Beech Creek Natural Area

Oklahoma's own Tennessee awaits intrepid hikers.

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The road map says Oklahoma, but your eyes are telling you Tennessee, perhaps. Look at the girth of the trees! These giant beeches, pines, and white oaks belong somewhere else, somewhere east. You sure this is Oklahoma?

The unexpected is a hallmark of Beech Creek, particularly the absence of crowds at such a prime hiking locale. The best time to hike this corner of the overlooked Ouachita National Forest begins in October and stretches to May. Indian summer can edge into December, yielding New England-colored days tempered by mild nights. Almost 33 miles of loop trails entwine to create plenty of trip options. Hike the main trunk route, the 6-mile Beech Creek Trail, then raise a sweat by tackling one or more of the area’s rugged, ridgeline loops: the 10-mile Blue Bouncer, 10-mile Walnut Mountain, or 5-mile Turkey Snout. Long or short, rough or easy, there’s plenty to keep you busy in these last big woods before you reach the Rockies.

Where: 275 miles northeast of Dallas. The trailhead is east of Big Cedar on OK 63, then south 5 miles on Forest Service Road 6026. Park at the intersection with Forest Service Road 6025 and walk the road 1 mile to the trailhead.

Maps: Trail maps are available free from the ranger station (see below).

Trail Info: Ouachita National Forest Choctaw Ranger Station, (918) 653-2991.