Exploring Northwest Oklahoma with Children
Alabaster Caverns State Park
The northwest quadrant of our state has a unique and beautiful landscape. Oklahoma's state parks are a terrific—and inexpensive—way to enjoy the local scenery! Be sure to check individual park sites for more information on pricing and remember that if you want to fish at any of the parks you will need your state fishing license.
Editor's Note: State Park officials recommend checking online for closures due to high water.
Less than two hours from Oklahoma City, Roman Nose State Park and Foss State Park are both great options for day trips, but both sites offer camping, too, if you want to extend your stay.
Originally opened in 1937, Roman Nose State Park is one of the original seven Oklahoma state parks and is set in a canyon, giving visitors amazing views of the gypsum rock cliffs. The park features a multitude of activities to keep you busy including golfing, hiking, swimming, fishing, no-wake boating, biking, and hayrides. No swimming is allowed in the lake but there are swimming pools available. Canoes, kayaks, paddleboats and mountain bikes can be rented on site, so you don't have to worry about purchasing equipment or hauling it out. If you want to spend more than a day at the park, there are several lodging options, including RV hookups, tent camping sites, and cabins. There is a 22-room lodge that was recently renovated, and if you want a truly unique experience, you can even rent a teepee from April to October.
Foss State Park is another nearby park where your family can get some fresh air and exercise. Located on Foss Lake, the park offers hiking, biking, disc golf, horseback riding, fishing, boating, and swimming. There is also an equestrian camp with a trail for riding if your family has horses. If you're worn out from all that fun, there are over 100 RV sites and more than 100 tent sites at the park, so you can get some rest and get right back at it in the morning! Every July, the park hosts Christmas in July, a two day celebration with a scavenger hunt, gospel music jamboree, pageants, food, crafts, live music and fireworks.
About two to three hours from the metro are several state parks that each have very unique features. Any of these parks merits a visit on its own, but if you want to take a few days and visit several, they are located relatively close to each other, so you can easily go from park to park.
A one of a kind experience awaits you at Great Salt Plains State Park in Jet. Visitors can dig for hourglass shaped selenite crystals in only place in the world these crystals are found! The park also offers swimming, boating, fishing, and biking and hiking trails. The Salt Plains Wildlife Refuge is great for bird watching, too. Cabins, RV sites, and tent sites are all located at the park.
Gloss Mountains State Park is located on Highway 412 and features some of the most beautiful views in the state. The selenite in the mountains makes them look almost like glass in certain light, and if you hike to the top, you can take in the vast expanse of the surrounding prairie. There aren't any campsites or lodging available in the park, but you can hike during daylight hours and there are restrooms and picnic areas.
If your family enjoys ATVs or off road vehicles you've got to visit Little Sahara State Park in Waynoka. Drivers can traverse the more than 1,600 acres of sand dunes in the park, and if you don't own a vehicle of your own, a nearby off-site company does rent them. There is a $10 per driver fee, even if you bring your own vehicle. If you just want to see a mini desert right in our very own state, visit the new observation tower to see the dunes up close through binoculars. RV and tent camping sites are available at the park.
Boiling Springs State Park in Woodward is the perfect place to spend a day or two relaxing and enjoying nature. Trails lead hikers through the shady forests and there's plenty of open space for kids to run and play. The park also has a large swimming pool, several newly renovated play areas and fishing. RV sites and tent camping are available, and there are also cabins that can be rented.
Alabaster Caverns State Park is home to the largest natural gypsum cave in the world that is open to the public. Every hour on the hour a tour of the cave begins, giving you a very unique opportunity to escape the Oklahoma heat! If you have children 8 and older, you might want to check out the Selman Bat Watch, taking place Friday & Saturday nights in July and the beginning of August. Regular tent and RV sites are available, or if you are feeling more adventurous, you might want to think about cave camping! Fantastic Fridays happen most weeks through the summer and offer visitors a wealth of fun and educational activities covering astronomy, bats, snakes and owls. All Fantastic Fridays events are appropriate for any age and are free to the public.
Six hours from Oklahoma City are the Black Mesa State Park and Black Mesa Nature Preserve. Located about 15 miles from each other, these sites are both operated by the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department and both are worth a visit. At the nature preserve, visitors can hike to the top of the Black Mesa plateau, which, at 4,973 feet above sea level, is the highest point in Oklahoma. In addition to hiking, visitors can observe many rare plant and animal species in the 1,600-acre preserve. The preserve is open only during daylight hours, but tent and RV camping sites are located at the park. The park is also popular with astronomy enthusiasts because the skies there are some of the darkest skies on land open to the public and is especially popular during the annual Perseid meteor shower each August.
Northwest Oklahoma's state parks are ready for your family's next adventure. For even more information and fun itinerary ideas, check out this article written by our publisher and Woodward native, Sarah Taylor.