Winter Wonderlands: Oklahoma state parks to visit in the offseason - MetroFamily Magazine
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Winter Wonderlands: Oklahoma state parks to visit in the offseason

photo by Kim Baker, Oklahoma Tourism

by Lindsay Cuomo

Reading Time: 5 minutes 

The urge to hibernate indoors during the winter might feel like the only option; however, a visit to an Oklahoma state park could be the cure-all for your family’s cabin fever. Embrace the beauty of the outdoors, minus the sweltering heat!

Recent winters have taught us that forecasts can be extreme in the Sooner state, but seasonal highs in the 40s and 50s usually afford plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. With a few precautions in place, your family can explore some Oklahoma winter wonderlands and bust those wintertime blues.

Essentials for cold weather hiking

1. Hydration. Even though you might not feel as thirsty, you are still expending energy and fluids so be sure your family is hydrating before, during and after your excursion.

2. Bundle up core areas. Keeping key areas on your body warm and protected is important for comfort and safety. Focus on your extremities and your core. Wear warm socks, gloves and a beanie or hat that covers your forehand and ears. Add a vest to keep your core warm and cozy.

3. Plan ahead. Weather and other seasonal changes might impact your destination differently than during other seasons so be sure to check social media for closures and other cautions you might need to be aware of. Or stop in to the park’s offices or nature centers for important safety information.

Robbers Cave State Park

Wilburton, Okla. → 2 hours southeast of OKC

Robbers Cave State Park is a popular destination for families and the fun does not stop during the winter! Unique accommodations such as yurts and covered wagons are a special way to add excitement to your visit and are equipped with heat, a mini-fridge and queen beds.

The scenic park has miles of hiking trails, caves, an abundance of rock climbing, an ATV park, equestrian trails, miniature golf, fishing, a nature center with year-round programming, playgrounds and more. Guided hikes, hayrides and group campfires are some of the special activities available.

Greenleaf State Park

Braggs, Okla. → 2 hours east of OKC

Ellie the Elk like to hang out near the children’s pond.

What do cars, painting and elk have in common? The answer is Greenleaf State Park! Greenleaf offers unique programming during the offseason, including hiking, fishing and stargazing, as well as a car show, craft fairs, backpacking clinics, nature painting classes, monthly fishing tournaments, mini golf, wagon rides and the star of the park, Ellie the elk.

Special note: Ellie likes to hang around the kid’s fishing pond. If you don’t catch sight of her there, park staff can point you to her location. If you do see her, keep your distance and do not to pet or feed her.

The Discovery Center is open year-round offering crafts and monthly activities such as storytimes, scavenger hunts and nature walks that engage kids with the flora and fauna at the park. Campfire gatherings and guided hikes are popular options for all ages.

Greenleaf has two main hiking trails: a 1.5-mile paved trail that leads to views of the Arkansas River and passes by an old warehouse and loading dock used in the 1930s by the WPA when the park was being built. Greenleaf Lake Trail is more advanced and makes an 18-mile loop. Along the trail, hikers can visit a swinging bridge (about 3 miles into the trail) and enjoy views of the lake.

Cabins are available for overnight stays at the park and there is an option for people with physical disabilities. The Discovery Center is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and on Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Sequoyah State Park

Hulbert, Okla. → 2 hours east of OKC

Sequoyah State Park is home to towering trees, a spacious lodge with cozy cottages and a game room, a golf course, plenty of hiking, fishing and the Three Forks Nature Center with resident animal ambassadors, including Harry P. Otter, Bixby the beaver and more. Families can stop in to the nature center to see the educational exhibits and animals (which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and take part in bald eagle tours, available on select days during the winter. Sequoyah Paved Trail is an easily accessible 2-mile path that connects the lodge to popular destinations within the park and is a great hike for families.

Horseback trail riding is another fun way to see the park. The stable is open by reservation only during the winter months and reservations can be made by calling 918-772-3906 or by emailing sequoyahridingstables@yahoo.com. A Cowboy Camp is a fun addition to your ride with a fireside cookout and marshmallow roasting. They also offer pony rides for kids.

Important note: Hiking trails will be closed the first three weeks of December for a hunting event in the park.

 

Close-to-Home Options

Lake Thunderbird State Park offers guided hikes, including Eagle Watch Tours December through March, and is a popular destination for mountain bikers. The Discovery Cove Nature Center offers exhibits teaching about native snakes and other animals that call Oklahoma home as well as programming such as fishing clinics, Dutch oven cooking and animal tracking.

Arcadia Lake offers hiking, mountain biking, a heated fishing dock, horseback riding, disc golf and an annual eagle watch in early January. To learn more about Arcadia Lake events, visit edmondok.com.

 

A parking pass is required at most state parks, which can be purchased for $8 per day for Oklahoma residents or $20 for a three-day pass. To learn more about the amenities and activities at Oklahoma state parks, visit travelok.com or follow your parks of interest on social media. 

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