Explore OK {Osage Hills State Park}

Our summer has been kind of on hold. We knew Little One would be having a big surgery this month (her cleft palate repair), so we couldn’t really plan much. Last week, on a bit of a whim, we decided to go on a little Oklahoma vacation. Chris and I have both lived in Oklahoma basically all our lives and yet, there are so many places we’ve never visited. We decided to pick a few spots and just see how they worked out for us.

The week ended up being so much fun – so I thought I’d share some of the places we visited this week on my blog. A little Explore OK series. It is hard to find info online sometimes that is more than a few sentences about a state park. So this is my little way of helping other Okies who are searching for more info before they plan a visit to any of these places. Later this week, I’ll include a list of some of our other favorite places for those of you that are looking to travel around this area. For those that have no interest in visiting OK…well maybe you’ll just enjoy the photos!

Before going off my reviews, there are a few things you should know about us and our ‘standards’:

  • Our ‘standards’ are very low – we enjoy ‘roughing’ it
  • We don’t require much
  • If it has a bathroom and sink it is higher class than our tent so that is awesome to us
  • We like the adventure and journey often even more than the destination
  • We are pretty easy going and appreciate free/cheap
  • We don’t get freaked out over germs/dirt/mud/bugs/etc
  • We like simplicity
  • We’d take a tent with a beautiful view over a 5 star hotel any day
  • We can have a party with PB&Js & water if we’re together

We began our trip by staying at Osage Hills State Park. On the way, we stopped by Barnsdall, OK for a potty break. We took 5 million potty breaks on this trip. It made me a crazy person. I’m all for holding it until you are in pain before stopping on a road trip. That doesn’t work so well with 5 kids unless you want to spend all your time cleaning carseats. I digress. Barnsdall was formerly named Bigheart after an Osage Chief, but it was renamed in 1922 in honor of a local oil refinery owner. We passed the Bigheart sign and I had Chris pull back around..and I got all the kids out of the car for pictures. I don’t mind stopping for pictures.

Then we headed on out to our cabin and did a little swimming.

The pool was super cold from all the recent rains, but the kids had fun nonetheless. I don’t understand the ability kids have to swim in frigid water. There are several trails around the park. We only went on a couple, but all of them were fine for kids. Most were flat with a few rocky areas or low grade inclines.

The picture below is completely blurry. I needed a fast shutter speed. But, I just can’t delete it. Such is the story of my girl…chasing after her brothers in a tutu.

There was a beautiful area with small waterfalls. Older teenagers were swimming a little farther upstream. My kids were content to cross the water with their dad and just play in the mud.

It takes a good man to sing Barbie & the Popstar songs on a rock stage with his daughter.

She wanted nothing to do with the mud, but was okay with watching and touching a bit of water.

Full on mud throwing war ensued.

And then they cleaned up and we headed back to the cabin.

The park was very kid friendly and the cabins set right up next to the woods. The cabins were clean, small and had basic essentials (no tv, no phone). As a family with small children, it was perfect for us. The cabins are meant to sleep 4…so you can imagine how packed in we were. It was still more roomy than our tent and it had a bathroom, so YAY! If Chris and I were going by ourselves or with teens, we’d probably look for another state park that had tougher hiking. Our kids loved staying there…though playing in the mud was probably their most favorite activity during our stay!

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  • Claire - Oh, I am so glad you posted this! I’m in OKC and I’ve been trying to find more information on our parks, especially hiking trails. I’d love to see more of this series!

  • Jaime - I don’t know if I would have been so jonesed about the mud as a kid, but I still love to sit on large flat rocks in the middle of rivers. Michigan has some wonderful state parks- especially in the upper peninsula. It’s so great that these parks seem to be experiencing a revival.

  • Danielle - This is one we really like. I think it is special to me because it was my oldest first hike. I took him when he was around a month old. We like doing the loop around the park. Love seeing someone else enjoying the Oklahoma parks!

  • emmybrown - love everything about this (well, I love every post, I just don’t take the time to say it on every one!) LOVE the disclaimer too….you are hilarious as you tell a story!

  • Tammy Kay - Love this. The pictures are great! And I gotta say,
    “HERE I AM! Being who I want….”
    WE watch A LOT of that movie!

  • ashley jensen - Your little guide this week will be helpful for us! Since I saw your pic on Instagram for the salt plains we plan on taking a trip with our camper, though we are not opposed to rough camping either! We also plan on visiting Little Sahara and taking the 4 wheeler out for that. Oh and our girl is not afraid of getting muddy either. Germophobes we are not.

  • Necole@seriouslysassymama - My mister and I love simple. Especially simple vacations. Give us a porch and a view, and we are content.

  • amber - So fun. I love family vacations, no matter how long or short:). We’re ready, ourselves, for a family get away. Also. Barbie…has inspired many a made up stage in this neck of the woods as well;).

