Camping and Oklahoma’s state parks go hand-in-hand. From Ouachita National Forest’s pine-covered southeast views to Wichita Mountains’ rugged terrain, Oklahoma’s outdoor recreation areas provide a tent-worthy landscape for your next foray into the great outdoors. Not only is the state home to diverse landscapes, winding rivers, uncrowded lakes, ancient scenic mountains and spectacular sunrises and sunsets, but Oklahoma lays claim to over 300 sun-filled days per year, making it a great place for communing with Mother Nature.
Oklahoma has some of the best lakes in the nation, and more coastline than the U.S. west and east coasts combined, so it’s not surprising that in addition to camping, hiking and picnicking, most of Oklahoma state parks offer a variety of water-related outdoor activities, including boating, and watersports. If you have four-legged companions, bring them along – pets are allowed if kept on a 10 foot or shorter leash, are supervised at all times, and you clean up after them. This is our essential guide to camping in Oklahoma. Get the most out of your camping adventure with these handy tips.
State Park Camping Amenities
With 32 state parks, Oklahoma offers a delightfully diverse range of campgrounds suitable for beginning and novice campers. The majority of Oklahoma’s state park campgrounds include modern conveniences such as fire rings and grill boxes, water supply, electric hookups, comfort stations complete with flush toilets and showers, playgrounds for children, and picnic tables. Several Oklahoma state parks also host regular nature programs held by naturalists.
Oklahoma Camping Tips
One of our favorite times to plan a camping trip to an Oklahoma state park is during the spring and fall, as Oklahoma summers are often hot and humid. Some basics to remember are to bring plenty of sunscreen and water, and preserve the beautiful outdoor areas by leaving no trace behind when you depart.
Planning your trip in advance is the secret to an enjoyable camping trip. Before loading up your sleeping bags and coolers, take a minute to ensure you’ve packed these basic essentials:
- Food and water
- Toiletries (toilet paper, soap, sunscreen, etc.)
- Appropriate clothing
- Outdoor recreation items
- Waterproof matches
- First aid kit
For easy outdoor getaway planning, here are the top ten Oklahoma state park camping hotspots, including the traveling distance from Tulsa:
Distance from Tulsa: 3hr 20min, 210 miles
Located in northwest Oklahoma, Alabaster Caverns State Park offers spelunking, camping, picnicking, a walking tour and a tour of the world’s largest natural gypsum cave. Wild caving in Alabaster’s four caves (with groups of three or more) is permitted from March to September.
Distance from Tulsa: 3hr 31min, 208 miles
Located between the Glover River, the Mountain Fork River and the shores of Broken Bow Lake, the park’s postcard-like clear waterways and towering pines are one of the most scenic and popular areas in the state. Hike the wooded David Boren Trail, go snorkeling, take a bike ride, go on a river float trip, or hit the green at Cedar Creek’s 18-hole golf course. Enjoy one of the park’s campsites in your RVor tent, or book a cabin or room at the park’s riverfront Lakeview Lodge.
Distance from Tulsa: 6hr 40min, 419 miles
At 4,973 feet above sea level, Black Mesa State Park & Nature Preservei s the highest point in Oklahoma. Situated in the northwest town of Kenton, the summit offers awe-inspiring views of the Rocky Mountains and the shortgrass prairie. Don’t forget your binoculars – Black Mesa is home to bighorn sheep, golden eagles, antelope and pinyon jays. When you’re done photographing wildlife, take your picture at the Black Mesa marker where you can stand in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado at the same time.
Distance from Tulsa: 1hr 12min, 70 miles
Situated in the wooded, hilly, northeastern area of Oklahoma, Greenleaf State Park is simply stunning. See the park and Greenleaf Lake by biking or hiking the 18-mile rugged mountain trail through the woods, and cross the lake on a swinging bridge. The park also offers a swim beach, a nature center, and a swimming pool, with double-barrel flume slide.
Distance from Tulsa: 2hr 20min, 127 miles
The northern Oklahoma Great Salt Plains State Park is known for its 11,000 acres of white salt flats and an 8,960-acre body of saltwater. The only place where you’ll find hourglass-shaped selenite crystals, you can grab a shovel and unearth your own in a designated area from April 1 through October 15. The Salt Plains Wildlife Refuge and the Great Salt Plains Lake are stopover points for migrating waterfowl such as American white pelicans and the whooping crane, making the area a haven for birdwatchers. Spend the day traveling bike trails, swimming in the lake, or digging for crystals. Accommodations include campgrounds, cabins and comfort stations.
Distance from Tulsa: 14hr 30min, 991 miles
Known as “Vacation Central”, Lake Murray State Park is a favorite of campers who enjoy boating and watersports. The southern Oklahoma park hosts a variety of activities including tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course and pro shop, an ATV area for off-road vehicles, hiking trails and the Tucker Tower nature center. The park features limitless primitive tent sites, nine RV campgrounds, and 300 RV campsites, as well as 56 park cabins and available rooms at the Lake Murray Lodge.
Distance from Tulsa: 2hr 55min, 182 miles
Fondly referred to as the state’s sandbox, Little Sahara State Park sports 1,600 acres of sand dunes, making it a favorite playground for ATV enthusiasts and off-roaders. Located in northwest Oklahoma, the park welcomes Jeeps, motorcycles, and dune buggies. If you don’t have a dune-ready ride, a nearby ATV rental store will provide one. After racing across the dunes, take advantage of the park’s picnic areas, tent sites and RV sites.
Distance from Tulsa: 2hr 3 min, 126 miles
Tucked into the southeast Oklahoma San Bois Mountain range, Robbers Cave State Park is famous as outlaw Belle Star and Jesse James’ former hideout. Visitors will enjoy hiking up to the park’s outlaw cave, a canoe ride on Lake Carlton, rappelling down rock walls, or meandering miles of forested trails. Accommodations are available at the Belle Starr View Lodge, tent campgrounds, or modern RV sites.
Distance from Tulsa: 2hr 44min, 170 miles
Roman Nose State Park near Watonga boasts an array of recreational activities in a beautiful canyon with gypsum rock cliffs. Hike, or hop on your mountain bike and explore the trail system, go canoeing or swimming, or spend the day at the on-site 18-hole golf course. In addition to teepee rentals from April through October, the Roman Nose Lodge features modern accommodations, and RV camping is available at Lake Watonga.
Distance from Tulsa: 1hr 27min, 85 miles
If you love lakeside fun and water sports, Tenkiller State Park is your outdoor recreational destination. Lake Tenkiller’s emerald-tinted water is nestled among gravel shorelines and tall rock bluffs. A favorite of divers, the lake offers a dedicated scuba diving park. A 1.5 mile nature trail is the perfect place to grab your binoculars and camera and enjoy watching native creatures and numerous species of birds. In addition to a nature center, the park also offers lighted boat ramps, tent sites, cabins, and RV sites.
Oklahoma is a beautiful state and most people don’t realize how many state parks, lakes and scenic landscapes there are. Whether you are an experienced camper, or just want to escape for an overnight trip, there are plenty of options for camping in Oklahoma for you to choose from. Pick any one of Oklahoma’s 32 state parks and head off on a new adventure! What do you think? Where are your favorite places to go camping in Oklahoma? Let us know in the comment section below!