School is out and summer is here. For many people and families in Oklahoma, that means it’s time to pack the car and hit the highways for that family road trip. What better way to experience Oklahoma than to see it up close and personal, visiting the changing landscapes our state has to offer? All three parts of Oklahoma known as Northwestern, eastern, and southwestern have something unique to experiences and all are quite different from each other. This year, get the family out and about to learn more about this great state.

Northwestern Oklahoma

Black Mesa


The highest point in Oklahoma, Black Mesa stands at 4,973 feet and can be found in Oklahoma’s panhandle. This plateau is part of the Rocky Mountains and the short grass prairie. You can find a 4.2 mile hiking trail that leads to the summit being marked by a granite pillar where you can sign the visitors’ log before turning in at the Black Mesa State Park.

Little Sahara Park


Do you and your family like to tear it up on four wheels, specifically four wheelers? Little Sahara Park located in the city of Waynoka in northwest Oklahoma is where you need to go if ATVs or Dune Buggies are your thing. In this desert in Oklahoma, you have wide-open spaces to open up and throttle hours away on the dunes. And since your middle name is “danger,” go back next April for the Annual Waynoka Rattlesnake Hunt.

Other fun NW OK spots:

·      Alabaster Caverns State Park

·      Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge

Northeastern Oklahoma

Blue Whale of Catoosa

Photo: Library of Congress, Highsmith Archive

On route 66, just outside of Catoosa, the Blue Whale was once a popular roadside attraction for families wanting to take a break from the summer heat with its swimming hole. After years of neglect, it has been recently restored to its original color and beauty. Though swimming is not allowed, visiting the Blue Whale is a must-stop for any traveler on Route 66.


Photo: War Eagle Resort

Tahlequah, home of Northeastern State College, offers a unique experience in northeastern Oklahoma. It’s here that you are able to float down the Illinois River. Don’t expect raging rapids or a brisk pace; be prepared to leisurely make your way down the 6 or 12-mile stretch of the river. You can plan your trip and rent your raft from several resorts along the river, but get there early as there is usually a crowd.  After, go into town and walk Main Street, stopping in at shops and restaurants along the way.

Other fun NE OK spots:

·      Grand Lake

·      Natural Falls State Park

Southeastern Oklahoma

Beavers Bend State Park


Beavers Bend State Park has been a family attraction for years in Oklahoma. Broken Bow Lake and Beavers Bend Park offer families a retreat from the everyday grind. From a weekend getaway to a weeklong retreat, luxury cabins, fun water sports/activities and the outdoors will keep you and your family relaxed and entertained the entire time. Hiking is available all around Broken Bow Lake as well as the nature center and Forest Heritage Center and Museum. Visit any of the Beavers Bend or Broken Bow Lake resort websites and plan your visit! 

Talimena National Scenic Byway


In rural southeast Oklahoma sit the Ouchita Mountains. Running west to east, unlike most mountain ranges, these begin in Oklahoma and end in Arkansas. It’s here that you can take the Talimena National Scenic Byway.  These 54 miles beginning in Talhina, Oklahoma, run through the Ouchita National Forest where you can stop at scenic vistas along the way and enjoy forests that contrast the regular Oklahoma landscape.

If you’re looking to get out of the car, look no further than the Talimena State Park. The park offers several hiking options. From one-day hikes to multiple-day hikes, depending on your experience and wants, you’ll enjoy the trails throughout the Ouachita Mountains, just at a much different pace and vantage point than your car.

Other fun SE OK spots:

·      Blue River

·      Robbers Cave

Southwestern Oklahoma

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Photo: Family Travel

Take your family and go visit the real Rumble the Bison just outside of Lawton in southwest Oklahoma. Well, you may not see Rumble, but you’ll see plenty of his relatives at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It’s here where the American bison, Rocky Mountain elk and white-tailed deer all graze on the mixed grass prairie. Climb atop Mount Scott, visit the Parallel Forest and don’t miss the prairie dogs along the way! Camp for the weekend or make a day-trip out of it, but be sure to stop by the Visitor Center and see a few of the animals up close and learn more about the refuge.

Quartz Mountain

Photo: Quartz Mountain Resort

Have you ever heard of Quartz Mountain? It’s located in southwest Oklahoma, north of Altus, in Lone Wolf. There you’ll discover a resort you didn’t know existed in Oklahoma. Located on Lake Altus, the Quartz Mountain Resort offers cabin-feel lodging with all the amenities and activities including a swimming pool, water slides, open-air amphitheater, lakeside dining, and biking trails. Tee off on the Quartz Mountain Golf course or go explore the outdoors with nature hiking, cave exploration and crappie and perch fishing on Lake Altus. Get sweaty on this great family trip, but kick your feet up in front of a lodge fire at the end of the day and relax.

Other fun SW OK spots:

·      Great Plains State Park

·      Medicine Park, Oklahoma

Oklahoma is losing its fly-over state status with every passing day as new and fun things pop up in and around the metropolitan areas. However, very few people realize that Oklahoma’s landscape and attractions throughout the entire state are unique only to Oklahoma. We hope you get out this summer and spend some time outdoors while experiencing the diverse terrain of this great state with your family. It’s the perfect time to road trip it to any of these locations and many more around the state of Oklahoma.