There’s no denying it: fall is a glorious season. With the welcome reprieve from the summer heat, the long-awaited return of harvest festivals and Halloween activities, and, of course, the timeless beauty of the leaves changing colors, what’s not to love?
Often, the New England states are the first to come to mind as destinations for viewing fall foliage. But did you know that there are plenty of opportunities to view the annual array of colors further southwest? In fact, Oklahoma’s natural plant diversity and variety of landscapes make it an ideal place to view the autumnal display. Keep reading to learn more about the wonders of Oklahoma fall foliage.
Best Spots to Enjoy Oklahoma Fall Foliage
From the rolling vistas of the Ouachita Mountains to sprawling forests and parklands on the plains, there are plenty of gorgeous places for you to enjoy Oklahoma fall foliage. Let’s dive into some of our favorite spots for leaf-peeping and other fall festivities.
1. Beavers Bend State Park
Beavers Bend State Park is one of the most popular destinations in the state, and it’s no wonder why. This expansive natural wilderness, just west of the Oklahoma-Arkansas border near the town of Broken Bow, is positively perfect for viewing the colors of fall in Oklahoma.
With plenty of opportunities for hiking and backpacking as well as fishing and golfing, there are outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy as you take in the sights of the autumn leaves. You can also extend your visit by camping out or staying at the park’s spacious Lakeview Lodge, which overlooks the mighty Broken Bow Lake.
Children, in particular, may enjoy the park’s train depot, nature center, and miniature golf course. If your family is looking for another fun addition to your fall outing, the park’s annual folk and craft festival in November is also very well-loved by locals and visitors alike.
2. Talimena National Scenic Byway
The Talimena National Scenic Byway encompasses a 54-mile-long route through the Ouachita National Forest in southeast Oklahoma and provides ample opportunities for viewing Oklahoma fall foliage amid breathtaking mountain views from the comfort of your car. If you’re looking for a laid-back outing, taking a leisurely drive through a brilliantly colored forest might just be the recipe for your perfect mini roadtrip.
If you’re embarking on a drive down the Byway, Talimena State Park is a great starting point for your trip. Want to make a weekend of your autumn adventure? Consider staying at a cozy bed & breakfast in a nearby town.
As you drive along the route, you can also stop at convenient turnout points to enjoy the views and take advantage of all there is to do in the surrounding National Forest area. This gives you the perfect way to combine outdoor activities such as hiking and biking with the relaxation of cruising down an iconic route.
3. Chickasaw National Recreation Area
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area just south of Oklahoma City is a great place for enjoying the season’s foliage along picturesque trails and lakes. And we really do mean picturesque—it’s easy to see why this destination is so popular with photographers.
The Lake of the Arbuckles and Veterans Lake are two of the most scenic spots, where the only thing better than viewing the fall colors in the trees is seeing them majestically mirrored on the water’s surface!
Another nearby natural beauty you can’t miss is Turner Falls Park, located in the town of Davis just west of the Recreation Area. This lovely spot boasts a 77-foot waterfall, the tallest in the state. The park also features multiple caves and even a castle to explore, and there are places to stay if you’d like to extend your autumnal getaway.
While you’re in the area, you can also visit the Chickasaw Cultural Center to learn more about the rich history of the Chickasaw Nation. Walking through the Center’s Spirit Forest provides the perfect opportunity to combine Oklahoma fall foliage viewing with a dose of education and culture.
4. Robbers Cave State Park
Robbers Cave State Park is an ideal place to see Oklahoma’s fall colors on display amid the dramatic backdrop of the Sans Bois Mountain Range. The mountains truly take center stage here, especially when they’re carpeted in brilliant foliage. For adventurous guests looking for a thrill, there’s even the option to view the sights from a unique vantage point while cliff rappelling!
If you prefer to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, no worries—the park has plenty of great places to hike as well. History buffs and true crime junkies may enjoy exploring the popular trail that gives the park its name, leading to a cave where famed outlaw Jesse James once hid out while on the run.
Guests looking to extend their trip can stay at the park’s main lodge, cabins, or various campgrounds throughout the park. To cap off your autumnal adventure, you might consider attending the annual Robbers Cave Fall Festival in October, a community favorite that features delicious fall foods, charming crafts and handmade goods, and a vintage car show.
5. Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
The Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge is one of Oklahoma’s best fall foliage viewing areas in the southwestern part of the state. This mountainous area stands out among the surrounding area and provides a great place to see the season’s changing trees. Visitors here have the option of driving, biking, or hiking to the summit of Mount Scott for a stunning panoramic view of the colorful landscape.
This gorgeous destination boasts many options for hiking, fishing, and even rock climbing for a perfect autumn outing. While you explore the area and take in the lovely leaves, you might also catch a glimpse of some wild turkeys, elk, or the freely roaming herds of longhorn cattle and bison that call the refuge their home.
Highlights of Oklahoma Fall Foliage
Clearly, there are many incredible places to enjoy the beauty of Oklahoma fall foliage. But what exactly will you be looking at on your leaf-peeping adventure? Let’s learn more about some of the majestic trees that make the autumn season in Oklahoma so memorable.
1. Caddo Sugar Maple
The Caddo Sugar Maple is a true hometown hero, being native to Caddo County in Oklahoma. This variety thrives in the state’s rocky limestone soil and can grow up to 50 feet tall, making it one of the most impressive fall trees in the area. Its thick, dark green leaves turn bright red in the fall, allowing it to stand out in whatever landscape it inhabits.
Fall also marks the beginning of the syrup-tapping window for this tree. When nighttime temperatures are below freezing and daytime temperatures are above freezing, the sugar maple can be successfully tapped for its sap which is renowned by syrup distillers for its “sugary” quality.
2. Chinese Pistache
The Chinese Pistache is a hardy tree in the cashew family and a favorite in the fall. As is evident from its name, this species was originally native to China; however, due to its popularity, it has been transported by arborists around the world and is now widely found in Oklahoma and Texas.
This tree grows up to 30 feet tall, with its fall colors dotting the Oklahoma fall landscape in a range from deep purple to a brilliant red-orange. The berries that it produces are inedible but still add to the colorfulness of the tree, turning red in the fall before going blue-purple in the winter months.
3. Shumard Oak
The mighty Shumard Oak is originally native to Texas but can be commonly found in Oklahoma as well. This variety definitely stands out in any forest landscape due to its impressive height, reaching up to 80 feet tall when fully mature. Its vibrant fall colors also add to its majesty; bright red hues are the most common, but softer yellows and browns may occur as well.
Aside from its telltale height, another signature feature of the Shumard Oak is its large acorn deposits. These oaks produce a high yield of acorns, which often fall to the ground in the autumn months. These nutrient-rich seeds are a dietary staple for many wild animals, including deer, squirrels, and rabbits—so, if you stumble upon a cache of acorns on your hike, keep your eyes peeled for some adorable foraging critters!
4. Common Hackberry
The Common Hackberry is another giant of the Oklahoma fall foliage landscape, growing up to 75 feet tall. Native to Oklahoma, this tree is admired for its hardiness and ability to tolerate soil with high levels of clay and salt.
The hackberry’s fall colors may not be the most flashy on this list, usually turning yellow or brown. However, it also produces a lesser-known—but perfectly edible—reddish-purple fruit that is available through the fall and winter. These drupes taste somewhat similar to dates and have been traditionally used as a food source by Native Americans.
Plan Your Next Oklahoma Fall Foliage Adventure
When it comes to viewing fall foliage, the Sooner State offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy this yearly natural wonder.
Whether you decide to go on a classic scenic drive, explore the gorgeous mountains, or take in the views along a lovely lakeshore, you’re sure to have a wonderful time. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next Oklahoma fall foliage adventure today!
If all this talk of autumn has you itching to enjoy the delights of fall in your own backyard, check out our fall gardening tips!
- About the Author
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Based in Cincinnati, Lauren loves spending time outdoors and witnessing the beauty of Ohio’s changing seasons. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, watercolor painting, and botanical drawing. Lauren believes that everyone has the ability to create a beautiful outdoor space and is passionate about helping readers cultivate their own little slice of paradise.
With a bachelor’s in Classics and a master’s in Library & Information Science, she finds her work deeply fulfilling and enjoys having the opportunity to learn something new every day.