Beavers Bend State Park offers 3,482 acres of lake, trails, forests, and shorelines perfect for every nature lover. There you’ll find every type of outdoorsy entertainment from fishing and kayaking to hiking, paddling, or even boating. In my – maybe slightly biased – opinion, Beavers Bend is home to the most gorgeous scenery in the state. If there was an area in Oklahoma to nominate as the newest national park, this would be it! Located in Hochatown in the far southeast corner of Oklahoma, this state park is one of Oklahoma’s most popular tourist destinations. The area has seen tremendous growth over the last few years; so much so that it was named second fastest-growing Memorial Day destination by Vrbo, a vacation rental company. Innumerable cabins, businesses, and restaurants have opened up their doors to tourists, often coming from neighboring states. What draws these tourists to this rural Oklahoma county? Unbelievable beauty nestled at the foothills of the Kiamichi Mountains: Broken Bow Lake, Mountain Fork River, and their luscious green surroundings.
I have lived in McCurtain County for over a decade now, and I enjoy heading north on weekday afternoons to enjoy our own little slice of paradise without the crowds. Thanks to my proximity to the park, I have gotten to hike many of its trails and explore its hidden beauty. To help you enjoy the best sights Beavers Bend has to offer, I compiled this list of the best views and trails with a local perspective.
Where is Beavers Bend State Park?
Beavers Bend State Park is located in Hochatown, OK in northern McCurtain County. McCurtain is Oklahoma’s most southeastern county which borders Texas to the south and Arkansas to the east. It spreads from the Red River Valley to the gorgeous Kiamichi Mountains.
How to get there?
From Dallas: Take I-30 E to Paris, TX then get on FM-195 until Idabel. From there, you’ll head north on US-259.
From OKC: Take I-40 E then follow the Indian Nation Turnpike S to Antlers, OK. From there, follow Hwy 3 until you reach Broken Bow then turn left onto US-259 N.
From Tulsa: Take the Indian Nation Turnpike S all the way to Antlers, OK then follow Hwy 3 to Broken Bow, OK and turn left onto US-259 N OR you can follow OK-351 to Sallisaw, OK then head south on US-59 all the way to Hochatown. This drive, though very curvy and slightly challenging, is gorgeous in the fall. Fall colors in the Kiamichi Mountains usually peak around the second or third week in November.
From Little Rock: Get on Us-70 W all the way to Broken Bow then turn right onto US-259 N.
If you’re coming in from Texas, make sure to stop by Gasquatch, Southeastern Oklahoma’s mini version of Buc-ee’s. Gasquatch is one of my favorite places to stop and grab breakfast on my way to Beavers Bend. It is located just 10 miles south of Broken Bow on US-259 and provides gas as well as a plethora of snacks, Sasquatch-themed gear, and some delicious homemade fudge. Sit in for a Squatch breakfast complete with the best pancakes in town and a view of the vintage car show located indoors.
When to visit?
My favorite time to visit Beavers Bend is in the fall or spring. Summers in Oklahoma get scorching hot, and the humidity can make hiking miserable. Fall brings on beautiful changing colors while spring offers much better chances to see flowing waterfalls and wildflowers. Winters are usually much quieter, but nature will be sleepier, and you won’t get to experience the luscious beauty of bright green vegetation in Oklahoma.
Regardless of what season you choose to visit Beavers Bend, I highly recommend avoiding weekends and holidays if at all possible. Not only will cabin bookings be difficult to come by and more expensive, traffic on US-259 North will also be backed up during peak hours such as Friday evenings and Sunday mornings. If enjoying a quiet and relaxing retreat in nature is something you have been envisioning, you will be disappointed to see the crowds of people on Broken Bow Lake and Friends Trail during the holiday or weekend.
Where to stay?
If you’re looking to spend a romantic weekend getaway overlooking the mountains or to spoil the kids with a lakeside bunkroom, Hochatown has you covered. Here, you’ll find your dream luxury cabin complete with a stone fireplace, hot tub, game room, and fire pit towering over majestic views of the surrounding lake and pine forests. Check out the following luxury cabin companies for inspiration: Bear Mountain Lodging, Hidden Hills Cabins, Sweetwater Cabins, Rustic Luxe Cabins, or Lakewood Luxury Cabins. Many of these cabin companies can connect you with local business owners who provide mobile wellness services as well as in-house personal chefs.
