Robbers Cave State Park: Hike the San Bois Mountains in Oklahoma

Oklahoma is a beautiful state with a geographical landscape that varies from sweeping plains to low-rising mountains. Robbers Cave State Park is a couple hours south of Tulsa, nestled within the southeast corner of the state in the San Bois Mountains, which are a part of the larger Ouachita Mountain Range. The name of the park was inspired by outlaws, such a Jesse James and Belle Starr, who are said to have used the park cave as a hideout.

Robbers Cave State Park is a great weekend destination for hiking, offering more than 8,200 wooded acres, four lakes, creeks, hills as high as 1500 feet, and bluffs with amazing views overlooking the water. The adjacent wildlife management area offers another nearly 4,000 acres to explore and hunt; this area may be closed to hikers during hunting season, so check with the office prior to your visit. In total, hikers have about 25 miles of trails to enjoy!

Experience lake views from bluffs high above the water. Copyright hiking mojo.

There is no park entrance fee, and there is no charge for day hiking. You may opt to take part in other activities during your trip; check with the office regarding potential fees and seasonal availability for each activity. Robbers Cave State Park offers the following:

  • Fishing
  • Rappelling
  • Swimming beach
  • Boat ramp
  • Canoe rentals
  • Paddle boat rentals
  • Miniature golf
  • Disc golf
  • Volleyball
  • Horseshoes
  • Bikes
  • Golf carts
  • Surreys
  • Swimming pool
  • Playground
  • Showers and restroom facilities
  • Picnic tables
  • Mountain biking
  • Horseback riding: stables, guided rides, party packages, and a petting zoo
  • Hideout cave and cave tours
  • Nature center and exhibits
  • Amphitheater
  • ATV area
  • Small grocery store: ice, firewood, food, drink, and camping supplies
  • Gift shop
  • On-site restaurant

Explore caves and interesting rock formations! Copyright hiking mojo.

The park is off the beaten path and requires quite the drive for most people, so if you can take the extra time to stay overnight – do it! Guests have several choices when it comes to overnight accommodations, including camping, RV sites, cabins, a lake hut, yurts, equestrian campsites, and a lodge. Some of the cabins are pet friendly, and your leashed pet is welcome to explore the trails with you!

Perhaps one of the more exciting overnight options is to camp on the trail at one of four backcountry campsites. Two of the four come more highly recommended: Lost Lake and Rocky Top; the other two, Coon Creek and the Old Quarry are less used and not as well-maintained. There are two sites available at each of the recommended areas, and campfires are allowed; a fire ring should be available and, if not, you may make a fire ring out of stones. Camping in the backcountry requires a $16 per tent camping fee per night and a free permit. The park office is open from 8 AM until 6 PM on weekdays and 8 AM until 8 PM on the weekends, and they only accept cards for payment.

Regardless of your overnight accommodation choice (backcountry, tent, etc.), night hiking is allowed anywhere in the park except for the cave area. The parking lot for the cave closes when the park closes, so be sure not to park there if you plan to hike after hours and don’t plan to stay the night.

Trails

Trail maps are available at the office, and I have located a more detailed trail map online. It’s important to remember that your cell phone may or may not have service during your hike, so it’s always smart to have a handheld copy of the map with you.

Part of the Mountain Trail offers great views of Lake Carlton. Copyright hiking mojo.

Listed below are the details for the main trails. Trail length is approximate and listed for each individual loop; some of the loops overlap.

Main trails west of the highway

  • Robbers Cave Nature Trail: .75-mile loop. A few ups and downs with open views of the mountain range and some cool rock formations and the cave to explore. The trail is indicated by a yellow marker.
  • Cattail Pond Trail: 2.75-mile loop. A moderate hike with some pretty level areas and a few steeper climbs. Connects the Rough Canyon and Mountain Trails. Look for the double blue trail marker.
  • Rough Canyon Trail: 2.85-mile loop. Moderate hike on a rocky trail. Ponds along the trail and waterways when there has been rain. Follow the blue trail maker.
  • Mountain Trail: 4.75 miles one way. Lots of ascending and descending with some rather dramatic inclines. Pathway follows one of the lakes for a bit, and higher up the bluffs look out over the lake. Very wooded for most of the hike. I would say this is one of the more difficult trails in the park. Look for the blue trail marker.
  • Old Quarry Trail: 1.7 miles. This is an offshoot from the Mountain Trail and a less traveled area of the park that is not as well-maintained. Follow the white/orange trail markers.

Discover creeks with vibrant colors, even during the winter. Copyright hiking mojo.

Main trails east of the highway

  • Belle Starr Loop: 2-mile loop. A moderate hike with some ups and downs and cool rock formations. Information from the park office indicates to follow the white trail marker; however, some visitors have noticed that the white marker becomes difficult to follow and appears to turn into purple and/or red markers. The purple marker should lead back to the trailhead.
  • Coon Creek (also called Coon Ridge) Trail: 2-mile loop. Fairly easy walk through the woods. Look for the red trail marker.
  • Multi-use Trail via Wildlife Management Area: Approximately 6.3 miles. Runs mostly north and south and connects the trails on the east side back up and around to the trails on the west side. I have not hiked this trail, so I can only share with you what other hikers have stated. They use this trail to create one large, continuous hiking loop around the park. Users of the trail have indicated that the trail is not maintained as well as the trails within the park and it can be easy to lose your way. Just be sure you are well-prepared and follow the red/blue trail marker.

Whichever trails you choose to hike, you’re sure to experience a good workout and have fun exploring the mountains while taking in some wonderful views! If you need some help getting prepared for your hike, read our blog series on day hikes!

The Mountain Trail provides a good opportunity for some steeper inclines. Copyright hiking mojo.

For more information about Robbers Cave State Park, click here, and be sure to follow them on Facebook for park updates.

Park address: Highway 2 N, Wilburton, OK

Phone: 918-465-2562

Happy exploring!

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