Before I moved to Oklahoma I lived in the beautiful state of California. You can imagine my shock when I found out as a teenager that I was moving from the ocean to a landlocked state filled with tornadoes, mosquitoes and prairie land. It took me awhile before I fully appreciated this great state and found all gorgeous places and hidden gems. Here are some of my favorite places I’ve discovered over the years that should be on the everyone’s destination list.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. Talimena National Scenic Byway - Oklahoma State Highway 1, Talihina
There’s nothing like a picture-perfect autumn drive to get you into the spirit of the season. Cool mountain air and fantastic foliage combine to make this 54-mile route one of the most gorgeous in the state.
2. Quartz Mountain Nature Park - 43393 Scissortail Road, Lone Wolf
The beautiful scenery in southwestern Oklahoma beams with rugged and unique beauty. Attractions include rock climbing, fishing, boating, bird watching and cycling.
3. Tenkiller State Park - OK-100, Vian,
Nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Lake Tenkiller State Park is a gem in the woodlands of Oklahoma. The lake is a clear water paradise and is surrounded by beautiful thick foliage, rugged cliffs, rolling hills and spectacular views. Lake Tenkiller State Park has become known as "Heaven in the Hills" and once you visit, you’ll see why it’s pure bliss.
4. Turner Falls Park - Hwy 77 South, Davis
Turner Falls State Park is one of Oklahoma’s most beautiful gems that lies nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains in southern Oklahoma. It's home to the largest waterfall in the state at 77 ft. and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the Sooner State. It is a great place to go to view fall foliage.
5. Great Salt Plains State Park - 23280 South Spillway Drive, Jet
Great Salt Plains State Park is the only place in the world where you can dig for these hourglass-shaped crystals. Not only can you find these one-of-a-kind treasures, but you can also enjoy the only lake in Oklahoma that is half saltwater.
6. Heavener Runestone Park - 18365 Runestone Road, Heavener
Did you know Oklahoma has a connection with The Lord of the Rings? If you travel to eastern Oklahoma to Heavener Runestone Park, you’ll see the area looks like something from Tolkien’s "Middle Earth." It is a 55-acre, day-use park and is one of the most unusual sites in the southern U.S. due to its mysterious carvings on the side of the rocks.
7. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge - 32 Refuge Headquarters Road, Indiahoma
Located in southwest Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountains are rocky promontories full of natural beauty and breathtaking views. These mountains are home to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge – 59,000 spectacular acres full of free-roaming wildlife.
8. Chickasaw National Recreation Area - 901 West 1st Street, Sulphur
From its pristine waters to picturesque scenery, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in south-central Oklahoma is the perfect place to explore the great outdoors. This Oklahoma oasis is situated in the foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains and is made up of Veteran’s Lake, Lake of the Arbuckles, Travertine Creek and Rock Creek.
9. Beavers Bend State Park - 4350 South Highway 259A, Broken Bow
Beavers Bend State Park is a gem in southeastern Oklahoma, comprised of 1,300 acres about 10 miles north of Broken Bow. The park boasts of a postcard-like setting and is an outdoor oasis waiting to be discovered.
10. Red Rock Canyon State Park - 116 Red Rock Canyon Road, Hinton
Red Rock Canyon State Park is one of Oklahoma’s crown jewels for outdoor enthusiasts. Located near Hinton, Oklahoma in the west-central portion of the state, Red Rock Canyon is the place to go for epic hikes, rappelling, camping and exploring the outdoors. The canyon hike at Red Rock is an unrivaled experience everyone should enjoy at least once.
11. Alabaster Caverns State Park - 217036 State Highway 50A, Freedom
Oklahoma is home to the largest natural gypsum cave in the world open to the public – Alabaster Caverns – and you need to visit this incredible place as soon as possible. The caves are part of the 200-acre Alabaster Caverns State Park in Freedom and guided tours are offered daily. Not only will you see a rare form of gypsum, but you’ll also get to see several species of bats during your tour.
12. Little Sahara State Park - 101 Main Street, Waynoka
One of the most unique topographies lies within Little Sahara State Park in Waynoke, Oklahoma. It is not only a favorite spot for ATV riders, but it is a spectacular place to visit to enjoy a desert-like scenery full of sand dunes.
13. Black Mesa State Park - State Highway 325, Kenton
The Southwestern Tablelands ecoregion in Oklahoma encompasses Black Mesa country in extreme western Oklahoma. It is full of dramatic rock formations, an abundance of wildlife, ancient mesas, rugged beauty, mountains and shortgrass prairies. It also boasts the highest point in the state – 4,973 ft. above sea level.
14. Natural Falls State Park - US Highway 412 West, Colcord,
From gorgeous waterfalls to lush greenery to scenic forests, this park in Oklahoma may feel more like a scene from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe than the Sooner State. The star of the show is the 77 ft. waterfall that's just a short hike back from the parking lot.
Wow! These places are stunning! Has anyone visited ALL 14 of these places? For more information about Heavener Runestone Park in Le Flore County, read