We stayed at a small cabin called Forest Echo with a couple of friends last fall and loved it. The flowing creek, hot tub, and high ceilings were a winning combination for a relaxing weekend getaway. You can book this exact stay with Beavers Bend Getaways.
Traveling on a budget? No problem! Beavers Bend State Park offers rooms at the Lakeview Lodge with free breakfast, cabins with kitchenettes, and even camp sites for those traveling in a recreational vehicle or pitching a tent to fully experience nature.
How long to stay?
2-3 days is great to hit the highlights, but I would recommend spending at least 4-5 days to get the full Beavers Bend experience. With that being said, you could absolutely spend an entire week in Hochatown and never run out of things to do!
Where to eat?
If you are looking to sit down and enjoy a nice dinner after a full day in the park, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from in Hochatown. Abendigo’s offers by far the most refined and diverse menu. Their chicken Madeira is to die for! Eat in or enjoy the beautiful weather out on the patio. If you’re lucky, there may even be a band playing that evening.
If you’re in the mood for pizza, head to Grateful Head for some delicious food, outdoor seating, and live entertainment. Located right next door is the Blue Rooster which specializes in fried chicken, catfish and other southern delicacies. They, too, offer access to a bar and outdoor seating.
Craving burgers or BBQ? Buffalo Grill is located less than a mile from the first entrance of 259-A. They even have vegetarian options for those with dietary restrictions. They offer outdoor seating and entertainment with corn hole tournaments, concerts, and even yard games.
As a seafood lover, my personal favorite is Shuck Me. This oyster, shrimp, and fish bar offers an array of Cajun specialties. They make some mean lobster bisque, perfect for a post-hike soul-food break.
Wherever you choose to chow down, make sure to call ahead and get reservations, especially during weekends and holidays.
Looking for a quick spot to grab a bite on the go? Check out Tacohoma Tacos, one of the many food trucks scattered along US-259 N. If you want to eat some amazing barbecue without breaking the bank, head to Rock Bottom Boyz BBQ. They have a special every day, and you can’t ever go wrong with their loaded nachos or pulled pork mac n cheese. It has become my new favorite place to eat in Hochatown on a budget.
Wanting something sweet? Hochatown is home to endless options to satisfy your cravings. Stop at Okie Girls for some delicious coffee and ice cream or Stevens Gap for scrumptious homemade desserts. Other notable roadside shops include snow cones, donuts, and Amy’s Macarons.
Where to go?
Wherever you decide to hike, make sure to pay for parking before leaving your vehicle. Parking tickets are issued to all drivers who fail to register their vehicle with the park’s parking service. Signs are present at each parking lot; simply scan the QR code, and you will be directed to the Oklahoma State Park’s parking service page for payment.
Beavers Bend State Park offers over 10 trails for hikers of all levels and interests. Maps of the park and trails are available at the Forest Heritage Center. Here are my top 10 favorite trails and locations in Beavers Bend.
- Thunderbird Waterfall
- Forest Heritage Tree Trail
- Cedar Bluff
- Friends Trail
- Carson Creek Recreational Area
- Cedar Creek Waterfall
- Dyer Mountain
- Cedar Creek Golf Course
- Mountain Fork River
- Presbyterian Falls
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We had heard so many of our local friends talk about this waterfall, but no one had warned us that recent rainfall was indispensable for the water to flow. I have hiked this trail four times: once via Skyline Trail and through Boy Scout Road after that. The first time, we were extremely underwhelmed. From the trail, the waterfall looked like a mere trickle on the rocks. The second time, I was determined to find it and after searching for an hour, I finally found the trail to the bottom of the waterfall. Though seeing its full height from below was impressive, it was unfortunately barely flowing. The following days came a heavy storm, so I decided to head back and see if the waterfall was flowing better. Boy was I glad I did. The trail was damp and slippery in places, but the heavy rainfall had turned the trickle into a gushing wonder.
