There are many wonderful places to enjoy nature in the metro area, but if you’re seeking a different landscape, your options are fairly limited. A gorgeous view of mountains and lakes is just a short car tip away though, so pack a bag and plan your visit to Quartz Mountain Nature Park!
Traveling to Quartz Mountain is fairly simple. I have no real travel experience in the southwest part of the state and I found it quickly and easily, much to my children’s delight.
From Oklahoma City, there are two ways to reach Quartz Mountain: the longer way (south on I-44, west on Highway 62, north on Highway 6) and the shorter way (west on I-40, south on Highway 183, west on Highway 9). The longer way features wider highways and faster speed limits but also limited stopping points and tolls. The shorter route features slower travel on two-lane roads but you also get to pass through several small towns. On our trips to and from Quartz Mountain we tried both routes and we preferred the longer route due to the better roads and fewer construction zones.
When you first reach Quartz Mountain, look for the park office on the right after you cross the bridge. This will be your first chance for bathroom breaks and is a great place to pick up information about the park, including trail maps and information on plants and things you might see when you’re out exploring. They also have brochures on park history and park activities, such as metal detecting or rock climbing.
The Nature Center
Our next stop was the nature center, where we met with the park naturalist, Sue Hokansen. Ms. Hokansen is a wonderful resource for learning about plants and animals in the park. She happily answered many questions and provided us with coloring pages, nature hike checklists and maps showing kid-friendly trails. Make time to see all of the displays in the nature center—there are many exhibits for the kids to explore, including turtle shells and skunk pelts. A huge hit with my three year old was the track table, where kids can stamp different animal tracks into the dirt. We always enjoy visiting places where the kids are encouraged to pick things up and learn as much as they can.
Hitting the Trails
From the nature center, it’s a quick drive over the mountain to the resort area and the kid-friendly trails. The first trail we tried was the Cave Trail. Tucked behind the outdoor theater, this trail is great for kids who are old enough to climb, but is not a trail for strollers or wheelchairs. It’s a short distance to the cave at the top, but the climb up the rocks will allow young kids to feel like real explorers.
On the other side of the parking area, there is a trail that is accessible for everyone in the family. Starting at the covered bridge, the paved trail winds around the lake area (currently dry) to the other side of the bridge, then around the mountains looking over the lake. This is a fairly long trail, so you may want to bring a stroller for tired children and carry your water bottles and snacks. At the end of the trail is a rocky area great for older kids to climb, but watch for cactus needles and wear sturdy shoes. There are other trails available for more advanced hikers.
Other Fun Activities
If you’re not into hiking, there are some other attractions that you may enjoy. Golf, mini-golf, paddle boats, fishing, and ATVs are all available at various times of the year. Before you make your trip, check out the Quartz Mountain Nature Park website to make sure the attractions will be open. Quartz Mountain Fun Park (not affiliated with the nature park and resort) is located just outside the park grounds and is open in the summer.
Quartz Mountain is roughly three hours away from the metro, so it can easily be a day trip. If you want to spend the night, there are several options. There are sites for primitive camping as well as for campers and RVs. If you don’t have camping equipment, there are cabins available to rent, too. And if camping of any kind isn’t your style, you can reserve a room at the resort.
There is really something for every budget and every preference.
Before You Go
There are a few things to take into account when planning your trip:
- Come prepared with snacks and food. Altus is the nearest town and there are not many options for purchasing food nearby unless you choose to eat at the resort. There is a grocery store, but its hours vary and it is closed for the season after October 31. We packed lunches and had a picnic on the covered bridge, one of many great spots for picnics.
- Dress appropriately. If you’re hiking the trails you will need good shoes and long pants can prevent scrapes and scratches.
- Check the park website or call for details before you make your trip. With so many offerings at so many different times of the year, you don’t want to miss out on the fun!
Quartz Mountain Arts & Conference Center & Nature Park
43393 Scissortail Road
Lone Wolf, OK 73655
Hours and fees vary; check website or call for details
Jennifer Geary is a homeschooling mom from Broken Arrow, formerly of OKC, who loves to have adventures with her family. Read her blog at www.metrofamilymagazine.com/adventures-in-homeschooling.