NOTE: As you head out on the trail, remember to follow the guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local governments. For resources on how to #SharetheTrail and #RecreateResponsibly, go to railstotrails.org/COVID-19.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh, what a beautiful morning … for a bike ride or a pleasant hike,” then maybe you should head to Oklahoma. Both Tulsa and Oklahoma City have terrific trail networks, where you can delve into history, enjoy some lovely scenery and get in a nice workout, all at the same time. (By the end of the year, Oklahoma City should have a completed 42-mile trail loop around the city.) Finding greenways longer than a couple of miles can be difficult outside those metropolitan areas, but we’re confident you’ll find Oklahoma’s rail-trails to be truly OK.
Counties: Osage, Tulsa
Built on an old Midland Valley Railroad line, the paved Osage Prairie Trail heads 15 miles north from Tulsa over creeks and a repurposed railroad trestle, through agricultural pastures filled with farm animals, and up to the suburban Sperry and Skiatook. The south trailhead is located in the historic Greenwood District, near the Oklahoma State University-Tulsa campus and the Woody Guthrie Center. It is in the Greenwood District where the Tulsa Race Massacre in the business district known as “Black Wall Street” occurred in 1921. A renovated memorial was officially unveiled earlier this year.
Counties: Tulsa, Wagoner
Trail junkies will love this nearly 10-mile pedestrian path through Tulsa; not only does it wind through plenty of green space and cultural hot spots like Northeastern State University, but it also connects to a larger trail network that includes the Mingo and Creek Turnpike trails. It is fairly hilly, but the grade never rises above the low single digits.
The Oklahoma River Trails may be the pride of Oklahoma City, or at least a close second to native sons, the Flaming Lips. If "It’s Summertime"—or practically any nice day of the year—you can bet city residents are exploring every inch of its 13 miles meandering along the banks of the eponymous waterway. "Do You Realize??" that you can connect to the Bricktown Canal Trail at Regatta Park and, within minutes, be at Flaming Lips Alley? (Yes, this is an actual place.) Be sure to take a six-block detour to the 380-foot SkyDance Bridge, a bike-and-pedestrian span inspired by the state bird, the scissor-tailed flycatcher. At night, the bridge is illuminated by colorful lights, not unlike the light show that the Flaming Lips used to great effect during their 2002 Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots tour.
County: Le Flore
This crushed-stone trail follows an abandoned St. Louis–San Francisco Railway—commonly called the Frisco—line more than 6 miles from the town of Poteau and past the lovely Cavanal Lake. The trail ends just north of Lake Wister State Park, but users can continue on surface roads to access additional trails and a campground in the park. The Old Frisco Trail Festival typically happens in the fall. Horseback riding is allowed on the trail, but you’ll probably want to leave the surrey with fringe on top at home!
For more than 45 years, the Pathfinder Parkway has connected Bartlesville neighborhoods with multiple parks and opportunities to experience nature. The paved 12-mile trail passes over a small bridge, through a short tunnel and underneath waves of cypress and walnut trees. Keep an eye out for signs along the trail that will help you identify the various birds that call those trees home.
These two distinctly different trails showcase some of the best Tulsa has to offer. The East Bank Trail follows the lovely Arkansas River, running 10 miles through parks and past multiple dining options, and connecting to both the Creek Turnpike Trail and its sister trail along the west bank. There are fewer amenities along much of the 8-mile length of the West Bank Trail, but if you enjoy dirt trails as well as asphalt, you can connect to the Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness Area. (And you should also check out the future site of USA BMX’s new national headquarters just north of downtown.) Be aware that there’s currently a detour along the West Bank Trail, as the stretch between 23rd Place and 36th Street is currently closed due to two construction projects. Need a bike? Hit one of the This Machine Tulsa (the name’s a nod to the writing etched across Oklahoma native Woody Guthrie’s guitar) bike-share stations throughout the city.
Named after Stillwater’s sister city in Japan, the Kameoka Trail gives local residents a quick and easy nature break in the middle of their day. One of the nicest water-focused city parks in the OK, Boomer Lake Park also serves as the trail’s main attraction. Visitors can play 18 holes of disc golf course, go fishing for largemouth bass, have a picnic and rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard for the afternoon. While several gaps exist throughout the trail, city officials hope to create a contiguous path in the coming years.
This nearly 8-mile trail, which traverses the western side of Muskogee, features multiple cultural and historical attractions, including the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and the historic Hatbox Airfield, where Amelia Earhardt made an impromptu appearance in 1928. The Love-Hatbox Sports Complex loop is a great place to refill your water and use the restroom facilities.
Starting in its namesake park and following its namesake waterway, the Spring Creek Trail packs in a lot of gorgeous views within a relatively tiny footprint. The best time to visit may be autumn, when the thick tree canopy changes color. While the trail is only 2.5 miles now, local officials hope to extend it from suburban Edmond to a planned 18-mile greenway surrounding nearby Arcadia Lake. (There are 6 miles of natural-surface trail currently built.) Out-of-towners can stay at the campground within the park.
Just like the late Will Rogers himself, his namesake 8-mile trail is beloved by the population, bringing a smile to everyone who comes to know it. Passing by the gorgeous gardens of Will Rogers Park and State Fair Park, the trail is an important cog in Oklahoma City’s trail network, connecting the Bert Cooper Trails at Lake Hefner with the Oklahoma River Trails.