Hiking events

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Among Oklahoma’s Best Hiking Trails

Last week my column was dedicated to some of the best hiking trails in the state. I missed a few, judging by reader feedback.

In case you missed it, last week’s story included: Ouachita National Recreation Trail, Elk Mountain Trail and two more in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Inspiration Point Trail at State Park from Roman Nose, the Summit Trail at Black Mesa State Park, trails at Robbers Cave State Park, the McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area trail system, the Granite Hills Trails system at Great Plains State Park, and the Friends Trail Loop at Beavers Bend State Park.

Here is the best of the rest.

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Greenleaf State Park Trails

Greenleaf State Park‘s trail system was the most notable omission from the previous list, at least based on reader feedback.

More than one reader has recommended the hiking trails at Greenleaf State Park in eastern Oklahoma near Braggs.

“Any first-time hiker should check out the Greenleaf State Park Trail Loop, said Darrin Hill, videographer with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, who leads scout troops on hikes and camping. .

The most challenging trail is the Greenleaf Trail Full Loop, an 18-mile hike that begins inside the park and loops around 930-acre Greenleaf Lake and adjacent Camp Gruber government land.

It takes over seven hours to complete on average with an elevation gain of nearly 1,900 feet. Some of the trail can be very primitive. It may require a bit of bushland along the way in addition to getting wet while crossing streams.

If you want something less strenuous, Greenleaf State Park also offers other trails rated easy to moderate difficulty, and backpackers can hike shorter segments of the full loop.

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Beech Creek Natural Scenic and Botanical Area

This scenic 7,500-acre area in the Ouachita National Forest in southeastern Oklahoma is known for its beautiful old beech trees. Located near Big Cedar, there are 32 miles of interconnected hiking trails through different ecosystems along the headwaters of Beech Creek.

Within the scenic area is a special area, the 400-acre Beech Creek Botanical Area. An old forest road winds through the scenic area, providing hiking opportunities to take in the natural beauty.

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The old military road

This trail in southeast Oklahoma is part of the Ouachita Mountains Trail System. The trail takes hikers through a towering pine forest on the side of Winding Stair Mountain. It can be done as a round trip hike of around 13 miles or point to point with a car at 6.5 or 8 miles.

It can also be part of a 23-mile hiking loop by joining the Old Military Trail with the Ouachita Trail and the Boardstand Trail; a rugged adventure of two or three days.

The trail generally follows the route of the road that was built by the US Army in 1832 to connect Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Fort Towson in Indian Territory. To reach the trailhead, head north on US Highway 271 approximately 3 miles from the intersection with SH 1 (Talimena Drive), turn east on Holson Valley Road and continue approximately 3 miles .

There is a sign on the south side of Holson Valley Rd pointing to the Boardstand Trail. The Old Military Road trail starts at the same trailhead and there is a parking area at the trailhead.

The Boardstand trail that starts at the same trailhead slopes to Mount Winding Stair to the east and provides another great hike.

“The Old Military Trail Loop is a great trail,” Hill said.

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Baldy Point Loop

A 1.3 mile trail in Quartz Mountain Nature Park near Granite, the Baldy Point Loop is rated moderately difficult with beautiful mountain views. Trekking poles and hiking shoes are a good idea for crossing the gravel. The rocks in the area are a popular spot for rock climbing.

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Keystone ancient natural forest

Managed by The Nature Conservancy, this 1,360-acre nature reserve near Sand Springs offers hikes through 500-year-old cedars and 300-year-old post oaks.

Volunteer trail guides take care of parking and monitor each hike. You can walk alone, or if there are enough trail guides available and you wish, someone can walk with you to help interpret the forest landscape and this ongoing interpretive project.

Hiking is permitted from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. No reservation is necessary.

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Backpackers trek the Bison Loop Trail in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, one of Oklahoma's most popular hiking destinations.  PHOTO BY DARRIN HILL

Bison Loop Trail

While last week’s column included the popular Elk Mountain Trail in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, another outstanding trail on the refuge is the Bison Loop Trail.

The 6.1 mile loop includes hiking over rugged terrain along several lakes and rivers on the refuge.

While the Elk Mountain Trail and Charon’s Garden Trail are more popular in the refuge, Hill is a fan of the Bison Loop Trail.

“I love hiking the Bison Loop Trail in the Wichita Mountains,” Hill said. “There are plenty of ankle-twisting opportunities on the Bison Loop, especially with a full backpack, but it’s beautiful, if very busy at times.”

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Arcadia, Thunderbird and Martin Park

If you don’t want to drive a long distance from Oklahoma City to hike, check out the hiking and biking trails at Martin Park Nature Center, Arcadia Lake, and Lake Thunderbird.

The Martin Park Nature Center in Oklahoma City has three hiking trails, including one that includes widened walkways and boardwalks suitable for visitors in wheelchairs. Hiking trails lead visitors around a large pond and along bubbling Spring Creek, wildflower meadows, and through the park’s woods.

The Lake Arcadia multi-use trail in Edmond was designed for use by mountain bikers, but is also popular with hikers and runners.

Thunderbird Lake State Park near Norman has several nature trails ranging from one to four miles in length that allow you to walk through the woods.

For a good resource on hiking trails in Oklahoma, pick up a copy of the book, Oklahoma Hiking Trails, by Kent Frates and Larry Floyd.