Off the Beaten Path Summer Fun Adventure
Yellow-crowned Heron. Photo by Glen Smith, courtesy of Oxley Nature Center.
Summertime is the perfect time to do things outside of your routine.
Continuity is great for kids, but so is adventure! And you don’t have to book a ticket anywhere to create fun and lasting memories. It can be as simple as spending the morning at a new park, riding bicycles on a path in a nearby town or watching the sunset and skipping rocks at a lake.
Finding some of these outdoor adventures just off the beaten path makes it even more fun. Great hiking spots, bike trails and skate parks, some less known than others, are all around Tulsa.
Here are some of our favorite spots for outdoor sports and play to get your summer rolling.
About a 20-minute drive from downtown Tulsa is the Keystone Ancient Forest, a tucked away, wooded hiking trail park near Keystone Lake in Sand Springs. A few things make it a great spot for family hiking. One, the first trail, closest to the parking lot, is a smooth surface asphalt, making it great for families who need to bring a baby in a stroller or for anyone in a wheelchair. This .6-mile trail is easy to walk with gentle inclines, but it still allows you to feel that you’re entering into nature. It’s also a great beginner’s hiking trail for toddlers and young children.
Photo by Margaritte Arthrell-Knezek, founder of Under the Canopy
Walk deeper into the Ancient Forest and you’ll find longer trails that take you through ancient cedar and post oak trees up to a great view of the Arkansas River where a marker shows hikers the spot where Washington Irving trekked through in 1832.
Volunteer trail guides are helpful and patient with families and are good to talk to children about the trails, plants and wildlife in the area.
160 Ancient Forest Drive in Sand Springs
Off of 209th West Avenue on US 64 West
Usually open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays through Sundays. Check social media for most current hours.
Located at the west end of Veterans Park in Jenks, the Jenks Skate Park is a great spot for skateboarders and scooter riders. With 8,000 square feet, the park has space for both beginners and advanced riders. There’s also plenty of room for kids on bicycles to practice simple tricks or ride over ramps without getting in the way of more serious skateboarders.
Perhaps the best skate park in the Tulsa area is at the Gathering Place, but once your kids have visited it, they may want to try another park, and Jenks is a good second step. It has a classic skateboarding bowl for tricks like barspins and tailwhips. It’s also a fun place to watch serious riders do their thing. Kids often gather around to watch as skateboarders fly through the air.
305 S. Birch St. in Jenks
A once overgrown park, Lubell is truly a little hidden treasure for cyclists and mountain bikers.
Kids who have only ridden their bikes on the street will love this spot for a first-time, off-road biking adventure. The trails are wooded with lots of twists and turns to make it fun. But they’re not so complex that a beginner couldn’t give it a try to ride over some of the small mounds or simply follow the path through the entire park.
The approximately 1-mile loop was built as an introductory mountain bike trail by Bike Club Tulsa. And even though it’s a nicely wooded area, it’s an easy drive from anywhere in Tulsa.
2910 W. 53rd St.
Editor’s Note, January 2022: Tulsa Bike Club has continued to add improvements to the Lubell Park trails since we originally published this article in June 2021. There is now a 2.5-mile beginner-friendly trail, with a jump/flow line and wooden skill features. The trail is also Adaptive Mountain Bike (aMTB) accessible. The park also features a playground
The first time at Ray Harral Nature Park will leave you wondering why you had not yet made a trip here. This 40-acre park in Broken Arrow is great for spending a day with kids. It has three miles of trails in varying degrees of difficulty, a natural spring, picnic shelters, bike trails and even fishing.
If you have a family of children in a wide age range, this is a good park since everyone can find something to do. Mountain bike trails here are easy enough for even beginners to give it a go. Small children will like the nature walks. And kids of all ages will have fun bringing their fishing poles for a morning spent baiting their hooks and sitting under a shade tree.
Kid will also love running across the suspension bridge – always fun for kids and their grownups.
7101 S. Third St. in Broken Arrow
Park is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Nature Center is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
If you’re looking to get outside of Tulsa, the Claremore Mountain Bike Trails, along the east bank of Claremore Lake, are great fun.
The course accommodates beginners to more advanced riders, but this one would better suit kids who are ready for a challenge. More than 15 miles of trails are available, with five loops for trail running, hiking, nature walks and mountain biking.
The trails are maintained by the Oklahoma Earthbike Fellowship, and are impressive both for how well they’re maintained as well as both the functionality and fun of the design.
15011 E. 470 Road in Claremore
If you want outdoor adventure at a slower pace, Oxley is it. A trip to Oxley certainly feels like a getaway. To get there, you drive down the winding road past the Tulsa Zoo, past Mohawk Park, past the golf course until you meet the entrance.
Photo courtesy of Oxley Nature Center, taken by Amy Morris
Oxley is a wonderful place for slow hiking, nature gazing and bird watching. Bring binoculars if your kids are into birding. And if you have a sturdy case around your phone or ipad, let the kids carry it with them to take pictures of wildlife and interesting plants they see along the trail.
For kids, one of the most fun part of a walk at Oxley is making it to the lookout. Climb the steep stairs to the tower that overlooks the trails. Then back down you go, over small bridges spanning ponds, through muddy banks, through deeply wooded paths and eventually to sunshine overhead. Oxley gives kids a taste of a serious hike without the intensity.
If the indoor Interpretive Center is open, definitely give it a look. Children will love exploring the hands-on exhibits, beehives, insect wings and taxidermied animals.
6700 Mohawk Blvd.
Trails open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Check website for Nature Center hours.
This article was originally published in TulsaKids’ June 2021 Magazine.