The snow has melted and COVID-19 numbers are declining.
If you haven’t been outside much lately, now might be the perfect time to take advantage of the myriad of impressive outdoor opportunities Tulsa has to offer.
Kia Shebert-Smith moved to Tulsa from Colorado about three and a half years ago. It didn’t take her long to become a regular at the trails at the Turkey Mountain Wilderness Area on the west side of the Arkansas River near 71st Street.
“There are not a lot of urban wilderness parks left that close to a downtown area that is free for everyone to use and that is so extensive for the amount of acreage it’s on,” Shebert-Smith said. “Even coming from Colorado, I’ve never seen anything like Turkey Mountain, ever, in terms of how many trails there are within that acreage so close to downtown. I know that Denver and Boulder don’t have anything like it.”
The Turkey Mountain trails are a true Tulsa treasure, a place with multiple trails where outdoor enthusiasts of any skill level can enjoy a hike, run or bike ride. The red trail is less than a mile and is a good introduction to the trails at Turkey Mountain.
Things get a little more difficult with the blue (1.5-mile loop) and yellow (4.4-mile loop) trail. If you’re feeling ambitious, check out the pink trail (5.7-mile loop).
There are also plenty of side trails that people have established. Depending on where you are on a trail, it can be easy to forget you’re in the middle of a city.
Shebert-Smith had an auspicious beginning on Turkey Mountain’s trails. She got lost, with no water in 90-degree heat. Now, she’s a trail regular, often times with her dog, Auggie Doggie, accompanying her. She also helps lead an ultra-running training group Tuesday nights (check out Training on Turkey — TOTs — on Facebook).
While Shebert-Smith admits Turkey Mountain can’t compete with the stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, Turkey Mountain has taught her something.
“I like to tell people when I moved to Oklahoma that Oklahoma taught me to slow down, first of all, and it taught me to pay attention to detail,” she said.
“In Denver, you have the grand feeling of the Rocky Mountains’ vastness, views everywhere you turn. In Oklahoma, you have to slow down and take in really small details and find all these hidden moments of beauty and moments that kind of take your breath away and deserve your attention. Turkey Mountain certainly has that feeling.”
While Turkey Mountain is great and easily accessible, Tulsa is fortunate to have other outdoors areas to enjoy. While not a definitive list, here are a few other options:
Keystone Ancient Forest
160 Ancient Forest Drive, Sand Springs
About 15 minutes west of downtown Tulsa is the Keystone Ancient Forest, a 1,360-acre preserve that features 500-year-old cedar trees and 300-year-old post oak trees throughout its roughly 8 miles of trails.
This time of year, the scenery includes Keystone Lake and rock formations. If you’re quiet enough, you might see a deer or a bobcat.
For a nice hike just shy of 3 miles, explore the Frank Trail. For the first ¼ mile or so, the trail is gravel with some inclines. However, the trail flattens after that and you can focus on the scenery. It’s a well-defined, well-marked trail loop good for any skill level that features a nice view of Lake Keystone at the turnaround.
The trails are open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.
Oxley Nature Center
6700 Mohawk Blvd., Tulsa Located inside Mohawk Park in north Tulsa, the 804-acre Oxley Nature Center features numerous trails adding up to 9 miles of mostly individual loops and linked trails that are mostly flat. According to the nature center’s website, more than 200 types of birds and 50 types of butterflies can be found at the nature center. Deer, raccoon, bobcat, mink, skunk, coyote, flying squirrel and beaver all make their homes at the nature center.
For a fun hike through prairie and wetlands, start at the Meadowlark Trail, go through Bob’s Trail and head toward Blackbird Marsh and Lake Sherry. Signs will guide you, as trails are well-marked and well-defined.
Trails are open seven days a week. Trails are closed to the public during Mohawk Park’s curfew hours from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.