Nestled below the Arbuckle Mountains in south-central Oklahoma, and just under an hour from the Texas/Oklahoma border, is the beautiful 77-foot waterfall known as Turner Falls -- Oklahoma's largest waterfall. The waterfall descends into a pool of natural spring water where visitors from all over come to enjoy the ambiance of what Mother Nature has made. From sunrise to sundown during the summer months, you can enjoy a full day of swimming, hiking, exploring natural caves, seeing an old rock castle, and more. Turner Falls has been a popular family destination among local Oklahomans as well as Texans for many years.
Here are nine things to do at Turner Falls.
1. Take In The View Of Turner Falls Park
Yes, the waterfall is the center of attraction at the park, but Turner Falls Park, the oldest park in Oklahoma, has so much more to offer its guests. With over 1,500 acres of pure nature on three different levels, many visitors come here just to walk around the park and take in the beauty of its surroundings. If this is something you're planning on doing, be sure to wear a good pair of walking shoes as there are different terrains around the park.
Since there's so much to see, and with everything spread out over all levels, my advice would be to plan your day by going online to view the park and where you want to park your vehicle, especially if it's your first time visiting. I went there many years ago, and I'm so glad I planned my day by going online first because so much has changed.
Summer hours are 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Parking is available on all levels and is free on level three. Buses run throughout the day, taking people from level to level -- and they’re also free. So keep that in mind when planning your visit. The Turner Falls Park Facebook page is also an excellent resource for up-to-date information. You'll have to leave your precious pooches at home because the park does not allow pets.
Pro Tip: During the busy season, the line to get in can get quite long. Buses stop running at 6:30 p.m. in the summer months.
2. Go Wading By The 77-Foot Waterfall
I'm 99 percent sure dipping your feet in the water by the falls is the main reason why many visitors flock to Turner Falls each year. The waterfall is something spectacular to see and makes an excellent picture for your photo album. If it's your first time visiting the park and you want to swim or wade in the water, this area is the most manageable place to get into the water. It's rocky, but it's an easy walk into the water.
The water is so cold -- not chilly, but cold, but that doesn't stop visitors from swimming in it. Well maybe some, like me! My almost 11-year-old grandson ran right in and started swimming across to the other side, leaving me stranded while still trying to get used to the cold water. Dipping my feet in the water is just fine with me!
This is the best area for the elderly and toddlers to enjoy the water.
Pro Tip: Life jackets are mandatory for all kids 12 and younger. Be sure to bring your own because they are very costly at the park. Water shoes are highly recommended in all areas where swimming and wading are allowed.
3. Pack A Picnic
Picnicking at the park seems like a popular thing to do. When we arrived early in the morning, some families already had their picnic gear set up and their grills smoking. I'm guessing these families weren't first-timers. Picnic spots are first-come, first-serve, but don't let that worry you; there are so many lovely areas to have a picnic, and most include a picnic table and a grill.
Bringing a wagon to hold your food and other items in isn't a bad idea, nor is a rolling ice chest, especially if you're having a family-style picnic. If you're lucky to find a picnic spot close to where you parked, that's great; otherwise, there's an area in the back of the buses where you can place large items during your ride. Pop-up canopies are allowed in the park, as are beer and alcoholic beverages as long as they stay at your picnic site.
Pro Tip: Get there early for a nice spot under a tree or in a shaded area provided by the mountains.
4. Swim In The Blue Hole Pool
The Blue Hole Pool is where the grandkids are going to want to hang out the most. It was my grandson's favorite part of the whole park. This area is where a long slide that leads into the water and a diving board are located. There is a lifeguard on duty, which was very reassuring to me. Just be careful when walking and swimming in the creek. It can be very rocky and slimy from the moss.
Pro Tip: There are a couple of benches in the shade where you can sit and watch.
5. See The Ancient-Looking Castle
The castle at Turner Falls Park is an example of English architecture constructed with native stone back in the early 1930s. Now hollowed out, the castle is an impressive piece of art to walk through while thinking about what happened inside many years ago. There are steep stairs that go up to the castle, and once you get inside, there are multiple levels to walk through and a narrow staircase to a higher level. No tours are given, so you can go through the castle when it's convenient for you and your family.
Pro Tip: Be careful walking around inside the castle and watch for rocks. Some areas are difficult to navigate.
6. Explore Natural Caves
Who doesn't love cool caves to wander through? The three caves at Turner Falls Park are above the waterfall but a little hidden. Take your time exploring the area to find them. I made it down the stairs and over the rocks to one of the caves, but it was too difficult for me to see the other caves. But hey, I have bad knees! I let my grandson explore on his own, and he found another cave. He told me he was glad I didn't walk down there as I would not have made it.
Pro Tip: Difficult for some. Plan accordingly.
7. Hike The Trails
You could spend your whole day hiking around Turner Falls Park. There is a two-mile hiking trail that leads to views of the park’s highlights and has many detours to shorter trails. Set out to explore the park and watch for wildlife, such as whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and other animals who have made the park their home. Keep in mind, with the park being on three levels, there are elevation changes along the road through the park. Use the map that you get when you check in to see all the trails that are available to explore throughout the park.
Pro Tip: Trail hiking in the park is moderate to difficult. Again, plan accordingly.
8. Go Trout Fishing
If you happen to be at Turner Falls in the winter months, trout fishing is available from late November through the middle of March. Check for availability before you go as dates are subject to change. Fishing would be a terrific excuse to grab the grandkids for a weekend and stay in one of the cabins (more on these below). Wintertime camping would be a lot of fun at Turner Falls. For fishing fees, daily catch limits, and permits, see Turner Falls Park’s things to do page and scroll down to the fishing section.
Pro Tip: A valid Oklahoma fishing license is required.
9. Overnight Camping
Whether you stay in a cabin along the edge of Honey Creek or pitch a tent in the primitive camping area on Level 3, there are plenty of options for overnight camping at Turner Falls. There are cabins with amenities to rent that include grills, picnic tables, and fire pits as well as screened-in shelters on the two lower levels. RVs are welcome, too. For a layout of the cabins and what's included inside, see Turner Falls Park’s Cabin page. Camping during the offseason, when it's more relaxed and the colors of fall are out, makes for an excellent opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. Of course, that's my opinion because fall is my favorite time of year for camping.
Pro Tip: Firewood is available for purchase, or you can bring your own.
If you are into zip-lining, there is a course just outside of the park on the same road. It's called 777Zip Zipline. It's a two-person sit-down type zip line. No reservation needed. The last time we were at Turner Falls, we kept seeing people across the park right over us. If we weren't so hot and tired after we left the park, my grandson and I would have done it. So now that's two reasons to go back in the Fall -- camping and zipping!