If diversity of landscape is what you’re after, then Oklahoma will have you covered for your next camping trip. From the Great Plains to hills, lakes, and forests, there are so many different options for landscapes in this state that it’s difficult to know where to start. So we’ve compiled our top recommendations for the best places to camp in Oklahoma, to help make your planning process a breeze.
Located just above Texas, and landlocked, Oklahoma is sometimes overlooked. But as all Okies will tell you, their state has some really stunning and interesting places to go camping. From monumental sand dunes to vast rivers and mountains, the topography of this state certainly isn’t repetitive. It also has a really interesting history, especially when considering the original inhabitants of the land. The state’s name is derived from the Choctaw words meaning red people, which was a phrase in the Choctaw language that described Native American people as a whole. It was envisioned by some, before its creation as a state, as an entirely Native American state.
Robbers Cave State Park is a state park in Latimer County, located in the scenic, hilly woodlands of the Sans Bois Mountains of southeast Oklahoma. It is located 5 miles north of Wilburton, Oklahoma, on State Highway 2, so it is easily accessible. Part of what makes this such a great location to visit is the interesting history of the area. It gets its name, and notoriety, for being a former hideout for famous outlaws, like Belle Starr and Jesse James.
Lakes, hiking trails, cliffs, and caves are all part of this state park, where you’ll want to explore the area for hours or days on end. The park and adjoining wildlife management area covers more than 8,000 acres and includes three lakes. People flock here from all over to go trout fishing in season, boating with a boat ramp, hunting and mountain biking. There are also trails for hikers and horses, sandstone cliffs for climbing and rappelling, and fall foliage viewing is particularly spectacular here. RV and tent campsites and equestrian campsites are also available for horseback riding.
If you’re planning on going equestrian camping in Oklahoma, our top pick is the Horse Heaven Ranch. You can bring your horse with you to this getaway in the Ouachita National Forest, but they don’t provide horse rentals. You’ll find 32 RV sites and luxury cabins at this resort where you can also find accommodations for your equine, with hitching posts and pens. Imagine waking up surrounded by beautiful views of the Ouachita National Forest, and the mountains surrounding you, and be able to take your stead out to explore this stunning landscape on an invigorating morning ride.
The Ouachita National Forest is the oldest National Forest in the southern United States. The forest encompasses 1,784,457 acres, and for our purposes it’s located in eastern Oklahoma, spreading out into the western part of Arkansas too. It includes most of the scenic Ouachita Mountains, and over 65,000 acres of the forest has been designated a wilderness area, meaning you can really immerse yourself in rugged nature in this spot.
Cobb, who worked to protect the Forest for the future generation in 1920, described the landscape. We don’t think we could say it better ourselves: “A visitor standing upon one of the many majestic peaks in the area of the proposed park is thrilled by a panoramic view that cannot be had elsewhere in the South Central States. With cheeks flushed by the invigorating mountain breezes, the mountain climber is rewarded by an inspiring view of countless and nameless peaks, mountain groups, dense forests, and inviting valleys, all merging into the distant horizon. … there are many mountain streams, now moving slowly in narrow but deep pools, then churning with savage ferocity down some water-worn precipice, leaving in its wake snow-white sprays”. Come here to be inspired by this historical National Forest.
3. Little Sahara State Park, Waynoka
Little Sahara State Park is a state park named for its resemblance to the Sahara Desert. The vast dunes have formed over thousands of years from terrace deposits, remnants of prehistoric times when the Cimarron River flowed over the entire area. This topographical wonder will truly mesmerize you, as you immerse yourself in this beautiful natural habitat. With over 1,600 acres of sand dunes, the main attraction at Little Sahara State Park is dune buggy and ATV riding across the sand dunes. Visitors can either bring their own ATV or rent one off-site by a private vendor. Either way, visitors will have a blast in this mini-desert atmosphere, known as one of the best riding spots for ATVs in the Midwest. It’s also a fun place to camp, and there are lots of options between the 143 tent sites, where you’ll have all the amenities you need.
