Best Day Trips From Oklahoma City
The fact of the matter is that Oklahoma is full of incredible surprises. So much so, that when it comes to adventure it can be a challenge trying to decide just where to start because there is so much to see and do in the state.
Fortunately, many of the Sooner State’s natural attractions and hidden gems are within a short day trip from Oklahoma City. This is good news for visitors because you can spend a day or two exploring Oklahoma City first, then rent a car to see some of the countryside without wearing yourself out which is what seems to happen on long road trips.
Note: All of these day trip ideas are within a two hour drive of Oklahoma City and can be thoroughly enjoyed in one day.
The destinations listed below are in no particular order and include a mix of natural areas, charming small towns, and cities that can be fully explored within one day.
If you haven’t been to Oklahoma City before, be sure to check out this Oklahoma City bucket list for all the attractions you shouldn’t miss.
7 Day Trip Ideas From Oklahoma City
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the perfect place to visit for nature lovers and those who are looking for an adventurous day out.
The refuge covers 59,020 acres and consists of natural grasslands, a variety of native plants, and numerous animal species that include American bison, Rocky Mountain Elk, and White Tailed Deer.
Stop by the visitors center on your way in to learn more on the history of the refuge and pick up a map to help guide you to all the cool spots.
There are a variety of lakes, nature trails, wildlife viewing, and day use areas for visitors to take advantage of here.
Getting off the main road and doing some hiking comes highly recommended. One of the most popular trails in the refuge is the Bison Trail which is a 6.1 mile loop trip. Expect to see Bison and Elk among other wildlife on the trail.
If you would prefer a shorter hike, consider the Wichita Forty Foot Hole which is a 1.4 mile loop. There are terrific views of the canyon from along this trail and at certain times of the year you will be able to see the river flowing and a small waterfall too.
If you enjoy fishing you will be happy to know there are thirteen public use lakes with Largemouth bass, sunfish, crappie, and channel catfish.
Rock climbers are also in for a treat with high quality granite, multi-pitch routes making it one of the most popular climbing destinations in the southwest.
Camping is available for those looking to spend a night or more in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Doris campground which is located inside the refuge is a modern camping facility with individual and group sites which can be booked in advance.
Staying at the campground will definitely enhance your experience but if you prefer to head back to Oklahoma City it is less than two hours drive away.
Turner Falls Park
Turner Falls Park is located in the Arbuckle Mountains which are some of the oldest mountains on earth! The highlight and centerpiece of the park is Turner Falls, a 77-foot waterfall that lays claim to being Oklahoma’s tallest waterfall. This waterfall drops into a large crystal clear pool which is especially photogenic in the fall.
The astonishingly clear water flowing through the park is definitely a highlight, along with the natural swimming holes found here which are perfect to cool off in the mid-summer heat. Popular activities here besides swimming include zip lining, exploring hidden caves, and visiting a castle. Yes, you heard that right. There is a castle here!
Fisherman will be excited to try their luck in the trout stocked streams which are open for fishing from November to March.
If you are looking to spend more than a day at Turner Falls Park there is a tent campground and an RV park here, as well as rustic cabins which are available to rent.
Tulsa is a quick 1.5 hour drive from Oklahoma City. This city that sits on the Arkansas River was once known as the “oil capital of the world”. Art deco buildings tower over the city streets here and make Tulsa one of the most unique cities in the country.
There are endless activities and things to see throughout Tulsa but the following are some of the most popular things to do which include exploring the Gathering Place, visiting the botanic gardens, and seeing the Blue Dome District.
Gathering Place is a 100 acre waterfront park that offers activities for all to enjoy. It has an adventure playground, picnic grove, water mountain, boathouse with boat rentals, swing hill, sky garden, slide vale, great lawn, riverside swings, skatepark, sports courts, and reading tree.
The Tulsa Botanic Gardens are nothing short of spectacular containing over three acres of plants set in terraced beds that are perched on a hillside that overlooks the city. In the spring visitors can witness the Botanic Blooms which display over 100,000 bulbs that were planted in the fall. Admission to enter the garden is $8.
Blue Dome District is a popular Tulsa entertainment area that offers great nightlife and a good selection of restaurants. It definitely has the reputation as the go to place in Tulsa for locals and visitors.
Roman Nose State Park
Roman Nose State Park opened in 1937 and is named after a Cheyenne chief. This state park was once a resting place in the winter time for Southern Cheyenne, Arapaho, and other Plains Indians.
It is now a popular tourist destination that offers a beautiful natural landscape surrounded by gypsum rock cliffs, canyons, and natural springs. Recreational opportunities include mountain biking, hiking, camping, swimming, fishing, boating, horse riding, and even a ten hole golf course.
Different types of wildlife can be spotted throughout the park such as coyote, rattlesnakes, hawks, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and several other bird species.
If you enjoy hiking, Inspiration Point is a 5.8 mile loop trail that offers nice views. Allow 2.5 hours to complete the hike.
