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  Photo: Mike Klemme 
A morning fog rises among the Sans Bois Mountains at Robbers Cave State Park in Wilburton.

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The allure of Osage Hills State Park's beauty is evident year round.

So you’ve ditched the tennis shoes for a real pair of hiking boots, walked a few state park trails and possibly lost five pounds. Now you’re ready to take on some hills, and maybe pack a lunch and make a day of it. It’s no longer just a walk, but a legitimate hike.

Where best to stretch your legs? Here are three intermediate-level hiking trails good enough to break in those boots.

McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area - Atoka

The McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area is an 8,900-acre preserve located about 20 miles east of Atoka in southeastern Oklahoma. The park offers more than 30 miles of trails, called the McGee Creek Natural Scenic Recreation Area Trail System, which range from an easy, one-mile nature trail to more lengthy and demanding paths over the area’s rocky and pine-covered terrain.

The trails at McGee Creek aren’t dedicated solely to hiking. Along the way, you may encounter others who are horseback riding or mountain biking. In any case, there is plenty of room for everyone. The trails are primitive in this remote area, but feature clearly marked trailheads and pathways.

Vickie Butler of McGee Creek State Park says that most hikers choose to visit during the spring and fall, before the hot summer weather. And it does get hot down here. Most of the trails are located within a forest of tall pine trees, so you don’t receive the cooling winds of an exposed trail. For this reason, you may want to consider a winter hike at McGee Creek.

Robbers Cave State Park Trails - Wilburton

Robbers Cave State Park is located five miles north of Wilburton on State Highway 2, in the scenic Sans Bois Mountains. This park and its namesake cave are famous for having once attracted some of the most notorious outlaws of the Old West, including Jesse James and Belle Starr.

Today, the Robbers Cave Trail System is a favorite hiking destination. The park offers some 12 miles of hiking trails, including the moderately difficult Rough Canyon Trail. This is a primitive path through hilly and semi-rugged terrain, featuring lots of rocks and pine trees. Along the way, you’ll see ponds, a stream and a small lake, in addition to several designated campsites. The trail also passes through an area of large boulders, which includes the park’s namesake cave and other unique rock formations.

Even though the Rough Canyon Trail is only about three miles in length, the park’s Donna Woolsey says its steep descents and rugged, rocky terrain take about 2.5 hours to navigate. Of course, this will vary depending on several factors, not the least of which is your fitness level. And due to the irregular terrain, genuine hiking boots are an asset.

For those who would rather not camp, the park offers accommodations in the Belle Starr Lodge, and several one- and two-bedroom cabins. If you plan to stay in these facilities, reservations are recommended.

Other popular activities at Robbers Cave include excellent rock climbing and rappelling. This area is full of rock bluffs, which attract climbers of all skill levels. During the summer, the sight of a climber scaling one of these bluffs often draws a crowd of hikers on the trails below.

Climbing is a great way to break up a hike and stimulate your mind. Climbers are rewarded for ascending these rock faces with tremendous views of the surrounding mountains and forests. While the park does not require a special permit for climbing or rappelling, you do have to bring the appropriate equipment (safety helmet, ropes and harnesses). If you plan on scaling any of these bluffs, it’s a good idea to check in at the park office first.       

Osage Hills State Park is popular with hikers because it features dedicated hiking trails, which are separate from the parks mountain biking trails.

Osage Hills State Park Hiking Trails - Pawhuska

Osage Hills State Park in Pawhuska is popular with hikers because it features dedicated hiking trails, which are separate from the park's mountain biking trails. The hiking trails were built to be accessible to a broad range of people, though they present a moderate challenge due to the hilly terrain in which they’re located.

“This is a hilly, rocky area, and the trails have lots of rise and fall,” says Osage Hills State Park Manager Michael Vaught. “Over the years, we’ve worked to establish a system of dedicated hiking trails that now total about five miles in length.”

If you’re not feeling up to five miles on the day you visit, you can hike shorter sections of the trail. Some of these hikes are only about one mile in length.

“You can hike from the old stable area to the lake, and then back,” says Vaught. “Or you can hike the trail that parallels Sand Creek. There are a couple of opportunities to exit this trail early.”

A good deal of thought went into the construction of the Osage Hills State Park Trail System. For example, steep areas feature switchbacks, trail patterns that essentially snake their way up steep grades rather than taking a direct route, making for easier and more enjoyable hiking. And the trails are easily accessible from the campgrounds and park office, which means you don’t have to look hard to start a hike.

Wildlife viewing is excellent at Osage Hills, and while out on your hike you may see white-tailed deer, bobcat, grey fox, wild turkeys or even a bald eagle.

Read the "Hit the Trail - Beginner Level" article.

Read the "Hit the Trail - Expert Level" article.