Fall Foliage Hikes - MetroFamily Magazine
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Fall Foliage Hikes

by Mae Kiggins

Did you know spending time outdoors improves your attention span and helps relieve stress and depression? It’s true! Unfortunately it can be hard to find time to spend outside in our fast-paced lives. But fall is here and there is no better time to be outdoors. The air is cool and crisp. Leaves crunch underfoot and hues of red and gold fluttering against a blue sky can’t be beat.

So take a break this fall for a family hike. It provides a unique opportunity to unplug, save money (most state and national parks in Oklahoma don’t charge admission) and spend special quality time together. The famous naturalist John Muir said, “In every walk in nature, one receives more than he seeks.”

Tips for Fall Hiking with Kids

As with most things, planning is the key to success when hiking with kids in tow. If your kids are new to hiking it can be challenging at first. Here are a few things that will help you have the most successful fall hike with kids:

  • Foliage changes colors at a different time each year depending on weather. If you want to see the most beautiful fall colors, call the park before you head out to see if the trees are changing in that region.
  • Fall colors are best where there are many different species of trees. In Oklahoma, the most diverse forests occur close to water sources, so hikes that follow streams or lakefronts are most likely to have the best fall colors.
  • Fall weather is beautiful; the mornings are cool and the afternoons are warm. But the changes in temperature can make it tricky to dress comfortably for hiking. It is very easy to dress too warm or not warm enough. So instead of wearing a heavy jacket, try layering. Wear a light long sleeve shirt and a lightweight jacket if you are hiking in the morning. As the day warms, take off the jacket and roll up your sleeves. Lightweight gloves and scarves may be needed as well.
  • Bring bug spray. Bugs start to thin out in the fall but you never know when you might need it.
  • Hike when energy levels are their highest for kids. Dragging tired kids on a hike can be miserable.
  • Bring healthy snacks. Hiking burns a lot of energy. Snacks like granola bars, trail mix, nuts and dried fruit help hikers feel fuller longer.
  • Bring a special “treat.” It doesn’t have to be much but bringing along something out of the ordinary can ignite a new interest for your children.
  • Tailor your expectations, especially if your kids don’t have much experience hiking. Most of the trails in Oklahoma are easy but it will take much more time hiking with kids than without.
  • Stop and smell the wildflowers. Take time to enjoy the little things along the trail. See how many different colors of wildflowers you can find. How many different types of insects can you find? Let your kids experience what moss and tree bark feels like. Kids are naturally curious and love to explore. Help them focus on what is around them instead of their tired legs.
  • Don’t give up. Just because your kids can’t hike as far or as fast as you would like doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

Here are a few places that offer beautiful fall colors:

Beaver’s Bend State Park

Location: Broken Bow, about four hours southeast of Oklahoma City

Trail: Any trail at this park is appropriate for families

Hours: Sunday – Thursday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admissions Cost: Free

Phone Number: 580-494-6300

General Information: Beaver’s Bend State Park in located in the heart of southeastern Oklahoma’s mountainous region. The combination of pine and hardwood forests nestled along the Broken Bow Lake and the Mountain Fork River makes this a particularly beautiful spot to enjoy fall colors.

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Location: Hinton, about an hour west of Oklahoma City

Trail: Any trail at this park is appropriate for families

Hours: Sunrise to sunset daily

Admissions Cost: Free

Phone Number: 405-542-6344

General Information: The abundance of Caddo maples against red rock walls makes this canyon an exceptional treat every fall. Maples in general are known for their spectacular fall colors but most do not thrive in Oklahoma. The Caddo maple is unique to Oklahoma and can withstand our wind and heat.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Location: Sulphur, about an hour and a half south of Oklahoma City

Trail: Antelope and Buffalo Springs, Bison Pasture Trail to Bromide Hill overlook

Hours: Gates open 24 hours a day seven days a week. Travertine Nature Center open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Admissions Cost: Free

Phone Number: 580-622-7234

General Information: With the option of seeing bison or crystal clear springs, you can’t lose no matter which you choose. The Springs Trail is a flat and easy hike. If you are looking for a little more of a challenge try Bromide Hill.

Robbers Cave State Park

Location: Wilburton, about two hours and 40 minutes southeast of Oklahoma City

Trail: Mountain Trail

Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

Admissions Cost: Free

Phone Number: 800-654-8240

General Information: Stretching through the Sans Bois Mountains in southeast Oklahoma, Robbers Cave State Park boasts beautiful fall colors against rugged cliffs, Lake Carlton, Lake Wayne Wallace and Coon Creek. Their fall colors are so notable they celebrate them every year with a fall festival; typically bringing as many as 60,000 people to the area. Visit Oct. 14 to 16 this year to see the foliage and take part in the festival.

Osage Hills State Park

Location: Pawhuska, about two and a half hours northeast of Oklahoma City

Trail: Creek Loop Trail, Falls Trail

Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Admissions Cost: Free

Phone Number: 918-336-4141

General Information: This state park is located in northeastern Oklahoma and offers rocky terrain and calm waters to offset the beautiful fall colors. As this park is closer to two and a half hours away, it is the perfect location for a weekend getaway. If you don’t like to camp, cabins are available.

[Editor's Note: Mae is an Edmond mom of two who loves exploring the outdoors with her kids. Learn more about her and find more ideas for outdoor fun at her website, www.outdoorsmom.com.]

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