5 Fabulous Waterfall Hikes in Oklahoma - MetroFamily Magazine
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5 Fabulous Waterfall Hikes in Oklahoma

by Mae Kiggins

Photo courtesy of Chickasaw National Recreation AreaCan waterfalls make you happy? Most people visit waterfalls because they are beautiful; but surprisingly, waterfalls have been shown to alleviate depression, relieve stress and boost energy. Waterfalls are an especially precious resource for little explorers. These water features are often surrounded by native plants and wildlife that all offer big adventure for families.

In recent summers, Oklahoma’s drought has made for less-than-impressive water features. However, an extremely wet spring has changed all that. Bubbling brooks, breathtaking falls and lush landscapes abound this summer in Oklahoma. Here are five mom-approved waterfall hikes for your family to explore this summer.

Before heading out on your adventure; consider a few things: 

  • Do you want to hike to or drive up to the waterfall?

There are options for both in Oklahoma and there are varying levels of difficulty for hikes as well. If you’re visiting a waterfall with the whole family, the difficulty level you decide to tackle will probably be based on the age of your children. We’ve noted the difficulty level on each of these highlighted falls to help you prepare.

  • Do you want to swim?

Some of the parks allow swimming and some don’t. We’ve marked which destinations allow for swimming, but because waterfalls are natural features that change with the seasons, you’ll want to check with the staff at each water feature ahead of time if you plan to swim.

  • What on-site amenities are available?

Some of the waterfalls are in rural areas so there may not be options for eating out close by. We’ve listed which waterfalls have family-friendly amenities on-site like picnic tables and restrooms so you’ll be able to identify how long you can explore an area before the kids get too hungry.

Photo courtesy of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Natural Falls State Park

Location: West Siloam Springs

Restrooms: At Trailhead

Picnic Facilities: At Trailhead

Admission: $5/vehicle

Difficulty Rating: Easy to Difficult

General Information: Natural Falls State Parks is home to Dripping Springs, a 77-foot fall beautifully situated in the Oklahoma Ozarks. Dripping Springs Trail provides access to the falls. The trail is paved but narrow and steep in some areas. Don’t feel like a strenuous hike? Dripping Springs can be viewed from an overlook and bridge. Both are a short, easy hike from the parking lot and handicap accessible. Swimming is not allowed.

Photo by Mae Kiggins

On the next page: Turner Falls Park

Turner Falls Park

Location: Davis, about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City

Restrooms: Yes

Picnic Facilities:Yes

Admission: Summer rates are $12 for adults, $6 for ages 6-12 and free for kids under 5.

Difficulty Rating: Very Easy

General Information: Turner Falls is nestled in the heart of the Arbuckle Mountains and is the largest fall in Oklahoma. The fall can be accessed directly from the parking lot and swimming is allowed. This park also boasts three natural caves, a rock castle, hiking trails and plenty of concession stands. Check website for park alerts.

Photo by Lisha Newman

On the next page: Little Niagara

Little Niagara – Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Location: Sulphur, about 90 miles south of Oklahoma City

Restrooms: Yes

Picnic Facilities: Yes

Admission: Free

Difficulty Rating: Very Easy

General Information: Little Niagara is just one of the many magnificent features in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Located across the road from the Travertine Nature Center, Little Niagara is the perfect way to cool off during the hot summer and fall months. Visit Antelope and Buffalo Springs nearby to add a little more adventure. Both springs are accessed via an easy 1.2 mile round-trip trail adjacent to Little Niagara. The flow of the Little Niagara and the springs varies by season. The park’s website displays any alerts. Little Niagara can be found just east of the intersection of the 7 and 177.

On the next page: Heavener Runestone

​Heavener Runestone Park

Location: Heavener, about 200 miles east of Oklahoma City

Restrooms: Yes

Picnic Facilities: Yes

Admission: Free

Difficulty: Moderate

General Information: In addition to a stunning waterfall and rock formations, Heavener Runestone Park holds the Heavener Runestone, a large stone containing ancient written characters known as runes believed to be from the Vikings. The waterfall is located along the main trail that leads out to the Runestone. The trail is paved and lined with rocks but does wind down into a ravine. The trail is about 20 minutes round trip. Swimming is not allowed.

Photo by Floyd Morgan Jr.

On the next page: McGee Creek

McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area Trail System

Location: Atoka, about 150 miles southeast of Oklahoma City

Restrooms: Yes

Picnic Facilities: Yes

Admission: Free

Difficulty: Moderate

General Information: This charming fall can be found along the Little Bugaboo trail, which follows Little Bugaboo Creek and is a three-mile round trip. The trail branches off from the West Branch trail, which can be accessed from the main park entrance road. Flow varies throughout the season. Call for up-to-date information. Swimming, wading and playing in the water is encouraged.

Waterfalls are natural features and they’re always changing. Before visiting any waterfall it is a good idea to call the park or check the website to get an idea of flow level. Most years the concern is low flow. This year there may be limited access because of high flow. Most are still open for viewing, but swimming may be closed.

Mae Kiggins is a former park ranger and mom living in Edmond. Find more tips for outdoor exploration on her blog.

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