Find the Best Trails in Tulsa
Question: What physical activity is free, has no uniforms, no fancy gear, and exactly no—none, zero, nada—rules. The answer is found tucked behind the obvious parks, courts and playgrounds Tulsa has scattered about town.
A family only has to travel as far as they might to the grocery store or the zoo to find trails ready to hike. Both Turkey Mountain, which is part of the River Parks trail system, and the Oxley Nature Center at Mohawk Park offer miles of easy trails.
Turkey Mountain, on the west side of the Arkansas River, boasts a renovated parking lot with facilities, maps and fountains. Several trails are marked for short to long distances, ranked as easy to more difficult. On a recent warm Sunday, the lot was filled to overflowing, and people swarmed the mountain, biking, riding unicycles, running, hiking or leisurely strolling with their pets.
Oxley Nature Center
At Oxley Nature Center in Mohawk Park, the land is flatter, and a spider web of trails awaits. The maps available inside the visitors’ Interpretive Center, which houses a few hands-on exploring opportunities for children, show hikers where wheelchairs and strollers might be tougher to navigate. On a cloudy week day, the trails were sparsely populated by other hikers, and children were given an animal tracks guide to help identify creatures they might encounter.
At either of these places, a family could spend as little as an hour or as much as an entire day out in the woods.
Jake Thompson leads hikes and other outdoor adventures for Living Well Outdoor, an organization dedicated to getting “anybody, adults or kids,” back outside. Thompson said that Redbud, Chandler and Keystone Lake were other good day trips for families.
Thompson and his children, including his 8-month-old son, hike regularly. He said “it’s usually the parents who are more intimidated by the experience” than kids are. It’s easier for adults to find things to worry about, but a 4-year-old can clamber all over a hillside if given the freedom to do so, with, of course, parental supervision.
“Use your common sense,” Thompson said, when enjoying the trails and show outdoor etiquette. “If you see a cyclist heading down the hill you’re walking up, it’s easier for you to get out of the way.”
Other advise from Thompson includes: Don’t try to go on trails marked for experts if a group is comprised of novices. Don’t go alone and in the dark and make sure to keep an eye on kids. Thompson suggests common sense with gear, too. Water bottles and basic first aid are really the only necessary supplies. Thompson joked that bandaids are nearly as vital as water when out with young kids. “A bandaid makes everything better.”
Thompson’s best advice is “to go for it,” when it comes to hiking. Through Living Well Outdoor, he is available to lead hikes or to help new hikers figure out where they want to go. He often meets groups at Turkey Mountain for hikes of all kinds.
More Places to Hike
Tulsa Botanic Garden (tulsabotanic.org).
Open daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Walk the Lakeside Promenade; hike the 1 ½ mile nature trail through the Cross Timbers Forest, Prairie and Persimmon Grove and learn to identify some plants along the way. Tulsa Botanic Garden also has special events, and educational, fun programs for children and families. Located at the end of the gravel road, 1½ miles past the intersection of N. 52nd W. Avenue and W. 43rd Street N. Visit the website for directions.
151 acres, including picnic shelter, picnic tables and grills, playground equipment, jogging and walking trails, fitness court. 11327 S. Garnett Ave., Broken Arrow. 918.369.5998.
Keystone Ancient Forest (www.sandspringsok.org).
Free hike events from 8am-2pm on select Saturdays. — barring extreme weather. Call the Sand Springs Parks Department office M-F from 8am-5pm at 918.246.2561 for last minute weather details. Volunteer trail guides help staff the parking lot and monitor each hike event. No reservations are needed. Gates open at 8am. No pets. Two well-marked trails, one 1.5 miles and the other .6 mile.