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Festivals and Float Trips in Oklahoma

There’s more to Oklahoma’s outdoors than most people realize.

From expansive plains to dense forests and mountain peaks, the Sooner State’s landscape can thrill nature lovers in many different ways. With ample opportunity for group activities, the state’s parks, lakes and rivers aren’t to be missed. There’s something out there for every skill level and interest, whether your group prefers a more serene nature experience or an adrenaline-fueled outdoor adventure.

Robbers Cave State Park


In east-central Oklahoma, Robbers Cave State Park encompasses over 8,000 acres, three gorgeous lakes and a whole lot of history. In prior centuries, the park’s namesake cave was once believed to be a hideout for outlaws and Civil War deserters. Today, it’s better known as a destination for a leisurely hike — with a few glimpses into the past along the way.

“Robbers Cave was one of our original seven parks when the Oklahoma State Park system was developed in the ’30s,” said Sterling Zearley, director of Oklahoma State Parks.

Robbers Cave features the handiwork of the Civilian Conservation Corps, who built many of the park’s most popular structures in its early days.

“There’s a rich history there,” Zearley said. “We have a lodge, cabins, hiking trails and a restaurant. There are a lot of historical buildings, like our Nature Center and Gift Shop. It’s a really cool step back in history. You see the craftsmanship that was done back in the ’30s during the Depression, and a lot of these buildings are still here.”

With 18 miles of hiking trails, an equestrian campground, an ATV trail, covered wagon accommodations, and of course, the iconic cave itself, there’s plenty for groups to explore together, whether they visit for a few hours or an entire day.

“It’s a beautiful area in the mountains of Oklahoma,” Zearley said. “There are pine trees and cliffs, and it’s just a unique spot with all the amenities that go with it.”

Travelers visiting in the autumn months should take note of the annual fall festival, which takes place on the third weekend of each October and has been a tradition for over 30 years. For groups looking to stay overnight, the park’s historic Belle Starr View Lodge underwent renovations in 2022 and offers a scenic retreat.

Silver Wind Stables


For folks who are looking to take their outdoor experience beyond the average hike or nature walk, horseback riding is the perfect change of pace. It’s a peaceful way to get outside, connect with fellow group members, and for many, to rediscover a pastime they haven’t tried since they were kids.

Silver Wind Stables in Edmond is an ideal place to ride. This calming ranch is located on 750 serene acres. The stables’ 18 different breeds of horses are well trained and available for trail rides, introductory group lessons and customized special events. Rides and lessons cater to all skill sets, and all trail rides are at a walking pace only, so beginners will feel safe and secure striking out on the trail. Planners who are looking for longer event possibilities that go beyond a quick group ride will find options at The Patch, Silver Wind’s second location.

Kayaking and Canoeing on the Mountain Fork River

Broken Bow

The 98-mile Mountain Fork River is a summer retreat for Oklahoma locals and travelers alike, and the best way to experience it is by canoe or kayak. Tippa Canoe in Broken Bow is a go-to for tours and boating adventures on the water, with one-person and tandem boats available for exploring the river. Broken Bow is a gateway to beautiful Beavers Bend State Park, which part of the river flows through, so it’s a great location to start a boating trip.

Tippa Canoe offers four-mile group trips along the river, with a drop-off at the top of the course and opportunities along the way to pause for a picnic or a quick dip. For extra adventurous groups, the company is in the process of reintroducing a former trip offering that travels down the entire river.

The four-mile course has some slow-paced stretches, but travelers should expect adrenaline, changing waters and laughs along the way.

“It has a combination of some rapids in it and slow parts,” said Daniel Brantley, the company’s owner. According to Brantley, most guests especially enjoy the rapids section of the trip, a stretch of around a quarter of a mile that crosses over a small waterfall.

Brantley stressed that guests should know in advance that they will get wet and that their boat may even turn over — and while that’s part of the fun, it’s a good thing to prepare for ahead of time.

Hanging Rock Camp Float Trips on the Illinois River


For an extra relaxed river experience, travelers can set the canoes and kayaks to the side and opt for a float down the Illinois River on a comfortable raft. The 145-mile tributary flows through the foothills of the iconic Ozark Mountains, and it has the vistas to prove it. As the water winds through scenic bluffs and forests, travelers can unwind while taking in the views, stopping as desired along the way to snap photos, take in the scenery or enjoy a quick picnic.

Groups can start their journey at Hanging Rock Camp, where rafts rentals are available, though canoes are an option as well. Hanging Rock Camp is a destination all its own, with plenty of features worth exploring. With campsites, a volleyball court and an on-site eatery, there are plenty of opportunities to spend some extra time before or after the float trip. The camp offers a wide range of river trip itineraries, so depending on a group’s availability and interest, float trips can range from a few hours to even an overnight journey.

Gathering Place Park


Gathering Place Park, an award-winning mega-park in Tulsa, is a true urban oasis, boasting over 100 activities to enjoy. It was designed with a clear goal in mind: to serve as a healthy, lively space for Tulsans — and visitors from around the world — to spend time outdoors together. It’s the perfect place for groups to unwind after a long day of tourist activities in the heart of the city.

Tulsa’s three-mile Midland Trail, which connects downtown Tulsa to the Arkansas River, passes through the Gathering Place, so some travelers may be interested in visiting both on the same outing. The trail is open to walkers and cyclists who can continue their trek within the park.

Gathering Place’s own winding nature trails are the perfect setting for biking, hiking, horticulture tours of the local plant life, or even scavenger hunts that are regularly prepared by the park. The park’s pond can be explored with free boat rentals. Groups looking to get even more active can take advantage of the sports courts, where they can play basketball or volleyball well into the night thanks to the courts’ evening lighting.

For the most adrenaline-seeking travelers, Gathering Place has a skate park and even BMX tracks, as well as programming centered around these sports for spectators and participants alike. The park also offers three-hour team volunteer blocks for groups who are interested in helping to maintain the park’s plant life.