Texas Road Trip: Camping At Turner Falls Park – OKLA
Texas Travel Talk went camping at Turner Falls Park with the Scouts! I looked forward to tent camping for the first time in my adult life, but at the same time, I was a little weary that I wouldn’t like it. I was right – I didn’t, but you might so keep reading!
Turner Falls Park is located in Davis, Oklahoma (in the heart of Chickasaw Country) and is an hour’s drive south of Oklahoma City on I-35 and about 133 miles north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The park sits on Honey Creek in the beautiful Arbuckle Mountains. It’s beautiful out there, and I see why it’s a popular place for people from Texas and the southern part of Oklahoma to go camping.
Turner Falls is Oklahoma’s largest waterfall, standing at 77ft. Turner Falls Park has won “Best Attraction” in Chickasaw Country multiple times—truly an excellent place for the whole family to enjoy a day or weekend camping trip.
My son’s Scout Troop went to the park to pick up trash. The park is relatively clean, and they do like community groups camping out there in exchange for helping keep the park clean.
The beautiful landscape is unforgettable. Likewise, it’s the perfect place to go on a sunny day or even in the fall. The water temperature is cold, and it will always be cold, even in the summer months, because it’s a natural swimming pool, and natural pools are always cold.
What Is The Best Time Of Year To Visit Turner Falls Park?
Turner Falls Park is open every day of the week and is spread out on three levels. Of course, good weather plays a part in the best time to go. Summer is the most crowded and runs through the last day of September. Winter months start October 1 through the end of April. However, I love fall the best. There are summer and winter rates, so be sure to notice the price difference.
If camping at Lake Murray State Park, you may want to take a day trip to see the falls. It’s a short drive and will completely get rid of boredom should you have youngsters who get bored quickly. Also, a trip to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area and Chickasaw Cultural Center would be fun. I hear the 77ft waterfall run continuously despite no rain, but I’m not sure how much or how fast.
Camping At Turner Falls Park
There is so much to do at Turner Falls Park. From swimming (when it’s warm), camping, hiking, picnicking, birding, nature walking, and cave sightings to ziplining and fried pies afterward. This is a true family experience when visiting the park. Be sure to see the tips at the bottom for camping at Turner Falls. But I’ll give you my number one tip right now – reserve your campsite early and online. Spring, summer & fall are busy out there.
There are many cabins to choose from. I even saw new cabins, and they were in great locations. I believe they were on Level 3. There are also a few screened-in cabins. Our Boy Scout Troop 931 painted these cabins as a project. They are really proud of them.
You’ll find bunkhouses and lots of tent sites (that’s where we were) along the river and RV sites (RV hookup permits are required to reserve).
If you’re daring, there are backcountry campsites on Level 3. The campsites where we stayed were shady, and you’ll want that in the summertime. The only thing about where we stayed was that the bathhouse was far away. Everyone in our group didn’t mind the hike, but I drove my car every time.
October is the ideal time to camp at Turner Falls – even November.
If you have the whole family out, you may want to reserve a pavilion.
We also have a list of Texas river camping spots, just in case you came here my mistake!
Tips When Camping At Turner Falls Park
- No pets are allowed in the park.
- No glass bottles are allowed in the park.
- You can not swim under the 77-foot waterfall (like many years ago).
- Life jackets or flotation devices are required for all children under 12. But I saw so many not wearing anything.
- Bring your own linens and towels if renting a cabin.
- A store in the park sells ice cream, beer, snacks, and more. CASH ONLY.
- There are quiet hours in the park.
- No walking around the park with alcohol. You are allowed at campsites and picnic areas.
- Swimming is allowed year-round, but NOT AFTER DARK.
- Use the footbridges as low water crossings are slick and dangerous. This happened to me last time I was there – I almost slipped, which was scary.
- Showers & restrooms are nearby, but none are in the cabins. Not even in the new cabins.
Where To Park At Turner Falls Park
Parking is all over the park, and the costs are different prices depending on which Level you park on.
- Level 1 parking permits are $20 for the day, and it is close to the Blue Hole swimming area.
- Level 2 parking permits are $10 per day, close to all the amenities above and below and close to the hiking trails, caves, concessions, and the Waterfall area.
- Level 3 parking is free parking, but it’s far from everything. You will walk a lot if you park here.
