By Amanda McCarty
As the sharp winds of spring breathe life into the earth and the temperatures slowly rise, the pull to lose oneself in slopes of some wild hillside becomes irresistible. When the wilderness calls, a hiker must answer.
Stocking your pack with the necessary supplies. Shaking your boots free of the dusty remnants of the last adventure. The hunt for the trailhead. All these things stir a certain excitement and anticipation, vibrating one’s bones to life in a way of renewal, the way of spring. Nothing is so satisfying as the return to the wilderness.
Your first true breath of freedom is drawn as you step foot onto the trail. The forest envelops you in a protective shroud, closing off the outside world. Time flows differently here and nothing is taken for granted. The finest details of life become magnified as crucially important: The shiver of wings from the treetops as the birds mark your presence. The smell of damp earth. The soft crunch of dead leaves underfoot, like scattered paper bones. The feathered edges of moss catching the most vibrant green in the sunlight, blazing like tiny emerald flames against the tree bark. These are the stories of life we eternally carry, cherished as escapes later sought behind closed eyelids amidst the crowd.
As footsore and thirsty we may be by the end, departures are always made with reluctance. After all, the trail is home; the outside world by comparison is just a dull fantasy.
I’ve included a few of my favorites places to wander below. If you share that familiar ache to set your boots upon paths unknown, it is my sincere hope these trails lead you home.
I have been thinking more and more that I shall always be a lone wanderer of the wilderness. God, how the trail lures me. You cannot comprehend its resistless fascination for me. After all, the lone trail is best. I’ll never stop wandering.
– Everett Ruess
Beavers Bend State Park
Friends Trail Loop
The Friends Trail Loop is one of those trails that has something for everyone. It’s easy enough to bring the kids or your furry companion along yet interesting enough to keep the more adventurous entertained. There is some elevation gain of which to be mindful, but overall the trail is accessible to most. It’s also a great place to hit with a pair of trail runners – if you’re into that sort of thing.
The most spectacular leg of the loop brings you along the banks of Mountain Fork River, where the water rushes noisily over a landscape of jutting rocks, as if in a hurry to depart on a journey of its own. The landscape is marked by the force of the river’s expedition, its jagged path winding busily through the distant trees.
If you’re searching for the perfect day hike, Skyline Trail delivers with over nine miles of charted terrain. Marked with several steep climbs and a few water crossings, it’s a trail that keeps you on your toes. Surrounded by the dense forest of evergreens and oak, you’ll find no shortage of plant life to explore, and the breaks in the trees give way to the most stunning views of Mountain Fork River.
It’s worth noting this trail is not for the beginner hiker. Be sure to bring a few snacks and plenty of water before setting out on this one.
Robbers Cave State Park
Belle Starr Loop
The Belle Starr Loop is just short of two miles and offers the perfect combination of climbing and waterside views. Each step is made with purpose through a city of large stones, reminiscent of their monolithic cousins across the sea – smaller, of course, but just as ancient and humming with the tales they would tell if only they could speak. At times, the trail meets the banks of Coon Creek Lake, where a peaceful respite can be enjoyed as the water softly gurgles over the rocks. At others, the green waters of the creek can be glimpsed through the trees, silently slithering below.
The trail also features a slice of history in the form of an abandoned pump house, haunting with its gaping doorways and woodless stairs, but accessible to the courageous historian.
Robbers Cave Trail
Hiking through Robber’s Cave is like traveling back in time – if one applies a bit of imagination, of course. Known as a hideout for outlaws such as Jesse James, Belle Starr and Cole Younger, one can’t help but wonder whose footsteps came before. Venturing into the mouth of the infamous cave, their stories can almost be heard echoing from the slanting stone walls.
It’s not a lengthy trail, but it is one that should be travelled slowly and thoughtfully, as the nooks and crannies unfold in a curious maze of secret passageways between the stones. The trail constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps around the end of the 19th century is full of considerable climbs for the especially adventurous, but the modern trail offers a gentler alternative to the summit, where breathtaking views offer the perfect reward.
Talimena State Park
Ouachita Bohannon Trail
I haven’t actually visited this trail – yet. But it’s on my list of places to explore, and as one of the most beautiful trails in southeastern Oklahoma, I felt it deserved a spot in this list.
This 17-mile out-and-back trail winds around Buffalo Wallow Mountain and boasts sensational views of the surrounding mountainsides, known for their dazzling display of changing foliage and seasonal wildflowers. The Ouachita Bohannon Trail also welcomes backcountry campers, with ample locations for the venturesome hiker or those who simply wish to extend their stay in the wilderness just a little while longer.
Things to Do
- The Maze of Hochatown
- Big Foot Axe Throwing
- Beavers Bend Mining Company
- Wild Boar Ridge Hunting Ranch
- Vojai’s Winery
- Okie Girls Coffee & Ice Cream
- Hochatown Trading Post & Coffee Co
- Hochatown Coffee Central
- Hocha Cup
- Jake’s Brickhouse Grill