If you’re looking for fun, entertaining activities for all the family, then Little Sahara State Park could be just the right option for you. With the sand dunes ranging from 25 to 75 feet, you’ll want to explore them by foot or buggy for hours on end. However, as a location just for camping, it’s not one we would recommend. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, and to go camping in a remote location, read on.
4. Chickasaw National Recreation Area, Sulphur
If sand dunes aren’t your thing, then take a look at Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Here you’ll find ample camping sites to get the peace and quiet you’re after, away from the excitable buggy-using crowds, by the tranquil lakes, springs and streams. Chickasaw National Recreation Area is a National Recreation Area situated in the foothills of the Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma near Sulphur in Murray County. The Arbuckle Mountains offer some of the most beautiful views of Oklahoma, so it’s a great location for photography enthusiasts. You can also chill out and relax in the coolness of shaded streams or take a dip in a swimming hole: Little Niagara and Rock Creek bring waders and swimmers from all over.
From mountain trails and vistas to lakes and waterfalls to Native American culture, in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area you’ll have more than enough activities to fill a camping trip, and then some. What about going angling, and catching your dinner for the night, on Veterans Lake? Or for a more fast-paced activity, the Lake of the Arbuckles provides excellent opportunities for motorboating, skiing, fishing, and swimming. The Chickasaw National Recreation Area offers six campgrounds. Three are located along the shores of the Lake of the Arbuckles and the other three offer views of Rock Creek or Travertine Creek. The Point campsites have been recently renovated making them some of the nicest in the area. All sites along the creek are for tents. Sites including electrical are in The Point or Buckhorn campgrounds.
For one of the top locations in the state to go family camping, we would recommend Eagle Bluff Resort. Here you can take you and your loved ones on days out on the Illinois River, for rafting, kayaking, or canoeing adventures. The Illinois River might be known for float trips, but there are many great places to camp in the area. Eagle Bluff has a late-night campsite for night owls, but has another section for families who want to be in bed by 11 p.m. so you know your family group won’t be woken up by latecomers. It’s even got a children’s playground, along with other amenities that every camper wants nearby.
If roughing it in nature isn’t your thing, and you are searching for more of a glamping experience, like yurts, then Eagle Bluff Resort might be right up your alley. Here there are really luxury amenities, like a beautiful bathhouse, that blows the showering facilities of many campgrounds out of the water. They also have some great quality restaurants overlooking the river, so you don’t even need to worry about cooking for your family. If you want to really get away from it all, want the cheaper price of camping, but don’t want to have to look out for your family at every turn, then this resort could give you all the tools you need to fully relax in the great outdoors.
Great Salt Plains State Park is an 840-acre Oklahoma state park located in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma. It is located 8 miles north of Jet. The Great Salt Plains cover an area of 11,000 square miles, and is named because it’s covered with a layer of salt, left behind long ago by a prehistoric inland sea. Because of its geological history, this is one of the most unique parks in the state, and is well worth a visit, especially if you’re a geography nerd.
The Great Salt Plains Lake is located at the park and covers 9,300 acres, with 41 miles of shoreline for you to enjoy to your heart’s content. This is a shallow, salty lake with fishing opportunities for catfish, saugeye, sandbass and hybrid striper. The lake is about half as salty as the ocean, and visitors often swim here. You can also bring your canoe or kayak and enjoy a trip around the lake viewing the many migratory birds that pass through the area. Equestrians can bring their horses to ride designated trails, and there are nature trails to enjoy while taking in the scenery and burn calories while hiking.
7. Roman Nose State Park, Watonga
Roman Nose State Park is one of the original seven Oklahoma state parks, and as you’ll see, there’s a good reason for it being one of the earliest parks in the state. Visit here to immerse yourself in the stunning natural landscape of canyons, gypsum rock cliffs, and three natural springs. If you’re a golfer, or you’d like to try the sport as an excellent opportunity to fully immerse yourself in this stunning habitat, you’re in luck. Located within the park is the Roman Nose State Park Golf Course: an 18-hole, par 70 course which offers sloping bent grass greens, Bermuda grass tees and fairways, natural hazards, lake views, canyon walls, and mesas.
