CLICK HERE for full video on this location including camping accommodations and dig site information
Finding a campground which also offers unique activities is something I truly enjoy. While many might have hiking or lake activities, finding something which is a bit outside of the box is a little more of a rare find, especially in certain areas of the country. Living next to Oklahoma and exploring it most of my life, I always thought that Oklahoma’s camping was just an extension of Texas, very similar in nature, climate and vegetation. That was until I discovered the Great Salt Plains State Park in northern Oklahoma.
Removed from much of popular civilization the campground is pretty well off the beaten path. Neighboring the small community of Jet, you will drive for miles and miles seeing only farmland with an occasional silo marking a town in this section of Oklahoma. Then out of nowhere the farms transition into a white glaze which is unmatched by the lands around. It almost looks as though snow is laying in the distance, but snow it is not…. It is salt!
Pulling into the Great Salt Plains State Park there are a variety of options for accommodation you will want to explore. Offering cabins at a reasonable$99 a night, unimproved camping for$14 and RV camping from$22-$25 per night the price point is right on target for most campers. But one thing to note is that the campgrounds themselves are not directly on the Salt Plains, instead these are located closely to the waterways of the location, giving a much cooler and more shaded place to enjoy your time away from home.
With a variety of camping options also comes a variety of vantage points, with some campsites in the more improved locations highlighting the shoreline of the Arkansas River while others overlook the lake from beyond the spillway. I was very pleased with the views available and the variety of options for anglers, boaters and campers alike. This did not feel strictly like a lake campground like so many of the camps do in this region.
The office of the grounds does close rather early at 4 p.m. so it made catching staff a bit harder as there didn’t seem to be anyone actively patrolling the park, with the exception of the dig site for the salt plains…(yes, I said dig site… but we will get to that in a moment). With that being said and also limited cell service, you really need to make sure you are prepared before coming to this remote location.
Of the many camping loops, the one closest to the campground office seemed the least interesting to me personally. There was limited tree coverage, spaces were closely packed together and the restroom was only a port a potty, which in the Oklahoma sun can become a little less than desirable to visit. This portion of the park seemed to be designed mostly for RVs.
Another one which slightly was confusing to me was the official primitive site campground. There is a small community of homes which border the lake on this side and a small stretch of campground separates the homes from the shoreline itself. This seemed a bit uncomfortable for me camping solo to be basically right in someones backyard. This site had beautiful tall trees, great site spacing and the view was amazing so it was a bit unfortunate that this site was so close to everyone’s backyard.
The most appealing sites to me were those along the river which had amazing views and some of the most improved restrooms at the park. These were capable of accommodating both tents and RVs and had connections and amenities which would far surpass other campsites. Here you could find running water, flush toilets and showers in addition to a playground for the kiddos, fish cleaning stations and trash services. A small outdoor chapel/ampitheater was available in this area as well which would be ideal for a group camp.
Sites in this area are the highest of the park ranging between $22 and$25 but they are equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, grills, lantern hooks and easy to pull in and out areas. You can literally walk to the water and be in the river playing or fishing in seconds from any site in this location.
But now to the points of interest of this park…. The Salt Plains!
The unique ecosystem of this area is one to come out and see. There are several observation points in which you can view the birds and other wildlife which call this area home. But one of the things which makes it differ so much from other habitats are the Selenite crystals which can be found as a result of the salt and water table in this area. Birds are drawn to these and often you will find small nests housing eggs lined in crystals. It is unique to say the least.
But if you are not a bird watcher, there is still something for you…. Digging for Crystals! Yep, you can get hands on and dig into the plains around 2 feet down and find that the water will start flooding into the hole you created. From here you simply need to splash water along the sides of your new dig and expose your jewels to take harvest. Sound to good to be true? Well it is not! It really is that easy!!
And unlike the locations across the country which tell you to not take the sands, dirt, rocks or formations with you, you can take everything you find home with you!!
It is a great activity which can leave you busy for minutes, hours or even days and something which is fun for the entire family. On my trip we started early on an August morning and dug for approximately 3 hours. We brought our own sifters, a few jugs of water for cleaning off our finds and a shovel which seemed to be all we needed to find more than our fair share of crystals.
Crystals come in many shapes and sizes but the most coveted are large clusters or hourglass crystals. The crystals are mineral rich and appear to have a chocolate brown to redish tone based on the contents found in the soil which create them. And the unique thing about them and why we are allowed to take what we find home, is they are constantly regenerating.
Dig site is closed from October to April for migration of wildlife so you will want to plan a trip during the peak months to assure you will be able to dig. Don’t worry about crowds it isn’t terrible even on the most busy of days and there are plenty of crystals to be found.
- Come early if you need park assistance. Offices close at 4 p.m. however you can check into sites through the honor box system.