The Roman Nose Lodge offers 22 rooms that were originally built in 1956 but have since been renovated, but still offer that mid-century design. There are also eleven cabins available to rent here. The campground offers full hookup sites, sites with water and electric hookups, as well as tent sites.
The park is open year round. It can get extremely cold here in winter and summers can see days in the nineties so remember to pack accordingly for your visit.
Great Salt Plains State Park
A unique landscape to say the least, Salt Plains State Park is comprised of salt left over from an ocean that covered Oklahoma back in prehistoric times. What remains of the present Great Salt Plains Lake is said to be half as salty as the ocean.
Not only are the salt plains and 41 miles of shoreline something you can marvel at, but there are lots of recreational activities on offer here too such as swimming, boating, fishing, camping, picnicking, hiking, biking, and general exploring. It is also an excellent spot for bird watching.
Adjacent to the state park is the National Salt Plains Wildlife Refuge which is the only place in the world where visitors can dig for hourglass selenite crystals. The digging season runs from April 1 to October 15.
The park does offer camping and RV sites for overnight adventurers with several amenities such as showers, shelters, swimming beach, a boat ramp and dock.
Gloss Mountain State Park
Gloss Mountain State Park is in the northwest corner of Oklahoma and offers visitors the chance to view the state’s distinctive natural landscape. What you’ll see here is the classic Oklahoma scenery which is often depicted in travel brochures or films such as native red dirt and miles of prairie land.
These ‘glossy’ mountains are sometimes referred to as the Glass Mountains because they sparkle in the light. This is due to their high Selenite content which gives the appearance of glistening glass.
This destination is perfect for nature lovers, landscape photography enthusiasts, and hikers.
The most popular hiking trail in the park climbs from the valley floor to the top of Cathedral Mountain and across the mesa, providing sweeping views of the unique terrain. If you are visiting in the summer, be prepared for extreme heat on the trail and especially on top of the mesa. You are likely to come across rattlesnakes on the trail so be careful.
Park hours are sunrise to sunset and there are a number of picnic tables available for public use.
Medicine Park was founded as Oklahoma’s first resort destination by John William Elmer Thomas who fell in love with the place. This town was such a popular vacation area in the 1920’s that even president Roosevelt spent his holidays here as well as famous outlaws such as Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde.
Today, the historic town’s biggest drawcard is its original architecture which was constructed using cobblestones unique to the Wichita Mountains. It is guaranteed you won’t find buildings like these anywhere else in the United States.
There are surprisingly a lot of things to do in Medicine Park. Some of the highlights you should not miss are Bath Lake, Lake Lawtonka and the Medicine Park Aquarium. Bath Lake which is located in the center of downtown offers picturesque scenery and a place to cool off in the summer. Lake Lawtonka is another natural area to visit which offers more than 20 miles of shoreline to explore.
If you are traveling with kids, be sure to stop by the Medicine Park Aquarium and Natural Sciences Center where they are sure to enjoy getting up close with a variety of interesting freshwater and marine species.
Medicine Park is located just outside of Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge so you can visit both places in one day or turn this day trip into a weekend getaway using Medicine Park as a base for exploring the refuge and other nearby attractions.
>>Read: 10 Really Cool Things To Do In Medicine Park
Robbers Cave State Park
Robbers Cave State Park is located in the scenic Sans Bois Mountains of southeast Oklahoma. The park was named Robbers Cave because the place was a hideout for outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr.
The park is 8,246 acres and encompasses hilly woodlands, sandstone cliffs, and three large lakes. It is a fun destination for outdoor lovers with plenty of activities on offer such as hiking, rappelling, canoeing, fishing, and so much more. Visitors can even organize guided horseback rides with Robbers Cave Stables who are located in the north of the park.
Even though this destination is more than two hours drive from Oklahoma City, it couldn’t be left off this list because of its beauty and fascinating history.
Chickasaw Cultural Center
The Chickasaw Cultural Center is a place where you can learn about Native American history through exhibits, collections, demonstrations and performances.
Things to do here include exploring the grounds and seeing the Chikasha Inchokka’ Traditional Village which is a historically accurate replica of a real Chickasaw Village. It is made up of two summer houses, two winter houses, a corn crib, ceremonial mound and traditional stockade fence.
You can also participate in a Chickasaw Stomp Dance and then refuel with a traditional Chickasaw meal at the Aaimpa’ Cafe. There is also a large 350 seat theater where you can watch films about the Chickasaw people and their culture. Admission is seven dollars.
Best Guide Books
Read More On Oklahoma
- Oklahoma City Bucket List
- Best Restaurants In Oklahoma City
- Dallas To Oklahoma City Road Trip
- 10 Really Cool Things To Do In Medicine Park
Have you been to any of these destinations? What did you think? Are there any other places near Oklahoma City that should be on this list? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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