Cool down after a long hike at the swimming pool at Red Rock Canyon State Park.
Photo Credit: James Pratt

Whether you want to spend a lazy weekend on the lake, sharpen your photography skills on some magnificent, scenic vistas or go on a challenging nature adventure, each of these parks offers something unique and memorable that the whole family will love.

Black Mesa State Park

Around 30 million years ago, the area of this westernmost state park was covered in black lava rock, lending the park its name. Today, Black Mesa is a remote but highly scenic destination for anyone with an interest in unique and beautiful landscapes.

Best Kept Secret:

Located at the east end of Black Mesa State Park you’ll find a set of dinosaur tracks preserved in sandstone. Discovered in the 1980s, these tracks were made by a dinosaur the size of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Insider Tip:

Because of its remote location, Black Mesa boasts some of the darkest nighttime skies in the country, making the park an ideal place for stargazers. Each August, astronomy enthusiasts flock to the park for the annual Perseid meteor shower, which puts on a spectacular show in the inky black skies over the park.

Best Photo-Op:

Capture a shot of Black Mesa’s vast expanse from the top of the plateau, which is accessible from the park’s trail system. The view is absolutely breathtaking.

Fun Fact:

At 4,973 feet above sea level, Black Mesa is the highest point in Oklahoma.

Lodging Opportunities: 36 RV sites (water/electric); 23 tent sites

Boiling Springs State Park

An oasis on the plains, Boiling Springs State Park gets its name from a unique, natural bubbling spring that appears to boil up from the ground. While the spring is the park’s central attraction, there is plenty more to do at this beautiful park.

Best Kept Secret: 

Enjoy an early morning fishing excursion on spring-fed Shaul Lake that is centrally located within the park.

Insider Tip: 

Bring the entire family to Boiling Springs for a fun day out – the park features a large playground, swimming pool and plenty of picnic spaces.

Best Photo-Op: 

Head to the interpretive pavilion below the park office to get a group shot of the family next to the iconic bubbling spring.

Fun Fact: 

Boiling Springs is one of Oklahoma’s original seven state parks and was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.

Lodging Opportunities: 4 cabins; 40 RV sites; 12 tent sites; group campgrounds

Alabaster Caverns State Park

Alabaster Caverns State Park is home to the world’s largest natural gypsum cave open to the public. Daily guided tours take visitors through these magnificent caverns.

Best Kept Secret:

If you feel like delving deeper underground, try your hand at the adventure sport of wild caving, a form of primitive spelunking. Alabaster Caverns features four undeveloped caves that wild cavers can explore overnight. With no lights, pathways or any modern conveniences, this activity is a challenging adventure for any thrill-seeker.

Insider Tip:

No matter the season, make sure to bring a sweater or jacket along with you when you tour the caverns. Without sunlight, temperatures in the caves can be quite chilly.

Best Photo-Op:

The beautiful and intricate gypsum formations on the cave walls make a perfect backdrop for memorable snapshots you’ll treasure long after your visit. Ask your guide to point out unique formations such as Cathedral Dome and Keyhole Dome, as well as a formation nicknamed George & Martha Washington’s Bathtubs.

Fun Fact:

Bats hibernate in the caves at Alabaster Caverns during the winter months. Throughout the year, the park staff provides educational bat-themed events that you won’t want to miss. Call the park office for more information.

Lodging Opportunities: 11 RV sites; 12 tent sites

Little Sahara State Park

A desert in the middle of the plains, Little Sahara State Park is famous for its vast sand dunes covering over 1,600 acres. Dune buggy and ATV riding is the main attraction here with the sandy terrain making an ideal setting for off-road fun.

Best Kept Secret:

In September, ATV enthusiasts from across the country descend on Little Sahara for Sandfest, a sand drag racing celebration. Head to nearby Waynoka for this community event that’s great fun for all ages.