  • leslie - This reminds me of the little vacations we used to take growing up, and I have SO many great memories from trips just like this. I am from fort gibson (down a little southeast from you) and we used to go to Greenleaf State park all the time. If you ever want to try it, it’s a short drive and much like this – small but SO great for the kids. They have little rock cabins to stay in, a great pool, many “nature trails,” a nature center – complete with little deer you can pet, paddle boats, playground, fishing dock, etc. But it’s very small and quaint! We just did simple things (like playing in the mud) and had a campfire for hot dogs and smores outside out cabin. So fun! Thanks for sharing and for reminding me that we need to take our little boy there now that he’s old enough to enjoy it ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Charly - For future reference…Oklahoma Today Magazine usually does a state park issue every so often. You could probably order an older copy if they currently don’t have one. They also did a cabin issue a few years back. I’m sure the information wouldn’t be outdated. Looks like your family had a great time. Love the concert picture. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Betsy - The last comment made me laugh out loud. Just think, your family may get hired as the new face for OK tourism.

  • Jessica P - Barbie songs with Firecracker on a rock stage…Chris is awesome.:)

  • kelleyn - Beautiful! So glad you guys had such a fun time! A family that plays together stay together.

  • RaD - I love this post! I don’t live near Okalahoma but I love fun family outings. Your list cracked me up as that is so our family. Although to the pb & J’s I’d add that I’ll pack food any day over purchasing it, no matter our destination because 1) It’s usually cheaper, 2) It’s usually healthier and 3) we can eat anytime we want instead of having to leave where we are to go find something.

  • stacey - my kids would be SO up in this business! looks like fun!

  • oona - This is just too cute!

  • Heidi Jo the Artist - I girl after my own heart! Love camping (and we are tent campers too!) and all nature has to offer. We like to travel a lot and my mom suggested a few years back instead of leaving the state all the time–to instead explore Iowa more. We set out on a new venture in 2011, during the warmer months to camp at one state park each month in Iowa. It has been amazing! I canโ€™t believe we have camped at 13 of Iowaโ€™s State Parks thus far. Only about 50 more to go, ha ha! Would love to do more camping in other states too. Weโ€™ve surprisingly camped in OK. In 2007 we took a trip out to California and back and camped at Alabaster Caverns State Park on our way back home. It is one of the first times we had ever camped out when only one other camper was in the parkโ€ฆkind of creepy and it was just so windy, but other than that, it was really neat to explore, including the caves there. Looking forward to hearing what other state parks you guys explore. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, and with having young kiddos and traveling and potty breaks, believe me I know. When our two older kids were potty training we would have a potty chair in our vehicle, saved our sanity a wee bit. Plus, for snacks in the vehicle we tend to avoid the salty/dry snacks (until we are at our destination or home) which make the kids drink more water/juice, and we do some kind of fruit or veggie that is easy, but satisfies thirst too. Our favorites are apples, carrots, and grapes.

  • Tracy A - I will never grow tired of watching Little One raise her eyebrows! And the little disclaimer at the bottom made me smile! I hope someone gives you gas money to get to the next park!!

  • Lisa - We’ve lived in NW Oklahoma for about 8 years now and I’m excited to hear about all the places you visited! Looking forward to some new ideas of places to visit!

  • AshleyAnn - Heidi Jo – Alabaster Caverns was one of our stops later in the week! And the advice on avoiding salty foods…why didn’t I think of that?! We do a lot of fruit and veggies, but there is usually something salty being passed around too. Thanks! We were talking about trying to visit all the OK state parks…hmmm

  • phanie - ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THESE PHOTOS!!!!! I AM IN LOVE WITH THEM!!!! what a fantastic family vacation!

    you are the bomb my friend. i love you and i love the inspiration i feel from you with your every post and every photo.

    you are a gem


  • RachelC - I love this OKlahoma series! My fav pictures above: (1) firecracker’s “salute”; and (2) Chris and firecracker singing Barbie pop songs….with full choreography. Awesome.

  • Sandi Leonard - Husband retiring next year and we plan on doing some traveling. Oklahoma is on the list. We live in south Louisiana and are working our way to nearby states.

  • Eva - My favorite parts of this post are the rock stage singing and mud. What a fun time! People like you help me to lighten up and relax. lol.

  • Victoria / Justice Pirate - Such a nice thing to do. Mud fighting is fun. I love getting muddy, as odd as that sounds. I don’t know where to get muddy here though. . .I haven’t been muddy since before I had children and you’d think the opposite. My husband used to laugh at me for jumping in mud and now I never see it, as odd as that is. These are beautiful photos of your family and that is wonderful that your husband is willing to sing a kid song to make your daughter happy.

  • Jenny B. - These posts are so great, Ashley! We live very close to Oklahoma, and could easily take a weekend trip to some of these places (I’ve been reading your posts from newest to oldest, so this one is the last on my list). ๐Ÿ™‚ This one also reminds me that my kids would be SO happy to just go stay in some hotel or cabin and swim. They both are just now (like this week!) learning how to swim, so I’m thinking it is a must-do for this summer. We have no vacations planned, so we need to just do it! ๐Ÿ™‚