- Make sure to cruise Highway 11 when in the area and check out the Artesian Well which offers motorists a cool drink of water along the way which is fresh and delicious. Bring your jugs and fill them up if you would like.
- Cabin rentals must be booked in advance as there are limited numbers available.
For this trip knowing that the shade would be limited on the Great Salt Plains I made sure to pack the Banner& Oak Scout Hat in Charcoal Grey. This hat is designed as a summer hat with a snapback and breathable meshing to allow heat to escape and wind to come through.
I wanted something which would provide a bit more shade for my face than simply wearing a bandana to pull my hair back and this was a great fit for doing just that.
The hat itself is easy to size and while it is a men’s hat it easily could be sized down to fit my head and still feel comfortable yet secure. It did not appear bunched in the back like some men’s hats can when worn by women, I personally have a relatively small head so this is a huge deal to me.
The charcoal color did not attract as much heat as I thought it might and I felt comfortable even being out for 3 hours diggings and 2 hours exploring the day before.
The design of the hat is a must for anyone who, like myself, loves tent camping as the patch is a tent with a unique design and a great way to express yourself even in the most simplistic of ways.
I think a lot of people neglect to realize that they can wear a basic camping or exploring outfit and then completely change the vibe with the addition of the right hat. From the design and color to the way you wear your hat, all of these things are expressive of your own unique personality. I will definitely be adding this hat to my stack of hats I take on lengthy road trips, it has great feel to it, the brim was shaped well and mesh back makes it perfect for warm to hot climates.
- Don’t be afraid to explore different styles from Banner& Oak. There are several styles which are available to both men and women which can be great for taking your camping look to the next level.
- Never forget a hat, this is not only fashion but function as it provides a shade for your face and also can greatly aid in your internal temperature control. During winter months especially this is important as you lost the vast majority of your body heat through your head.
There was several things of interest if you like geology. RV sites were easy to get into. Quiet place to stop. Only complaint is the showers require quarters to operate (they don’t charge for day use) was the answer we were given when we asked about it.
This state park is really cool. There is a huge salt plain where you can dig for crystals. Bring your own shovel and start digging. After a foot or two the hole will begin to fill with water. You then use the water to wash away the dirt and reveal the crystals. They are very easy to find. It’s a great activity for kids. But there is no shade and it can get hot and windy so bring water and sunscreen. Crystal digging is only available from April 1 to October 15 due to the area being a migration stop for whooping cranes. We haven’t camped here but there are 6 cabins, 63 RV sites and 78 tent sites. There is also a lake at the park. Well worth the trip.
This area of Oklahoma is very unique to the rest of the state other than the far western panhandle. Mesas rise up above the land and provide some great scenery. It feels like New Mexico if it weren’t for the red dirt. This park is basically just a stop on the side of the road. There is a primitive bathroom and a vending machine and that’s about it. The hike up the mountain is pretty steep but it’s mostly all stairs. It probably takes 5-10 minutes. The top of the Mesa has some great scenery and picture ops. It gets pretty hot here so bring some water. I probably wouldn’t recommend taking a trip just to Gloss Mountain but if you’re in the area it’s worth it.
We really enjoyed the cave tour. A very knowledgeable guide took us through the cave and showed us all the cave features. The cave tour is a great idea in the heat of the summer since it’s nice and cool down there. We hiked a couple of the trails. There were some strenuous parts but the scenery is worth it. The RV sites looked nice but I don’t think I’d want to tent camp here. The tent camping site is on a slope and there doesn’t really seem to be a good place to pitch a tent. Great for a day trip though.
The Great Salt Plains is great place to go for an adventure. You could spend hours just digging up the crystals on the salt plains. I would absolutely recommend everyone to spend the weekend here just relaxing and having a ton of fun. The RV Camp sites were very clean and the cleaning staff that were there when we went were very friendly.
this is a corps of engineers campground if you have a senior America passport you can camp for half price same as all national parks. nice sites some back up to the lake and you have a view. big cottonwood trees line the lake. 50 amp and water hookups no sewer. very busy so need to reserve for weekends.
Need better bathrooms and camping spaces are way to close together.
Stayed in campsite 27. Nice site with afternoon shade, covered picnic table and cook area. Backs up to the woods. 2 negatives-poor cell phone reception and no dump station in this campground. You have to go across the dam to use dump station.
The campgrounds at Boiling Springs State Park are small and the majority are RV sites. There are GIANT mosquitos in the late spring and summer and they are in swarms. The park is not as well taken care of as it used to be. Small trails are near by and there are plenty of deer and raccoons to see. Lots of trees on the outer campsites in the Whitetail Campground.
