Red Rock Canyon State Park

This weekend, my husband and I took one of our infamous camping trips to Red Rock Canyon State Park in Hinton, Oklahoma. This was the second weekend camping trip we’ve taken in the last month or so, and after having such a good time on both trips, we’ve decided to try to camp in all the state parks in Oklahoma (that offer tent camping)! And since I have no good reason not to, I’ve decided to give a little review of each state park we stay at for anyone who might be interested. After much thought, Jacob and I came up with an intricate scoring system with which to rank each park we visit. It’s called The 5-S’more Scoring System. Similar to the 5-star hotel system we’ve all seen, each state park we visit must meet the following criteria:

5-S’more Scoring System:

-Silence: We don’t want to hear your country music blaring from your 5-mile-to-the-gallon Dooley truck from our campsite.

-Seclusion: We don’t want to see your 5-mile-to-the-gallon Dooley truck 5 feet from our campsite.

-Scenery: There has to be some sort of interesting geological feature in the park, like a lake, canyon, mountain, mesa, etc.

-Stuff to do: We don’t want to just hang out in our tent. Is there a trail to hike? Wildlife to observe? Lakes to swim in? Ducks to hunt?

-Something unique: This is what we call the “wow” factor. This puts your park above every other. Maybe it’s an exotic animal or a weird geological feature like a cavern or geyser. We want to see something truly amazing.

Red Rock Canyon State Park (henceforth known as RRCSP) is about 30 minutes west of El Reno, so it only took about an hour to get there from our house (which was a plus for us since Jacob doesn’t get home till 4). I of course fell asleep on the way there because I really can’t stay awake in warm, moving car. When we arrived, we were met by this adorably 50s sign, which really got me feeling nostalgic for camping–the perfect mood to be in!

Red Rock Canyon is a giant crevice in the middle of nowhere covered in red, sandy rock with creeks, streams, and gorgeous forest. There’s not a lake or big body of water, so this park is primarily for hiking, camping, RV parking, and a biggie: rappelling! (We did not rappel, because you have to bring your own gear; they don’t rent.)

We got there about 5:30 and drove through the entire campsite until we found the perfect spot to pitch the tent. Jacob likes to tease me about how picky I am about campsites, but who really wants to camp next to super-loud Boy Scout troops or smokers or people with loud children who rise at the crack of dawn? You have to be picky; it’s not a choice really.

So we finally pick the perfect campsite that’s near a creek and opposite this gorgeous canyon:

Our view from the campsite

And of course a family with three small children pulled up across from us about 5 minutes after we set up. Oh well.

Our site ($12) had the standard-issue picnic table and a grill, and it also had a concrete slab with a fire ring, which ended up being really irritating because it kept oxygen from getting to the fire, and we couldn’t really tell while sitting down when the fire was going out because the ring was so tall. But it was next to a trickling stream (which Jacob later dubbed “the babbling brook,” probably cause it made him have to pee) and a pretty canyon in the sunset, so we were happy. I think the only downside was that it was close to the road, and someone had gotten married in the park earlier in the day so there was kind of a lot of traffic. Here’s a shot of the campsite:

As you can see, we’ve been using our new Marmot Limelight tent, and we are positively in love with this thing. It’s 3-person tent, and it’s just the perfect size for us. There’s a cool gear stash, pockets, two doors, a rain fly, and about a bajillion other fabulous features. It’s just about the easiest thing to set up. I think our record time is under 5 minutes. It’s got a footprint lining inside, and so it’s extra resistant to stuff scratching the bottom. It’s pretty much the best tent in the world. I challenge you to find a better one.

We had buffalo hot dogs, chips and salsa, and s’mores for dinner, and we had a really good time relaxing and throwing sticks in the fire. The wildlife really turned out in the nighttime. There were two owls exchanging mating calls right above our heads. We never sighted them, but we learned that owls can say much more than just “Who?” In fact, they make sort of a gurgly noise and can change pitches and make rhythm. We turned in at about 9:30, and I read a Stephen King novel until I fell asleep. We’ve also been using our new sleeping bags and thermarest mats, and even though it was probably 40 degrees outside that night, we were both totally warm. When we woke up, we saw that an armadillo (or somesuch creature) decided to eat his way through the bottom of our trash sack, but other than that, we were damage-free.

We decided that morning that we would explore the trails in the park and then have lunch. There were two marked trails: the Horsetail Nature Trail (which was 2/10 of a mile and didn’t sound exciting) and the California Road Nature Trail, which was a little longer and harder. The park ranger told us there were other  So we went to the California Road Nature Trail (difficulty: moderate, because of steep incline), which was a 1/2-mile loop and hiked that in like 2.2 seconds. When we popped out, we found an unmarked trail and decided we’d just follow it and see where it led. The trail was uphill in forest, covered in mud, dust, red rock, and cactus, and it was marked with these tiny little pink ribbons hanging on the trees. We followed them around, but the trail forked off in about 4 different directions, and we were afraid we’d get lost. We finally reached the top of the canyon, and the trail just sort of ended. However, we managed to find a patch of downhill-heading red rock, and we followed that down the canyon until we came off the trail and into a picnic area. I think that’s probably the greatest feature of the park: you can hike pretty much anywhere and not get too terribly lost. The canyon carries noise so well that you can always here people nearby; you never feel totally alone. Of course, I could see that as a potential detriment to someone who’s looking for complete silence and a serene environment. Here’s a shot of one of the large patches of red rock we saw on the trail:

We even made one little friend on our trip:

All in all, Jacob and I had fun. And now for our S’mores scores:

Jacob* gives Red Rock Canyon State Park: 2 S’mores out of 5. “It was pretty but small. Campsites were near main roads, so it wasn’t really very silent.”

Callie gives Red Rock Canyon State Park: 2 S’mores out of 5. I thought the canyon was gorgeous. The hiking was pretty fair, but I could tell the park was really for rappelling. In fact, it’s probably one of the cooler places in Oklahoma for that. It was not silent at all, nor secluded. There was a fair amount to do there, but there wasn’t anything that just wowed the pants off me.

*Jacob thinks the rating system is too “hard and fast.” He likes breathing room. In other words, his rating is not really based on the 5-s’more system.


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