Insider Tip:

If you don’t own your own ATV, there’s no need to fret. Stewart’s Sandsports is located in Waynoka and has a great selection of two or four seat ATV rentals along with any accessories you may need.

Best Photo-Op:

Take your camera up the obversation tower for a beautiful, panoramic photo; or, if you're planning to hit the ATV trails, strap on a Go-Pro camera for some great action shots.

Fun Fact:

Little Sahara’s iconic sand dunes were formed from terrace deposits, remnants from prehistory when the Cimarron River flowed over the entire area.

Lodging Opportunities:  86 RV sites (water/electric); 143 tent sites

Great Salt Plains State Park

One of Oklahoma’s most unique state parks, Great Salt Plains State Park features a sprawling, intriguingly barren landscape comprised of salt left over from an ancient ocean that covered the area in prehistoric times.

Best Kept Secret:

Eagle Roost Nature Trail, located in the nearby Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, provides an up-close glimpse into the strange, stunning and marshy wetlands surrounding the Great Salt Plains. This beginner-level hiking trail leads through the marshes and ends up at Sand Creek Bay, one of the best places around for bird watching.

Insider Tip:

From April to October, it’s crystal digging season at Great Salt Plains. Bring along a shovel, water and a sun hat for some fun in the sun while digging up unique hourglass-shaped crystals found only here.

Best Photo-Op:

The Great Salt Plains area is one of the best locations in Oklahoma for birding. Bring your camera along and capture over 300 species of protected birds on film.

Fun Fact:

The water in Great Salt Plains Lake is about half as salty as ocean water.

Lodging Opportunities: Eco-friendly cabins; 64 RV sites; 95 tent sites

Roman Nose State Park

One of western Oklahoma’s most beloved state parks, Roman Nose State Park truly has something for everyone. Gorgeous canyons and cliffs, natural springs, horseback riding trails and many other family-friendly attractions can be found at Roman Nose, located just over an hour from Oklahoma City.

Best Kept Secret:

If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind golfing experience, try Roman Nose Golf Course. This 18-hole course dips in and out of unique terrain (and natural hazards) like lakeside brush, canyon walls and mesas, making for a challenging and scenic day on the links.

Insider Tip:

Roman Nose State Park is the only state park in Oklahoma where you can rent and stay overnight in a teepee. Rent one for your next outdoor adventure between April and October.

Best Photo-Op:

While most spots in Roman Nose are worth a snapshot or two, visitors over the years seem to find the iconic entry sign to be the best spot to memorialize their experience.

Fun Fact:

Roman Nose State Park was built in 1937 and was named after Cheyenne chief Henry Roman Nose, who perished in the canyon in 1917, 20 years before the park was established.

Lodging Opportunities: 22-room lodge; 11 cabins; 74 RV sites; 33 tent sites

Foss State Park

Get the whole lake experience at Foss State Park, complete with swimming beach, seasonal marina and plenty of picnic sites the whole family will love.

Best Kept Secret:

Pass an afternoon with a book or enjoy a lakeside picnic under one of Foss’s palapas—unique, open-sided structures with thatched roofs that lend the beach a tropical postcard feel.

Insider Tip:

Bring a bike, your best hiking shoes or even a horse and explore Foss on the 17-mile multi-use trail that runs through the south side of the park.

Best Photo-Op:

Every Saturday morning around 10am, the staff at Foss State Park feed the buffalo that roam the park grounds. Secure a spot along the fence line and capture stunning photos as the herd draws closer.

Fun Fact:

Just across the lake from Foss State Park is the 8,200 acre Washita National Wildlife Refuge, which features one of the largest concentrations of waterfowl in Oklahoma. Three endangered species, such as the American bald eagle, the whooping crane and the interior least tern, can also be found here.

Lodging Opportunities: 110 RV sites; 103 tent sites; equestrian camp

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Named for the stunning red sandstone canyon walls that form the backdrop for the park, Red Rock Canyon is an outdoor adventurer’s dream.

