hiking and two separate lakes with fishing, paddleboats and more. Additionally, the beautiful Red Rock Canyon State Park, once a stop for pioneers on the California Trail, and popular Cherokee Trading Post are located just 30 minutes from Watonga.