I will do my very best to provide detailed directions, but the trail may be difficult to find, so make sure to use the Google Maps location above and keep heading toward the pinned location. There are two ways to reach the waterfall:
- If you keep going down the trail past the Cedar Bluff viewpoint, you will find yourself on Skyline Trail. After hiking 2 mi/ 3.2 km down Skyline Trail, you will walk under power lines and cross a dirt road. The trail continues on the other side, and after walking about 900 ft, you will find the waterfall. You will arrive at the waterfall from the top. Remember it may look very small from above, so make sure to follow the downward path on the right. The waterfall empties into Bee Branch Creek. If you are up for it, walk along the water for beautiful views of the forest.
- If you do not want to hike 5 miles round trip to the waterfall, you can reach it via Boy Scout Road. Take the south entrance onto 259A, drive approximately 2 miles until you see a blue thunderbird sign on your right and take the dirt road on the left. This road is a little rough in places and would be best driven with a high-clearance vehicle. Keep driving 1 mile until you notice a trail on the right. There are two small parking spots on the side of the road. From there, follow the same directions as above. Be advised that the trail may be muddy with scattered tree branches on days following severe weather.
LEAVE NO TRACE!The views in Beavers Bend State Park are gorgeous and worth preserving. McCurtain County struggles with a growing littering problem. If you do visit any of the places mentioned in this article, PLEASE leave them cleaner than you found them. Practice the National Park Service’s motto and leave no trace. Even better, bring a plastic bag with you to pick up trash that previous hikers may have left behind. Also be cautious to remain on trail to avoid harming the vegetation and insects that may be living in the forest. Hiking off trail causes soil erosion, which can be devastating to the biodiversity. With that being said, here are a few of my favorite trails and viewpoints in the park.
Forest Heritage Tree Trail
Tree Trail is a great trail to start your visit in Beavers Bend State Park. It’s a short 1.2 mile/ 2km loop trail that takes just 30 minutes to complete. The trail starts at the Forest Heritage Center where you can get a hiking map of Beaver Bend State Park. You’ll go past a large Native American statue, into the densely shaded forest and floodplains of Beaver Creek. The trail is easy to follow with white signage on the trees. There are also signs indicating the many Native American elements you’ll find along the way like this trail-marker tree pictured above. I did some quick research and found trail-marker trees to be quite fascinating. Click here if you’d like to learn more about them. The picture above was taken 5 years ago. Knowing what I know now, I would not recommend sitting on a trail-marker tree as they are unprotected, fragile, and aging remnants of our Native American heritage.
Cedar Bluff trail is one of my favorite trails in Beavers Bend State Park. It is perfect for those who do not have a lot of time in the park but would still like to enjoy its breathtaking views. The trail to Cedar Bluff is a very short 1 mile/ 1.6 km loop trail right off the road on 259A. There is about a 200 ft/ 61 m elevation, so the hike may be short, but the half-mile up to the viewpoint is quite steep. However, I assure you that the views of Mountain Fork River at the top are worth every step. Once you reach the top, make sure to continue on past the first viewpoint to the second, more unobstructed viewpoint. The pictures shown above were taken beyond the safety rail. If you’ve read my blog, you know that I’m a fairly experienced hiker; I know my limits and how to stay safe. If you are not used to hiking on rough, uneven terrain or have a fear of heights, please remain behind the rail at all times.
Friends Trail is the newest trail in the park and quite possibly the most popular. Created in October 2019, Friends Trail is a 1.5 mile loop trail that takes you along the rapids of the upper Mountain Fork River. From the trailhead, you will cross a small creek and head to the right of the trail. After a steep climb in the woods, you will arrive on the edge of Mountain Fork River. The trail follows the River toward the dam before heading back into the woods. I would recommend hiking this trail during midday for best lighting. Because that is also the hottest part of the day, make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, water, and snacks for a quick picnic on the river bank.
Carson Creek Recreational Area
Carson Creek Recreational Area features one of the few boat ramps in the park. It offers a very large, shaded parking lot with picnic tables, fire rings, and bathrooms, making it perfect for camping. It’s also a great place to swim and enjoy the beautiful lake views.
Cedar Creek Waterfall
Cedar Creek Golf Course is one of the most scenic in the state, but the cul-de-sac road that leads to the course hides a beautiful secret. A third of a mile before you reach the course, you will see a dirt road on your left. It is labeled as road 50900 in Google Maps. Park your car in the designated parking lot and head right on the dirt road. About 5 minutes down the trail, you will cross Cedar Creek. Shortly after that, there will be an ATV sign on the right. Turn left and you will hear water flowing into a beautiful tranquil turquoise pool. This lesser known trail is only 0.8 mile/ 1.3 km and takes only 20 minutes to complete.