However, a bus picks people up from that area (Level 3) and brings them down to both levels. But still, the lines are long to ride the bus, especially during peak times (summer).
Things To Do At Turner Falls Park
Besides viewing and swimming near the stunning waterfall, there are more fun things to do in the park. From hiking and biking trails to bird watching and camping, there is never a dull moment at the park. Hope for heavy rain before you go because the water level and the waterfall depend on it.
Swim In The Blue Hole
Besides playing in the water near the 77-foot waterfall, the main swimming area called the Blue Hole, has sandy beaches, a slide, and a diving board. The blue hole pool is where kids probably spend most of their time. You can definitely swim in the water in the months of September and October. I might not, but kids surely will.
Pro Tip: Bring water shoes.
Hike Turner Falls Park
There is a 3.5-mile hiking trail in the park. It’s a moderate hike. Grab a good pair of hiking boots or shoes and enjoy the walk. The Boy Scouts picked up trash for the park in exchange for free camping. They hiked down by the water and ended by the caves. The scouts were tired after that!
Caves At Turner Falls Park
There are a total of three natural caves at Turner Falls Park. I suggest if you and your family want to explore the caves, wear good shoes and know that it is a moderate to challenging climb down to them. Kids can do it with no problem. If you have bad knees, as I do, climbing down the stairs or rocks to get to the caves will be challenging. If you can’t make it down to the caves, there is an area where you can stand and look down at one of the caves, and you’ll also see the water. It’s the cave in the photo above. This cave has two entrances. The one on the other side is easier to get inside.
Did you know you can take cave tours in Texas? Sure is – these caves are all over the state of Texas.
Climb To Rock Castle
After climbing the steep stairs to the castles, you can go inside and look around. The rock formations that make up the castles are incredible.
Winter Trout Fishing
From October 1 through April 30, trout fishing is available. Everyone who will be fishing has to have a valid Oklahoma Fishing License.
Cost: Trout Fishing Permits at this writing are $15 + tax, including park admission. See more info on the website.
Picnicking at Turner Falls Park is what many do – especially on a day trip to the park. It’s so pretty, and there’s not a bad place for a picnic in the park. Get there early for a picnic table with shade. Most spots, if not all, have a grill. However, this time, I saw plenty of new picnic tables. They may not be in the shade, but I think there is plenty to go around for everyone – and they are in great locations by the water.
The food at the park is costly. Next time we go, I’ll bring a rolling ice chest full of food. I stopped counting the rolling ice chests I saw. It’s definitely the way to go when camping at the park or even coming for the day.
Horse And Carriage Rides
I saw this carriage go by and was told you can rent one to take you around the park. How cool is that!
Things To Do Near Turner Falls Park, Oklahoma
Turning left or right as you leave the park will lead you to these awesome attractions.
Arbuckle Mountain Fried Pies
Just around the corner from the park is the famous Arbuckle Fried. Expect long lines here. You can buy the pies ready to eat or pay less and buy them frozen to take home.
Once you leave Turn Falls Park, turn to your left (going right is back to Texas) and follow the signs to Arbuckle Mountain fried pies. They are delicious and a very popular place for locals and visitors alike.
Turner Falls 777 Zipline
Outside the park (no relation to the park) is a zip line course. 777 Zipline is a 2-seater sit-down type of zipline, so it’s not scary if you’ve ever been ziplining before and thought it was difficult.
I can’t say this any better, so I’m quoting from the website. This is how they got their name – 777 Zipline –
Zip 717 feet off Hwy. 77 viewing the 77-foot Turner Falls in about 77 seconds!
Same exit as Turner Falls – Exit 51 off I-35.
Open Thursday-Monday (closed Tues/Weds).
Tickets: $30 for two riders ($25 if paying with cash)
Cross Bar Ranch
How about some off-roading? Head to the off-road park at Cross Bar Ranch, very close to the park’s exit (Exit 47) off Exit 55.
Check it out if camping at Turner Falls Park is for you and your family.
If you’re a devoted traveler of the Texas Hill Country but are looking for somewhere else to go for beautiful scenery, clear water, gorgeous waterfalls, wildlife & nature, consider camping at Turner Falls Park in Oklahoma instead. And if you’re brave, you can crawl into the caves …like I did not!!