Tulsa-Area Hiking Destinations During COVID-19

#NatureIsNotCanceled (But Use Caution!)

Wildflower Meadow At The Gathering Place Mak

Wildflower Meadow at Gathering Place. Photo by Margaritte Arthrell-Knezek

If your kids start belting out the “Frozen 2” soundtrack while you struggle through a Zoom meeting, it might be time to head outside. Even a walk around the block can help everyone reset. But if you want to really take a break, hop in the car, drive to one of the area’s many nature trails, and take a hike.

If you have a younger child, help make sure your hike is a success by reading Margaritte Arthrell-Knezek’s article, “Hiking With Young Children.”She recommends taking frequent snack breaks, creating scavenger hunts to keep the child’s interest, etc. Arthrell-Knezek, founder of Under the Canopy, a program that encourages kids to explore nature and learn about the world around them, is familiar with most of the area’s nature trails and contributed to this article.

Hiking and Social Distancing

Wherever you hike, maintain social distancing protocol: Leave at least six feet between your family members and others sharing the trail. Learn more tips for protecting yourself and your family against COVID-19 at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov. Don’t schedule hikes or other outdoor activities with people other than the ones you live with as long as Shelter in Place orders are in effect. Find updates from the City of Tulsa at cityoftulsa.org/covid-19.

We recommend checking your destination’s website before heading out, to make sure it is still open to the public. Certain popular trails, such as the Redbud Valley Trail and Keystone Ancient Forest, were temporarily closed at the time of writing this article.

Where to Go

Gilcrease Museum (1400 N. Gilcrease Museum Rd., gilcrease.org)

Although Gilcrease Museum may be closed, the grounds surrounding it are open to visitors from 6 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. A paved trail winds around a lovely pond, and your kids will enjoy looking for unique sculptures around the grounds.

Oxley Nature Center (6700 Mohawk Blvd., oxleynaturecenter.org)

The trails at Oxley Nature Center allow visitors to experience various Oklahoma ecosystems, including forests, fields and wetlands. Trails are fairly flat and often link together, meaning you can customize your hike however you like. There is a large map at the parking lot, so snap a photo to take with you if you’re unfamiliar with the area.

“My favorite part of Oxley,” says Arthrell-Knezek, “is walking around Blackbird marsh and seeing all the beaver-chewed branches. I also like peering into the water and trying to spot frogs and small fish that live there.”

Because the trails are so flat, many of them are wheelchair or stroller-accessible. This also makes Oxley an ideal spot for hiking with children. However, Arthrell-Knezek says, Oxley can get very muddy in May, so be sure to bring your rain boots if it’s been raining recently.

Ray Harral Nature Center & Park (7101 S. 3rd St., Broken Arrow; brokenarrowok.gov)

For Broken Arrow residents, a visit to the Ray Harral Park may be ideal. There are three miles of trails of varying difficulty, as well as sheltered picnic tables, an outdoor garden and more. However, some of these amenities, such as the Nature Center itself and outdoor restrooms, may be closed due to COVID-19. Visit the website or Facebook page (facebook.com/rayharralnaturecenter) for updates.

Tulsa River Trails (riverparks.org)

If you want to get outside without leaving the pavement, head to the trails running along Riverside Drive. These divided trails are perfect for cycling, running, roller blading, skateboarding or just strolling along. As always, make sure you are practicing safe social distancing, and maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and those around you!

Turkey Mountain (6800 S. Elwood Ave., riverparks.org/experience/turkey-mountain)

Located off of 71st Street and Riverside Drive, Turkey Mountain draws hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and more. There are three main trail options to choose from: the .8-mile Red Trail, the 1.5-mile Blue Trail and the 4.4-mile Yellow Trail. Whichever trail you choose, make sure you wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water.

Two Rivers Trail (Sand Springs, alltrails.com/trail/us/oklahoma/two-rivers-trail)

According to Arthrell-Knezek, “The Two Rivers Trail is a primitive, moderate hike that can sometimes be hard to navigate. It also leads to stunning views of the lake, little sandy beaches and a beautiful eastern red cedar forest.”

Woodward Park (2435 S. Peoria Ave., tulsagardencenter.org)

Partly because it’s located in the heart of Midtown, but also because of its natural and cultivated beauty, Woodward Park is a popular destination. However, the park encompasses nearly 44 acres, so it should still be possible to explore without feeling too crowded. Kids will enjoy scrambling over rocks lining broad, sandy pathways, or heading down toward the pond to look for ducks and other wildlife. There is also ample space to spread out a picnic blanket and just relax.

What to Bring

First, bring plenty of water. Although some trails may offer public drinking fountains at the main trailhead, you probably want to avoid using them during the COVID-19 pandemic. When hiking with kids, it is a great idea to pack snacks as well. Find a recipe for Trail Mix Bites below.

Of course, you should wear comfortable hiking shoes and sunscreen. Consider a hat for extra UV protection and long sleeves and pants to guard against insect bites, tall grasses, etc. Bring a bottle of hand sanitizer, if possible, and make sure you use the restroom before leaving home, as public restrooms may be closed.

“Remember, May is also the beginning of tick season,” cautions Arthrell-Knezek, “so wear light, long-sleeved shirts, pants, bug spray, a hat—and check for ticks when you come home from your hikes.”

What to Look and Listen For

“May is a glorious month to be outside. Often the weather is not too hot, and many plants are in bloom,” says Arthrell-Knezek. “In the wild, there are abundant blooms in the fields surrounding Tulsa. One of my favorite spots to see wildflowers is in the Osage Hills leading up to Tulsa Botanic Garden and the meadows around the Gathering Place. I love the deep, red wine color of the poppy mallow. It is especially beautiful when mixed in with the light pink evening primrose and the almost-florescent orangey red of the Paintbrush flower. Listen in May for the varied songbird calls. Many migrating songbirds have returned from their southern roosts. If you listen closely, you can hear their different and unique songs.”

Trail Mix Bites

This recipe from Natalie Mikles was originally published in TulsaKids’ May 2015 issue 

  • 1 cup whole grain puffed rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup pecans or sunflower seeds (without shells)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pretzels
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup raisins, dried cranberries or dried chopped apricots (or a mixture of all three)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  1. Stir ingredients together in a large bowl. Thoroughly mix until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Keep in a closed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Note: If you don’t have puffed rice cereal, you may substitute old-fashioned oats.

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