Expanding Beaten Paths

Oklahoma’s hiking/biking trail systems continue to grow.

Tulsa's Turkey Mountain offers trails of various difficulty for hikers and cyclists.

Tulsa’s Turkey Mountain offers trails of various difficulty for hikers and cyclists.

With autumn in full swing, Oklahomans are hitting the trails to enjoy brisk mornings and cool evenings, especially as the leaves start to change colors. With more than 60 miles of trails in Tulsa and more than 80 miles in Oklahoma City, hikers and cyclists have plenty of options, and more are about to be added.

Oklahoma City will break ground on the Interstate 44 trail this fall thanks to MAPS 3, a capital improvements program funded by a one-cent sales tax increase.

“The Will Rogers Trail will link the Bert Cooper Trails at Lake Hefner and run along the I-44 corridor through Will Rogers Park, then down to the Oklahoma River,” says Jennifer McClintock, OKC Parks and Recreation spokeswoman. “This will provide a more direct north-south link from the northwest portion of the city to downtown and the river corridor. The trail is slated to open in mid-2017.”

In Tulsa, locals enjoy the River Parks trails, which stretch for miles along both sides of the Arkansas River. A 1.2-mile portion of the east bank trail is closed for construction of the Gathering Place, but Tulsans will have more trails to enjoy within the 100-acre park once that project is complete in 2017.

In addition to the city paths, those wanting to get outdoors can find thousands of miles of trails within Oklahoma’s 35 state parks.

“We are adding new trails all the time,” says Susan Henry, who oversees federal programs for Oklahoma state parks. “Currently, new trails are being constructed at Red Rock Canyon State Park, Lake Wister State Park and Great Plains State Park. We also just funded 22 new trail projects throughout the state through the Recreational Trails Program.”

These additions are likely to get plenty of traffic as the number of trail users grows. McClintock says estimates are in the tens of thousands each year for Oklahoma City alone.

“While we’ve never been able to put a true number on our trail use, we can tell simply by general community buzz among local cycling enthusiasts, as well as social media feedback, that trail use has never been more popular,” she says. “Get out on any evening when the weather is nice and you’ll find hundreds of people out using our trails and bikeways. The trails have become an integral part in encouraging an active lifestyle among city residents.”

In Oklahoma City, a variety of people flock to Lake Hefner to enjoy the trails that wind around the 17 miles of shoreline.

“These trails nightly see a broad scope of residents out walking and running, as well as cyclists, children on tricycles, parents with strollers and people exercising their dogs,” McClintock says.

In Tulsa, one hot spot is Turkey Mountain, which offers four marked trails that weave through more than 300 acres of wilderness seven miles from downtown. Despite its popularity, it is relatively easy to find solitude even on the beaten paths.

To find more trails, head to INCOG.com for Tulsa trails, okc.gov for trails in greater Oklahoma City, or travelok.com for statewide information.