Nature Bound: Oklahoma by Road

See the beauty of our state on these short road trips

Summertime is vacation time for many, myself included. I usually try to take at least a little time off to get out of town. I typically save my international travel for later in the year, opting instead to spend my summer vacation in the United States. Last year I joined friends for a visit to a popular beach destination in Florida and a stop through New Orleans on the way home. The year before, the Slow Food Nations conference took me to Denver and up into the Rocky Mountains. This year, we are looking at summer vacation very differently. Many of the most popular destinations are high-risk with current COVID-19 concerns, and some are still closed or are still under heavy restrictions. Many families are still wary of options requiring airline travel, and large hotels and crowds are intimidating to those at higher risk. One of my favorite options is a quick road trip. Sometimes a long weekend is just what I need, or even a day trip when I feel like a change of scenery. Fortunately, we live in a state full of natural beauty and plenty of options to see the great outdoors without having to venture far from home. These three destinations offer a variety of views, from the tranquil waters of Lake Altus at Quartz Mountain Nature Park to the natural formations in the gypsum caves at Alabaster Caverns State Park. If you are looking for a bit more wildlife, head up to the Tallgrass Prairie Reserve and watch the bison in their natural habitat.

Alabaster Caverns State Park
217036 SH 50A
Freedom, OK 

Did you know that Oklahoma is home to one of the largest natural gypsum caves in the world? This impressive formation is the only gypsum show cave in the United States. Daily guided tours of Alabaster Cavern leave promptly on the hour from 9 am-4 pm. Tours are limited to a maximum of 40 guests, so reservations are recommended on weekends and holidays. 

Tour Prices: 
Adults 12-61 - $10
Youth 6-12 - $7
Seriors 62+ and Active Military - $8
Children 5 & under - FREE

Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center and Nature Park
22469 Lodge Road • Lone Wolf, OK
Lodge Reservation Information 877.999.5567

Quartz Mountain offers recreational options for the entire family. Boating, skiing, and fishing on Lake Altus are great for water lovers; or stroll on a beach or hiking trail. Camping and restroom facilities are available. If you prefer more creature comforts, the Quartz Mountain Resort is a perfect place to relax, and the Oklahoma Arts Institute has a permanent home on-site at the Nature Park. While golf is usually available in the warmer months, please check in advance, as the course is currently closed for renovations. 

Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve
15316 Co Rd 4201, Pawhuska, OK

Founded in 1989, the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the largest protected remnant of tallgrass prairie left on Earth. At nearly 40,000 acres, it features a 15-mile bison loop, picnic facilities, and hiking trails. 

While the visitor's center is closed due to COVID-19, the walking trails are open to the public. 

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