What a great place to camp in Oklahoma! The campground was well maintained, the bathrooms were spotless, and the variety of trails was endless. I stayed here just for the night and a short hike the next morning before continuing to Colorado, and if I had not been on a tight schedule I would have stayed longer! They have several options for camping including group sites, RV hookups, and cabins, playgrounds for the kids, a pool with concessions, and lots of hiking and biking options. The rangers were very friendly and informative, giving me lots of great information, not just about this park, but all Oklahoma State Parks. They were very dog friendly and mine enjoyed the stay as well, with lots of things to sniff and see. Dogs are allowed on all trails and inside most buildings as long as they are on a 10 foot leash.
11 sites. So be sure to reserve a spot if you need to stay for the night. We were traveling through to CO and stopped for 2 nights. Electric boxes are newer and water pressure was good. Dump station available. The second day we took the cave tour. Thought we were going to have a tour to ourselves. Instead we dealt with others. Some who were a bit snippy about the van (vs. Tram) ride back. I enjoyed the cave very much. Beautiful displays of gypsum looking sleek as glass. No pictures allowed in the caverns. No smoking, vaping, food or bottled water either. Wear decent shoes due to slick, muddy spots and a jacket. It gets a bit chilly inside.
The campground was underused when I camped there, with electric, water and typical amenities including a great hot shower, I’d go out of my way to camp here again. The GPS map had the checkin at the w4ong end of the Park, but otherwise I had no problems. I got one of many open spaces with a view of Steed Lake and plenary of room for any size RV. Fires were allowed which is a prime requirement when I camp. There was a wild storm the night I arrived, making for an indescribly sublime sunrise. Don’t miss this campground.
Great historic hot springs park with some hiking, swimming, and wildlife, plus lots of other parks and things to do close by. We came here for a birding festival and saw many new birds. The pools are a good mix of historic construction and modern safety and amenities. Really beautiful.
Yay: nice and shady, large sites, love the springs, great ranger office.
Nay: can be crowded. Bugs. Trains nearby.
Surprise: I’ve been to a lot of springs and this one was especially nice. Lots of great trails to explore too.
Not much shade,but the view is spectacular
We were looking for a park that had plenty of amenities for the whole family to enjoy. Typically, our camping/hiking trips are just for my wife and dogs with intentions of long rigorous hikes. However, this weekend we needed a place to take an inexperienced party.
Besides having to navigate around bridge construction on highway 38, this was an excellent trip. We started the day by heading straight to the visitors center, nature trail, and auto tour.
The nature trail was perfect for my 3-year-old niece to walk. Occasional benches, mowed and manicured paths, and designated lookouts were excellent for everyone in our party. The auto tour was literally a one way driveable trail through the park flanked with scenic views making nature accessible for those unable walk long distances or rough terrain.
Next we drove to the salenite crystal digging areas. There are designated sections of the park where patrons can dig for salt crystals. There is no charge, and the scenery is like nothing else in Oklahoma. Bring a shovel, dig about a foot down and sift through the sand to find crystals of different shapes and size. Note, your car will likely get salty, so make sure to wash it off quickly afterward to avoid any erosion.
We camped near the spillway on the south side of the lake. The spillway offered a really cool view and has stairs that lead right to the waters edge. Campsites were tidy, mowed, and well maintained.
Definitely take a cave tour while visiting, but also explore the other trails in the park through the canyon. There are a few different camping locations, we stayed farthest from the visitor center and hiking trails. You can walk to the caves from any of the campgrounds. No shade at the sites but very pretty. Simple sites. Clean, quiet, peaceful. Next time we will do the cave camping option where you get to say inside the cave!
My boyfriend took me here for valentines day, and it blew me away. Most people rent dune buggies or bring their jeeps to enjoy the dunes, but we just camped and roamed the dunes by ourselves. It's such a unique park - you don't get to walk around miles of sandunes every day! The amenities were fine, the stars were amazing, and it was a nice quiet evening. Make sure you go into town for dinner - the German restaurant is the BEST.
Went here spontaneously after recommendation from someone in a diner. Beautiful caverns, definitely do the tours and dress for cool temps, slippery rocks. Awesome bats when we visited years ago, maybe not anymore due to white nose disease :( Lovely trees and canyon. Campground is small but sites are very nice and clean. Rangers were especially nice with lots of geology/nature info in the office.
I took my little cousins here and they had a blast. It was really cool when you go to go in the caves. The caves are really slippery so I should have wore my hiking boots instead to sandals. The tour was amazing and was only 10 dollars. There are campsite though we did not camp here. The restrooms were really clean and I would definitely recommend coming here
This is a really great park in Major County, Oklahoma. Very close to other natural sites like, Little Sahara and the Gloss (Glass) Mountains. We prefer tent camping in the canyon area, but be forewarned that it can be cold at night. The tour is enjoyable, and 3 species of bat can be seen frequently. All and all a great little park.