October 2018: “Oh how pretty!” Choruses of that phrase are sure to be echoing throughout Oklahoma in the fall months as “leaf peepers” hit the road. You’re sure to stumble across great spots to pull off scenic, winding highways and byways to savor a picnic… or to capture special photographs… or just to breathe in the crisp autumn air and appreciate and contemplate the beauty of nature’s dazzling display.
With a little planning, and these ideas, you can map out scenic driving routes through one or all of the fourteen Oklahoma state parks that are sure to take you past the best fall foliage viewing spots. Don’t forget to pack snacks and fill your tank for a carefree excursion.
Boiling Springs State Park
A virtual oasis on the plains, where tall hardwood trees intertwine with the sand hill and sagebrush landscape of northwestern Oklahoma. Marvel at the glow of tall cottonwood trees as they flaunt their golden hues above the waters of the North Canadian River.
Chickasaw National Recreational Area
Gaze upon one of southern Oklahoma’s most beautiful fall drives. The area surrounding the Lake of the Arbuckles in Sulphur shows off acres of towering pines and colorful native hardwoods.
Lake Murray State Park
Oklahoma’s largest state park wonderfully exhibits fall foliage along Hickory Creek and is a terrific weekend getaway drive.
Great Salt Plains State Park
The various hardwoods - locust, cottonwood, post oak, hackberry and willows - create a stunning canopy of radiant reds, yellows and oranges throughout the Great Salt Plains State Park and adjoining Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.
Spend a day lost in the beauty of autumn as the wooded hills overlooking Lake Oologah present their gorgeous fall hues. Or, follow the Skull Hollow Nature Trail at Lake Oologah and explore this winding path through a majestic oak and hickory forest.
Red Rock Canyon State Park
This glorious display of fall color appears earlier than most, as the eastern species in the sheltered bottomland peak two weeks prior to the native species on the uplands of the canyon. Sugar maples offer vibrant color, set against the red sandstone canyon walls, making for a dramatic landmark amongst the plains of Western Oklahoma.
Osage Hills State Park
Unlock the beauty tucked away in the Osage Hills as autumn bursts into vibrant colors. This state park encompasses a dense hardwood forest with mostly post and blackjack oak timber as it meets Sand Creek. Visit Woolaroc Ranch, Museum & Wildlife Preserve, near Bartlesville, for a decidedly Western experience and a look at nature during its stunning season of change. Birch Lake, near Barnsdall, is yet another point of interest along this scenic drive.
Roman Nose State Park
Rushing springs refresh the hardwoods in the canyon floor while the sun graces red buttes creating a stunning autumn scene at Roman Nose State Park. Once a winter campground of the Cheyenne, Roman Nose State Park boasts an astounding landscape known for rich Indian history and natural beauty.
Robbers Cave State Park
Discover fall’s amazing change of color in this great hideaway, and marvel at the hardwood trees and pines that tower among acres of rocky landscape. The dazzling array of reds, oranges and yellows dominate the lush San Bois Mountains in the fall, creating incredible views as you drive along SH-2.
Miami to Tahlequah
Take an excursion on scenic State Highway 10 for spectacular displays of autumn hues, lakes and rivers. The long, winding roads and rolling hills make this route a pleasure to drive and the scenery makes it a perfect fall getaway. Begin your trek in Miami, Oklahoma and head south on Highway 59 towards Highway 10. Cross Grand Lake and enjoy the area’s scenery. Consider a stop at Honey Creek State Park on Grand Lake’s shores for a picnic or grab a bite in the charming town of Grove. Drive through the area surrounding Lake Eucha and then wind along the shores of the Illinois River for miles through scenic bluffs and idyllic bottomlands.
East of Tahlequah
Miles of forest and the area’s rich history are highlights of this scenic foliage route. Begin in historic Tahlequah, capital of the Cherokee Nation, and tour the Cherokee Heritage Center and its recreated ancient village in the crisp fall air. Head southeast from Tahlequah on State Highway 51 and then US Highway 59 where rolling hills surround the community of Stilwell and guide sightseers south for a breathtaking display of autumn’s beauty along US-59. When you reach Sallisaw, visit Sequoyah’s Cabin to learn more about Cherokee history and the man who created their alphabet, putting their spoken language into writing. To extend your drive, continue south and west to Robert S. Kerr Reservoir and Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge.
Talimena National Scenic Byway
Oklahoma’s most renowned fall foliage drive, the Talimena National Scenic Byway, invites foliage fans on a pathway through the Ouachita National Forest right across the tops of ancient mountains in southeastern Oklahoma. Mile after mile of hardwoods and statuesque evergreen pines present an array of fall color and splendor. The Talimena National Scenic Byway twists and turns over the gently rolling Ouachita Mountains, and around each corner of State Highway 1 are vistas more breathtaking than the last. Frequent scenic turnouts offer travelers the best views over the magnificent blend of autumn hues on the richly forested hills that seem to stretch forever.
The mountains and clear rivers of southeast Oklahoma are most colorful in the fall, with vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange leaping into the sky. Beavers Bend State Park on Broken Bow Lake is a prime destination to witness this splendid display of nature’s hues, as well as one of Oklahoma’s favorite camping locations.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Astonishing granite formations create a backdrop for the amazing color of post and blackjack oaks you’ll see displayed throughout this drive. Bring a camera to capture the radiant beauty of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge as well as the buffalo and elk herds that roam freely in the park.
See more about Colors of Autumn: