There are hidden gems and wonderful places to discover in every state, and state parks in Oklahoma are no exception. Beavers Bend State Park, near Hochatown, Oklahoma is an over 3,000 acre state park that boasts some of the most stunning landscapes in the eastern half of the state. The Lower Mountain Fork River runs through the park and provides ample opportunities for floating, boating, as well as fishing and fly fishing. Nearby Broken Bow lake is a large and beautiful lake for even more boating and water recreation. The state park also operates a 40 room lodge, as well as rental cabins, RV sites, and tent sites. It’s a wonderful place for families to explore, with a miniature train to ride, seasonal horseback riding, miniature golf, boat rentals, a swim beach, and more. The Forest Heritage Museum has dioramas depicting the history of the area, painted by the Smokey Bear artist, Harry Rossoll. The museum has a wealth of history and information, as well as an art museum, which sometimes features wood cutting art from local artisans.
Beaver’s Bend Nature Center
One of our favorite stops is the Beaver’s Bend Nature Center, a charming building that houses hands-on learning opportunities. Here you can touch a variety of natural specimens like feathers, turtle shells, antlers, snake sheds, and more. There are often naturalist or ranger led programs that take place around a campfire by the river when the weather is right. Plus, check the schedule for arts and crafts programs and guided nature hikes.
Explore Hiking Trails
There are also multiple hiking trails at the park, ranging from less than a mile to ten miles. We’ve explored them all but our favorite trail is the strenuous and “expert” rated Skyline trail. The trail weaves through, up, down, and around the entire park, joining several trails together and offering incredible views of the river along the way. Do not underestimate this hike! Yes, our children have done it, but they are not novice hikers and have regularly hiked many 6 to 8 mile hikes before we took them on this trail. It is a beautiful hike that will push you and take you to some gorgeous views, up and down mountains, and beside a beautiful creek. One tip, the last mile and a half of hike is on paved road to get back to your vehicle.
Here are a few things to keep in mind for this hike:
- Remove or hide all valuables from your car when you are leaving.
- Pro tip: stash a change of clothes for everyone and a salty snack for the ride home, in the trunk. Plus extra water.
- Use an app like AllTrails or Gaia to download an offline version of the map before you begin hiking. Cell service is spotty and having an offline map is helpful for navigation purposes.
- In the AllTrails app, you can look up the Skyline Trail and begin navigating. It will show where you are on the trail and you can course correct if you veer off.
- Carry plenty of water, using a water bladder like a Camelbak in your backpack to save on space and weight.
- Remember the Ten Essentials.
- Carry extra snacks to help encourage everyone to keep going. Sometimes we play a game where we take a bite of a good snack (like a GoMacro bar) every mile or every half mile.
- Sing songs as you walk, tell a story as you walk, talking makes the miles pass by and it’s a great way to build into your relationships.
- This trail is best hiked in the fall through the spring, avoid the summer month’s due to heat and insects.
- Wear bug spray and tick repellent.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the weather, bring raincoats if rain is suspected and be mindful of trails becoming dangerous in wet conditions.
- There are several water crossings that may become difficult after a hard rain, in high water.
- Start your hike early so you have plenty of time to hike in the daylight, the hike can easily take five to six hours depending on your pace.
- Remember to take photos and enjoy your journey!
Keep in Mind
This trail is not suitable for young children and novice hikers. There are some very steep ascents and descents, as well as portions along cliffs and water crossings. If you’d like to hike at Beaver’s Bend State Park with younger children, I would recommend the Lookout Mountain Loop, the Tree Trail, the Spill Way Loop, Friends Loop, or Lakeview Lodge trail. For any hike you embark on, please remember to practice Leave No Trace principles, carry out what you carry in, do not shortcut switchbacks, and be respectful of the natural environment or any animals you may encounter.
Beaver’s Bend State Park is a treasure in southeast Oklahoma, that’s worth visiting all year round. Don’t’ forget to check the Forest Heritage Center Facebook page for program offerings and events!
Never afraid of a long drive, Nichole is a homeschooling mom to two and wife to Ryan. Coffee, always, and black please. You can probably find her scheming up their next road trip while hiking in the woods. Experience based learning and good books abound in their homeschool, as they chase the spark of curiosity where it wanders on the road less traveled. See more shenanigans on her Instagram @coleyraeh.