Best Backpacking In Oklahoma

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Ouachita National Recreation Trail

Most of the 192-mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail is in Arkansas, but Oklahomans will tell you that the best part of the path is the 50-mile section in their state. Beginning at Talimena State Park, the trail follows the roller-coaster spine of the Ouachita Mountains, the rare range in the United States running east to west rather than north to south. Most of the miles tour the aptly named Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area and Upper Kiamichi River Wilderness.

Contact: Ouachita National Forest, (501) 321-5202;

Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge

Eastern hardwood forests give way to the Great Plains in this refuge, where one of the largest buffalo herds in the United States roams mixed-grass prairies beside elk and the endangered black-capped vireo. A prime spot for cross-country backpacking is the Charons Garden Wilderness Unit, where you can walk among jumbled boulders in utter solitude.

Contact: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, (580) 429-3222;

Beavers Bend State Park

If you don’t know what “hogbacks” and “hollers” are before you hike in Beavers Bend, you’ll be well acquainted with these southern colloquialisms by journey’s end. That’s because hilltops and hardwood bottomlands, respectively, dominate the 30 miles of trail in this Ouachita Mountain park. Connect to trails in the adjoining Ouachita National Forest for longer journeys.

Contact: Beavers Bend State Park, (580) 494-6300;