ATTENTION – DROUGHT!in the summer of 2022, mccurtain county suffered the worst drought ever recorded. as a result of these severe weather conditions, many waterfalls completely dried up including this one. keep an eye on the forecast before your trip to know whether the falls enjoyed any rain in recent days. your chances of seeing water flow will be very low otherwise.
To reach this gorgeous viewpoint overlooking Broken Bow Lake, follow the same directions provided above for Cedar Creek waterfall. Head north on dirt road 50900, but when you get to the ATV sign, stay right. From there, it’s another mile straight up the dirt path to the viewpoint. The climb is quite steep, and the road is washed out in places, so I recommend you wear good hiking shoes to complete this hike. You may also reach this trail with an ATV, but as the wife of a paramedic, it is my duty to remind you that you should always wear a helmet when riding in a recreational vehicle such as a side-by-side or ATV. After admiring the view, hike back down the way you came, totaling about 2.7 miles/ 4.3 km. The time it takes to hike this trail will depend on the speed at which you climb. We took our time and spent about 1 hour, including the time spent enjoying the view.
Cedar Creek Golf Course
If you enjoy playing golf, Cedar Creek has one of the most scenic golf courses I have ever been on. My husband actually coached the Broken Bow High School golf team for two years and practiced on that course daily. It is an 18-hole, par 72 course with Bermuda grass greens, tees and fairways, a putting green, driving range, pro shop, and cart and club rentals. The course is lined with pine trees and partially borders beautiful Broken Bow Lake. Cedar Creek flows through the course as well, attracting lots of deer and other wildlife. It is a tougher course perfect for those who enjoy a challenge or golfing with a view. The course is open 7am-7pm during the summer months and 8am-5pm during the winter months.
Mountain Fork River
One of my very favorite things to do in Beavers Bend State Park is to float the river. We always used Ambush Adventures right off Highway 70 East. We floated later in the season this year and used River Rats right next door. Both companies are great to float with. They both offer 4-mile solo and tandem kayak float trips down Lower Mountain Fork River from March-October depending on weather conditions. Transportation is provided to the drop-off location below the dam for free with kayak rentals or for a $15-20 fee for those bringing their own equipment. Floating can take as long or as little as you’d like.
It will take a little under 3 hours if you let yourself float and don’t stop anywhere, but I highly recommend packing a picnic and stopping for a snack and quick swim on the many rocky formations or swim beaches along the river. Alcohol consumption is strictly prohibited before Presbyterian Falls. If you do bring food and drink with you, please pack all your trash before you leave to help preserve the beauty of our river.
For your safety, do NOT bring your own floatable device without checking first that the US Army Corps of Engineer is not releasing water from the Broken Bow Lake dam, which they typically do late afternoon daily. If the kayak rental companies do not allow float trips, you should not get on the water either. The river is beautiful and floating is a lot of fun, but do not underestimate the current of the river and falls. First responders are sent to the area every year for swift water rescues. Keep them and yourself safe by wearing a life jacket and avoiding high waters.
PRO TIPSplan your float trip during weekdays and avoid sundays when possible. water is released daily from broken bow low, increasing the flow on mountain fork river. sundays are likely to feature much lower water levels as water is not released on sundays. this is fine during rainy seasons, but it can cause you to get stuck quite frequently during dry seasons. to have the best experience on the river, make sure to bring sunscreen and a waterproof phone pouch to safely capture beautiful memories.
Though Presbyterian Falls is technically part of Mountain Fork River, I also like to hike to it when it’s too cold to float. It’s especially gorgeous during the fall when the bald cypress trees that line the shore turn a fiery shade of maroon. Because this is very much a secluded location and out of respect for the locals who live nearby, I won’t give specific directions. It’s actually quite easy to find if you know where to look, but there are no designated parking lots or parking spots to safely leave your car along the road. This area is also extremely prone to littering, so if you do find it, please bring a bag and leave it cleaner than you found it!
I hope you enjoyed this guide as much as I did writing it! Leave a comment below with any additional question or location you’d add to this list!