The 6 National Parks in Oklahoma: Why & How to Visit Each One!

Small waterfall at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur Oklahoma.
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Growing up in Oklahoma, I was always bummed that we didn’t have a National Park in the state. When I was younger, I didn’t have a good understanding of how expansive the US National Park system actually is. In fact, there are six National Parks in Oklahoma, and you should visit each one!

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The 6 National Parks in Oklahoma: Why & How to Visit Each One!

The Six National Parks in Oklahoma

Listed here in alphabetical order…

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Oklahoma - Close up shot of soft smoky waters cascading from the Little Niagara falls at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area in Sulphur, Oklahoma

One of the most beautiful places to relax in the state, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is just that – the perfect place for recreation!

Make sure to bring your bathing suit! You’ll find waterfalls, hidden swimming holes, streams, and lakes to explore. Essentially, this is a water paradise.

You could spend an entire vacation just at the Lake of the Arbuckles, renowned for its great fishing, or you could enjoy hopping around to the best spots in the area.

Plan Your Visit

Open: 24 hours a day

Address: 901 W 1st St, Sulphur, OK 73086, United States

Fort Smith National Historic Site

USA - Oklahoma and Arkansas - Fort Smith National Historic Site
JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ MD / CC BY-SA

Sitting on the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas, the Fort Smith National Historic Site is a great place to learn about what Arkansas and Oklahoma (which went by Indian Territory at the time) were like during the nineteenth century.

Preserved facilities include military barracks and the courtroom of Judge Parker, who earned the nickname the “Hanging Judge of the American Old West.”

Justice in this part of the world was rarely just, and Fort Smith played an important role in the Trail of Tears during this time. There are many sad but important truths to learn about Oklahoma’s early settler days.

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Plan Your Visit

Open: 9am – 5pm daily

Address: 301 Parker Ave, Fort Smith, AR 72901, United States

Oklahoma City National Memorial

USA - Oklahoma -Oklahoma City national memorial

Built to commemorate the victims of the Oklahoma City Bombing, this National Memorial is one of the most sacred spots in Oklahoma City.

If you come here, please be respectful. If you choose to take photographs, make sure you keep them appropriate. Here are some quotes about the Oklahoma City Bombing that you can use for captions if you can’t come up with your own words to say. Being here can truly be an overwhelming experience for most Oklahomans.

The memorial is free to visit, but you need to pay to visit the museum to learn about the history of the site.

Plan Your Visit

Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am – 6pm & Sunday 12pm-6pm

Address: 620 N Harvey Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73102, United States

Santa Fe National Historic Trail

USA - Oklahoma - Santa Fe Trail National Historic Trail
By Photog, CC BY 3.0, Link

Running from Santa Fe to Kansas City, this historic trail played an important role in moving people and animals from the Midwest to the Southwest, and vice-versa.

Today the trail is maintained by the National Park Service. Oklahoma’s portion covers only 127 miles, the shortest stretch of trail for any state. However, if you come out to the panhandle you should seek out some of the more interesting Oklahoma sites.

You can learn more about the trail’s fascinating history and Oklahoma’s role in it here.

Many people come to simply hike the trail, however, you can also plan a visit to see Autograph Rock Historic District.

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Plan Your Visit

Hours: 24 hours a day on public land. By invitation only on private land.

Address: Approximately seven miles west and seven miles north of Boise City, Boise City, OK, 73933

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Cherokee Council House, Tahlonteeskee, Oklahoma By NPS Staff (NPS) - NPGallery, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80102069

As modern Americans come to terms with deconstructing the myths of our history and facing the cold, terrible facts in the face instead, the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail is an important place for Oklahomans to come to learn about the true history of our state.

While we may love Oklahoma now, we can’t become the great place we want to be by ignoring some of the ugliness that got us here, and that persists to this day. The appalling treatment of Native Americans isn’t over, but one of the earliest sins that took place in our state against Native Americans was the forced removal of the Cherokee from the Eastern US to the newly formed “Indian Territory.”

This began two hundred years of Native Americans being swindled, treated poorly, and even violently attacked within the borders of our current state. It’s all of our responsibility to learn what the real history is here and make sure we stop passing down false narratives that make us feel better about the past.

Plan Your Visit

There are seven sites on Oklahoma’s portion of the Trail of Tears that you can visit. Please refer to the NPS’s website for addresses and hours.

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

USA - Oklahoma - The Landscape of Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

This is the site of a terrible chapter in American history. General George Armstrong Custer – yes, that General Custer – attacked a village of Cheyenne here in 1868.

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At the park, you can learn about the battle and the politics that lead up to it. You can also pay your respects to the Native Americans who lost their lives and the women and children who were captured.

Plan Your Visit

Hours: 8 am to 4:30 pm daily

Address: The nearest town is Cheyenne. Driving directions available here.

Oklahoma Travel Resources

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Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!

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The 6 National Parks in Oklahoma: Why & How to Visit Each One!

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2 thoughts on “The 6 National Parks in Oklahoma: Why & How to Visit Each One!

  1. Tami says:

    There is metered street parking surrounding the Oklahoma City National Memorial. On weekends, federal holidays and all evenings after 6 p.m. the meters are free. Additionally, there are privately owned parking lots and garages that charge daily rates.

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