If you’re looking for a fun, short road trip from Tulsa, Natural Falls State Park on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border is definitely worth checking out. Home to a beautiful, 77-foot waterfall and the setting for the 1974 film “Where the Red Fern Grows,” Natural Falls is a true outdoor wonder.
I had been wanting to visit Natural Falls for a long time, and it finally worked out that we were able to take the 1 hour, 15 minute trip from Tulsa in July when my friend Kelsey was in town. When we first pulled in, we stopped at the Visitors’ Center, which has nice, clean restrooms, snacks, souvenirs, and most importantly, free maps of the grounds.
When you first head towards the falls, you’ll notice a railed observation platform that allows hikers to overlook the falls. This is a good spot to take a picture and observe the falls from above the water; but never fear, the view gets even better as you walk down several dozen steps that lead to the foot of the falls. There, another observation deck offers a great view of the falls and the grotto surrounding them. Another great thing about being at the foot of the falls is that the temperature drops by 10 degrees or so.
After snapping some pictures in front of the falls with my hubby and Kelsey (along with my very pregnant belly), we decided to try a couple of hiking trails. We found success on the Ghost Coon Trail, which was about a mile hike through some woods. We kept joking around that only on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border would you find a trail called “Ghost Coon,” and kept our eyes peeled for zombie raccoons.
You can find picnic tables and grills throughout Natural Falls State Park. Campsites, including 44 RV sites with seven full hookup sites and 17 tent sites, are available along with a comfort station with showers. The Red Fern Reunion Center is available for group functions. Other amenities include four and 1/2 miles of hiking and nature trails, a picnic shelter, volleyball, horseshoes, a basketball court, catch and release fishing, playgrounds, a nine-hole disc golf course and a formal garden area. Pets are allowed on a leash only. Although swimming is not allowed in the park, there are several public swimming areas available within a short distance of the park.
Natural Falls State Park affords an opportunity to observe a variety of plant and animal life. The dense forest includes maples, chinquapin and white oaks, while plants such as flowering dogwood, sassafras, coral berry, spicebush, redbed, and pawpaw blanket the cool forest floor. The waterfall creates a moist environment where ferns, mosses and liverworts thrive.
Whether you plan on staying overnight or just a couple hours, it’s definitely worth taking the short drive from Tulsa to visit Natural Falls State Park!