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8 Places in Tulsa to Connect with Nature

BY Holly Wall

Though we may not all be aware of it, Tulsans are actually a little spoiled by all of the outdoor amenities our city has to offer. In addition to the 140 parks operated by the Tulsa Parks Department (which add up to 8,200 acres of park land), there are also six Tulsa County parks and more than 100 miles of pedestrian and bicycle trails in the metro area. Plus, there are protected nature areas that offer examples of Oklahoma’s diverse ecosystems. Whatever your interest, whether walking, running, biking, climbing, sports, or wildlife-watching, Tulsa offers ample opportunities to get outside, connect with nature, and explore the beauty of the land. 

Turkey Mountain, 6850 S. Elwood Ave.

Turkey Mountain is one of Tulsans’ favorite hiking, biking, and trail-running spots. Situated just off of 71st Street between Lewis and Highway 75, the urban wilderness area boasts five marked trails ranging from 0.8 miles to 5.7 miles, plus 25 miles of unmarked trails. Trails are open between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., and keep an eye out for organized events, like facilitated trail runs, 5k races, and yoga.

River Parks

The River Parks paved trail systems sits adjacent to the Arkansas River and runs from downtown Tulsa starting at 11th Street to 101st Street, connecting along the way to the Katy Trail, the Creek Turnpike Trail, and Turkey Mountain. Trails on both the east and west banks of the river feature bicycle and pedestrian lanes, although the trail narrows to one lane in places not yet renovated. Note that the trail is closed between 27th to 35th Streets, including the east end of the Pedestrian Bridge, during construction of Tulsa’s Gathering Place. 

Chandler Park, 6500 W. 21st St.

Situated atop a hill in west Tulsa, Chandler Park features 192 wooded acres with gorgeous views of downtown Tulsa. For hiking or running, there’s the Lost City Trail, which winds around the bluffs on the north side of the park. There are also 40-foot cliffs for rock climbing, which can accommodate climbers of varying skill and experience. 

Redbud Valley Nature Preserve, 16150 Redbud Drive, Catoosa 

Just off of 161st East Avenue lies Redbud Valley, a quiet, scenic nature preserve with rugged hiking and walking trails. The main trail loop is about a mile, and different forks offer the options of woodland, prairie, or bluff hiking. The trail is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bikes, pets, and camping are not allowed.

Oxley Nature Center, 3452 Mohawk Blvd.

Located within Mohawk Park, near the Tulsa Zoo, the Oxley Nature Center offers hiking trails that are open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (when the center’s gates are closed, just park outside them and climb over to access the trails). All in all, there are nearly nine miles of trails, which lead wanderers through forests, fields, and wetlands. Many of them are flat and wide enough to be wheelchair and stroller accessible, although bicycles are not allowed. A must-see is the Blackbird Marsh, where a 600-foot boardwalk allows for up-close observation of aquatic flora and fauna.

Tulsa Area Trail System 

The Tulsa Area Trail System boasts more than 80 miles of pedestrian and bicycle trails spanning Tulsa and the metro area, maintained by maintained by the City of Tulsa, Tulsa Public Works, River Parks Authority, Broken Arrow Parks, Tulsa County Parks, Jenks Parks, the City of Skiatook, and the City of Sand Springs. Addition to the River Parks trails already mentioned, there’s the Katy Trail, the Creek Turnpike Trail, the Jenks Aquarium Trail, Liberty Trail, Midland Valley Trail, Mingo Trail, and the Osage Trail, which connect Tulsa to its suburban communities. The trails are paved, and most offer free bicycle rental.

Keystone Ancient Forest, 160 Ancient Forest Drive, Sand Springs

Billed as “one of the last great places on earth,” the Keystone Ancient Forest, managed by The Nature Conservancy, is a 1,360-acre nature preserve with 500-year-old cedars and 300-year-old post oak trees. Hiking is only allowed on certain days of the month, so visit the website to find out when you can explore the ancient cross-timbers. 

Ray Harral Nature Center, 7101 S. Third St., Broken Arrow  

Open 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, this 40-acre park features a three-mile walking trail, flowering gardens, an arboretum, a fishing pond, and a suspension bridge, in addition to the nature center, which offers various wildlife for observation and interaction. 

Holly Wall is a freelance writer and a native Tulsan who loves ethnic cuisine, live theatre, road trips and running. Curious with a penchant for the quirky, she's always on the lookout for something new to try and a good story to tell.