Getting into a tent means getting close to nature, and in Oklahoma, that natural night out is closer than you think. For expert and beginner campers, a weekend journey can be as easy as tossing a tent and a few supplies in the car and driving for less than two hours.
For those new to camping, staying local means easy transport and easy exit if the weather or the outdoors prove just too much. But even those who are “car camping” — driving up to tent sites — should be well-prepared.
“When families are car-camping, they tend to go bigger with tents because it’s the whole family,” said Ray DeLong, sales manager at Backwoods, 12325 N. May.
“You want a tent you can sleep comfortably in. Get the basics, like a sleeping pad or mat, cooking utensils, a lantern and a head lamp for night and the usuals, like sunscreen, bug spray and a cooler. But if it’s hot, choose synthetic clothing that doesn’t hold sweat.
You can even get insect-repelling clothing now.”
For a weekend of sleeping under the stars in the great outdoors, here are five destinations perfect for a weekend campout.
Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
two and a half hours’ drive time
In addition to having some of the best and most rugged hiking trails as well as free-roaming elk, buffalo and deer, this refuge has plenty of camping and activities for a weekend getaway. The view offers pink-and-gray mountains, fields of yellow daisies and pristine lakes. Campers can pitch a tent at one of 67 campsites at the Doris Campground, located on the banks of Quanah Parker Lake. The campground has 47 sites without electricity, 23 sites with electricity and an additional 20 tent-only campsites.
Pack up your steaks, because all the campsites have a grill and a picnic table. Flush toilets and showers are also available.
At night, quiet hour begins at 10 p.m. Don’t even think about bringing booze. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a dry area, and many a beer lover has had to watch sadly as park rangers poured out can after can of brew.
Lake Murray State Park
two hours’ drive time
If you’re looking for almost limitless camping at a wooden wonderland on oneof the prettiest lakes in Oklahoma, venture south past Ardmore to Lake Murray State Park. Tent camping is plentiful on the 13,000 acres and includes the Field Trial Area, Martin’s Landing, Marietta Landing, Rock Tower, Buzzard’s Roost, Tipp’s Point, Duke’s Forest, Ski Jump Campground and the ATV/motorcycle area.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
one and a half hours’ drive time
Those looking for a more comfortable camping experience can choose from 60 tent sites or 28 RV spots at Tipp’s Point. These campsites feature electricity and water hookups as well as grills and picnic tables.
The Tipp’s Point site is closest to the boat ramps and also serves as the trailhead for the Buckhorn hiking trail.
Lake Murray State Park is among the state’s most crowded and popular parks, so the chance of not finding an available camping spot is high. But no worries; Oklahoma has more outdoor goodness just up the road in Sulphur.
A camping and outdoors paradise, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is overflowing with hiking, swim ming, biking, fishing and boating opportunities. It also has three campgrounds with electric and water hookups in addition to tent-only camping.
There are spring-fed creeks and swimming holes, and the Lake of the Arbuckles lures fishermen from throughout Oklahoma.
The Point campground has 55 tent sites, a shower and bathhouse and 22 campsites with electricity and water. Just southwest of it is the Buckhorn, a camp area with 134 tent sites, showers and 42 hook-up site The third campground, Guy Sandy, is a bit more rugged. Although it offers 40 tent sites, it does not have electricity, comfort stations or showers.
While swimming at Little Niagara swimming hole or hiking woodsy trails to bluffs and hidden springs, be sure to bungee your cooler shut. This camping area is full of furry raccoon thieves well-versed in stealing all your food. A day-trip to Red Rock Canyon for hiking and some of the best rappelling in the state is fun, but staying overnight is a treat.
Red Rock Canyon State Park
one and a half hours’ drive time
Just west of Oklahoma City, it is nestled in the bowl of a red box canyon, surrounded by looming sandstone walls and forest trails. Rappelling is a popular sport at Red Rock Canyon, but families can also fish and swim.
Red Rock Canyon has three RV sites with full amenities as well as 44 tent sites with water and electric. The park offers 26 primitive campsites for the roughing-it crowd.
The area is perfect for large-group camping with bunkhouses and a kitchen available by reservation as well.
Lake Arcadia is close enough to Oklahoma City to reach in under an hour, but far away enough to get a full outdoors experience.
Campers have four parks and over 140 campsites from which to choose, ranging from the soothing sounds of the lake to a quiet, secluded spot in the forest.
twenty minutes’ drive time
The lake, which was closed earlier this summer because of heavy flooding, also has full hook-up campsites with electricity, water and sewage at Central State Park. Along with Central State, Edmond Park offers primitive campsites while regular campsites with electricity and central water are available at the Scissortail Campground.
This local park is popular with families who want boating, fishing, hiking or mountain biking as part of their weekend.