There are so many things to do in this park, you’ll never get bored. Recreational activities at this state park include an 18-hole golf course, swimming pools, hiking trails, two lakes, trout fishing in season, canoeing, paddle boats, mountain biking, horse stables and hayrides by reservation. Rentals include canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, and mountain bikes. Swimming in the lakes is not allowed, but fishing and no-wake boating are welcome. In terms of camping experiences, this park also offers unique trips, as it’s one of the few places where you can actually rent a tepee for an overnight camping experience. Seeing as the park itself is named after a Cheyenne chief, we think this is rather fitting.
8. Alabaster Cavern State Park, Freedom
Alabaster Caverns State Park is a 200-acre state park approximately 4.5 miles south of Freedom. It’s one of the most popular parks in the area, and thousands visit here every year. The reason for this is that it contains Alabaster Cavern, the largest natural gypsum cave in the world that is open to the public. There are only 12 tent sites which are first-come-first-serve, so don’t come here if you only want an excellent camping experience. There are also 11 reservable RV sites, so remember to book ahead. This is more the site, with camping for convenience, for avid cave lovers and geography enthusiasts.
If you’re looking to push yourself, and try something new, try wild caving at the park. Better known as spelunking, Alabaster Caverns is home to four caves that are maintained especially for wild caving. Caves range in length from 550 feet to 1,600-ft, so there is an incredible depth and range of spaces for you to explore here. You can get permits of wild caving at the camp office, and sometimes the caves are closed for wild caving due to the hibernating bats, so we’d recommended properly researching all the rules and restrictions before planning your trip around this unique activity.
9. Lake Murray State Park, Ardmore
Lake Murray State Park is Oklahoma’s largest state park, containing over 12,500 acres of relative wilderness, and the whopping 5,700-acre Lake Murray. This park doesn’t just center on the lake, but also will provide you with an excess of forested, rolling hills around the lake, with diverse terrain, exceptional trails and historic sites scattering this much-loved state park. Staying at the park is easy with your choice of nine RV parks with hookups, 500 sites for tent camping, 56 cabins, and a modern lodge. If you’re looking for something a little more glamorous, check out one of the park’s cabins, many of which are historic structures built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. These state park cabins feature everything from cozy cottages for two up to large family-size cabins.
Lake Murray has a fishing pier on the lake and you’ll find many different areas to pitch a tent. Fishing, boating and a variety of water sports are enjoyed on the 5,728 surface acres of Lake Murray. Outdoor activities include golf, picnicking, camping, trail riding, hayrides, hiking, swimming, miniature golf, and paddle boating. Sports facilities include a golf course, tennis courts, and softball and baseball fields. With nearly 1,000 acres of trails for ATVs, motorcycles and dirt bikes, thrill-seekers have plenty of terrain to adventure.
Palo Duro Canyon State Park is the second-largest canyon in the U.S., only beat out by the Grand Canyon. If you’re an Oklahoma local, and haven’t visited here already, this location has to be next on the top of your list. It is a truly unique experience just a four-hour drive from Oklahoma City. Traveling out to the canyon feels like any normal, flat drive through the panhandle of Texas, but the drop-off into the canyon when you first see it will take your breath away. We would recommend the Mesquite campground at the back of the canyon: it might take the longest to get to, but it’s the most secluded, so it is worth it to avoid the crowds.
Oklahoma will surprise you with its varied landscapes and breathtaking vistas. From National Parks to State Forests, from Red Rock Canyon to the sand dunes, this state is naturally varied and beautiful. What more could you want from your next best camping trip? All over the state there are multiple camping opportunities available, from primitive campsites to large campgrounds, and RV parks with full hookups. There’s something here for everyone, not just in terms of views to activities, but also in the various camping accommodations the state has to offer.
Bonus tip: To get a taste of Oklahoma’s strange and amazing landscapes, have a look at this video!