Hike To An Oklahoma Wonder At This Underrated State Park For Unbeatable Scenery

Oklahoma is famous for its Indigenous history (being the home to 38 federally recognized tribes), chicken fried steak, tornados, and of course, the famous musical. Many travelers pass through on a cross-country road trip on Route 66, stopping in at Arcadia's Pops 66 for soda and snapping photos of Catoosa's blue whale sculpture. Besides farmland and cowboy culture, Oklahoma is less famous for its natural attractions, but that's a shame because parts of the state are stunning.

One beautiful area is on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border, where you'll find Natural Falls State Park. Situated in the Ozark Highlands region near West Siloam Springs, the park is home to an Oklahoma wonder: a 77-foot-high waterfall surrounded by rocky outcroppings. The falls are far from the only attraction in this underrated state park, though. There are several scenic beginner hiking trails to explore, including one that leads to the falls, and some unique accommodations. The area is so gorgeous that it was chosen as the backdrop for certain scenes in the 1974 movie "Where the Red Fern Grows."

Discovering the state park

On your trip to Natural Falls, you'll probably want to see the waterfall first, so boot up and set out onto the Dripping Springs Trail. This 1.1-mile loop trail takes around 30 minutes to complete, on average. On the trail, you'll pass a spring, a small fishing lake, and a creek in addition to the falls, which cascade over rocks into a clear, turquoise pool. Happy hikers on AllTrails write that the trail is easy and has gorgeous views. You can see the falls from the top, or you can hike down to the bottom and admire the waterfall from below. Be aware that you can't swim in Natural Falls, so enjoy the beauty from the sidelines. 

There are several other hikes in the park that should be on your radar. Ghost Coon Trail allows you to access Natural Falls and then continue in a loop through woodland and along a peaceful creek. Fox Den Trail offers views of limestone cliffs and a creek with wide, shallow falls among lush rocky scenery. Be warned: AllTrails users say this hike has some steep climbs! Finally, Bear Trail is short but sweet. It's another steep trail in the park, and it allows you picturesque views of the streams that flow into the falls. While almost everyone says the trails are beautiful, many remarked that the paths were hard to follow as they were not well-marked. You can find a map of the hiking trails in Natural Falls State Park here.

Staying and exploring

If you want to stay overnight, Natural Falls State Park has five yurts that you can make your temporary home, making it a great place for your next glamping trip. These yurts are pretty luxurious, with heating and air-conditioning, electrical outlets, and a microwave. You can also camp in a tent or RV in the park. Make sure to reserve a site online before you go.

As for when to visit, summer is the peak tourist season in the Ozarks, as it offers the warmest, driest weather. The trails and the RV lots in the park are mostly shaded, offering protection from the sun. However, there is one time you might want to avoid: Friday nights. With a dirt race track nearby, several visitors complained about the noise. You have been warned!

Visitors who arrive at Natural Falls in the summer may regret not being able to plunge into the refreshing waters of the falls. If you're looking to cool off, make sure to stop at Flint Creek Water Park. Just a five-minute drive away, Flint Creek is a swimming hole on the river where the water is beautifully clear and refreshing, making it the perfect spot to relax after a hike.