Best Kept Secret:

Hikers of all skill levels will find something to love about Red Rock Canyon. Lace up your tennis shoes and hed out on a leisurely stroll with beautiful canyon walls in the background.

Insider Tip:

Bring the family to Red Rock Canyon in autumn and experience the park’s incredible fall foliage. The Caddo maple tree, which is native to the area, is particularly stunning.

Best Photo-Op:

Have your camera with you at the golden hour for some incredibly beautiful shots of the canyon walls illuminated by a brilliant Oklahoma sunset.

Fun Fact:

Red Rock Canyon was a common stop for settlers traveling to California. Visitors can still see the wagon wheel ruts left along this historic trail.

Lodging Opportunities:  47 RV sites; 26 tent sites

Fort Cobb State Park

Make the trip to Fort Cobb State Park for wonderful fishing, swimming and boating opportunities on Fort Cobb Lake, which features more than 4,000 surface acres of water.

Best Kept Secret:

Golf Digest magazine has listed Fort Cobb Golf Course as one of the best places to play in Oklahoma. This challenging 18-hole, par 70 course has a stunning a view of the lake as well as a putting green, driving range and pro shop.

Insider Tip:

Increase your chances of catching catfish, walleye or bass by starting early in the morning. Stop by the marina—one of only two state park marinas in western Oklahoma—and have some breakfast before heading out on the lake.

Best Photo-Op:

Fort Cobb is a fantastic destination for bird watchers. Bring a camera along to capture numerous species of shorebirds on film. Visit during the fall and winter months and you’ll likely see flocks of ducks and geese during their seasonal migration flights.

Fun Fact:

The unincorporated community of Nowhere, Oklahoma, is located at the southeast end of Fort Cobb Reservoir and is the only Oklahoma town located completely within a state park.

Lodging Opportunities: 284 RV sites; 285 tent sites

Great Plains State Park

With beautiful rocky terrain and ample opportunity for hiking, fishing, swimming and more, Great Plains State Park provides visitors with a fun, well-rounded vacation experience.

Best Kept Secret:

The granite boulders that dot the landscape of Great Plains provide perfect boulder hopping opportunities for rock climbers. Bicyclists can also challenge themselves on some of the park’s excellent expert trails.

Insider Tip:

Recharge after an active morning with a burger at a local favorite: the Tom Steed Bait Shop. With some of the best burgers around and delicious homemade pie, this spot is sure to satisfy your cravings.

Best Photo-Op:

The Granite Hills Trail System on the southeastern edge of Tom Steed Reservoir not only provides challenging trails for hikers, bikers and rock climbers, but also plenty of rugged scenic vistas that make for wonderful photo opportunities.

Fun Fact:

There are still remnants of the 1904 Gold Bells Mill and Mine, located in the northeast area of Great Plains, which has been abandoned for over 100 years. (Caution: Rattlesnakes are known to inhabit the ruins of Gold Bells mine. Use caution while exploring the area.)

Lodging Opportunities: 52 RV sites; 30 tent sites

Gloss Mountain State Park

The stunning geological formations at Gloss Mountain State Park are true Oklahoma treasures. Because of high selenite content, these mountains have shimmering, glass-like exteriors that have attracted scientists, photographers and nature lovers for years.

Best Kept Secret:

For a relaxing Gloss Mountain experience, take a scenic drive through Griever’s Canyon. Views will include numerous selenite and gypsum formations, as well as a variety of wildlife.

Insider Tip:

Make sure to wear well-fitted shoes and bring along plenty of water and trail mix before making the long and challenging hike to the top.

Best Photo-Op:

Hike to the summit of Cathedral Mountain for a phenomenal view of Lone Peak Mountain. This vantage point is a great spot to capture memorable photos commemorating your adventure in the park.

Fun Fact:

While there is continuing confusion over whether the area is called the “Gloss” or “Glass” Mountains, the first American explorers in the area originally referred to them as the “Shining” Mountains.