Recently renovated welcome sign, Greenleaf State Park. It is only natural that the first state park I should visit on my 42 in 52 project is the one that is geographically close and also my personal favorite, Greenleaf State Park. Greenleaf State Park is located between Braggs, OK and Gore, OK on Highway 10A and is roughly 25 miles from Muskogee, OK. Greenleaf State Park is one of the original 7 state parks in the state of Oklahoma and thanks to its natural beauty, well maintained amenities, and proximity to Tulsa it remains one of the most popular parks in the state.
I will likely visit and review this state park again in the peak season of the year during the summer to truly show the spectacular offerings of this location. This off-season trip is meant to show the winter opportunities for recreation at Greenleaf.
From Tulsa, OK- Follow US-62E/OK-51E/OK-351(BA Expressway). Exit onto US-62E toward Ft. Gibson/Tahlequah. Merge onto US-62E and follow it 2.6 miles. Turn right onto OK-10S toward Braggs, OK/Camp Gruber. Follow OK-10S 15.2 miles, crossing over "Little Greenleaf" lake and the park sign will be on your left.
Image property of Google
Greenleaf State Park was created in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC) and the Work Projects Administration (WPA). Both of these organizations were integral in the creation of many of Oklahoma's State Parks, but that history lesson is best saved for another post. One of the many tell-tale signs of a CCC or WPA park is the rock architecture style shown below.
Cabin #12 at Greenleaf State Park
Greenleaf State Park offers many different options for lodging including an 8 person cabin, 4-person cabins (shown above), RV sites with water, electric, and sewer hook ups, and both traditional tent sites as well as tent sites with electric. Reservation costs for RV sites start at $20/night and tent sites cost $12/night. Tent sites are scattered around the park and offer impressive views of the neighboring 930-acre Greenleaf Lake. During the season, campgrounds are closely monitored by park staff and local law enforcement on Holiday and busy weekends. There are multiple septic-toilet sites on opposite ends of the park and well-maintained showers are available at one of the restroom areas.The park is kept clean and well manicured with very little high grass or other hiding places for ticks in the summer time. During the winter, camp sites are plentiful, but for good reason: Oklahoma winters can be very cold and often produce severe weather. Please exercise caution when camping or backpacking in this park between November and March.
Lake Greenleaf- Lake-side Campsite in 2014 Notice the Nissan Xterra in the foreground of the above picture. There will be several blog posts in the future documenting my journey to rebuild my Nissan to a new level of capability. In the meantime, I am exploring in my plenty capable 2013 Honda Accord V6 Sedan. Don't let the grocery-getter fool you, you can fit 5 adults and 5 backpacking packs in the trunk...I have witnesses!
My 2 expedition vehicles
During the winter months, there is much less to do in and around the park than in the warmer months of the year. However, that is not to say that a person cannot enjoy this beautiful park in the off-season. The park maintains a heated fishing dock that I have never had the opportunity to use, but every fishing story I have heard from the gentlemen leaving the dock has been very positive. A huge draw to the park in the winter is the abundance of cabins that are heated by both modern HVAC and a wood-burning fireplace. Wood is not provided but is available in the park gift shop and in the surrounding woods. The next most used asset of Greenleaf State Park in the winter is the 18-mile hiking trail that meanders around Greenleaf Lake, opposite the campgrounds. A detailed map is available at the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation website and is available on Google Maps. *A word of warning: Cell phone service is extremely limited on the hiking trail, I advise downloading the Google Maps data to your device and not rely on cell signal for navigation.
"Ankle Express" Hiking Trail Map
The "Ankle Express" hiking trail comes by it's name honestly as it is a rocky, sometimes unpredictable trail that is perfect for warming up for a longer and tougher hike or to bring someone green into the hobby of backpacking. Elevation gain over the entire trail is minimal and moderately demanding. I would suggest hikers be in decent shape and consult a doctor before taking on anything more than a day-hike. I have hiked the "Ankle Express" before and I will fully review the backpacking merits of this trail in the later post on Greenleaf State Park.
This trip to Greenleaf State Park had one purpose: to push my new Cannondale Trail 7 mountain bike to it's limits on a bonafide trail. I purchased this 2015 model bike on closeout from my local bike shop (LBS), Paceline Cyclery and I have been very impressed with the bike and the service I received from the owner of Paceline.
Sign-in station for the "Oklahoma Ankle Express" The hiking trail starts in the State Park and offers a sign-in station for hikers and backpackers alike to sign in with their names, car information, and how long they plan to stay in the back-country. The sign-in station also provides the park staff to post notices concerning trail closures, hunting seasons, and pending military operations that might occur on the trail. It is worth noting that Greenleaf State Park is adjacent to the Camp Gruber Military Base. Park staff urges hikers, bikers and backpackers to exercise caution when leaving the trail and to only do so in an emergency as military exercises take place on a regular basis.
Trail 7 in her natural habitat.
The trail winds through the camp ground in a series of gentle single track with some short areas to stretch the bike's speed, but mostly easy riding. I suggest always wearing appropriate safety gear including a helmet. I managed to save my dome on several low hanging branches that I didn't see until it was too late. The trail then approaches the same highway 10A that creates the western border of the state park. Turn left onto the highway and continue across the bridge, the trail will turn to the left once across the bridge.
Trail 7 resting before crossing the Greenleaf Lake bridge, quickly.
Once back on the trail, the terrain immediately gets more interesting with several dips and a couple of creek crossings before running into a decommissioned military road that is a minefield of asphalt. Directly across from the trail is a small side trail that leads to the Greenleaf spillway. The spillway is rarely flowing unless there has been heavy rains and high water. Lucky for me, torrential rains throughout the month of December yielded decent flow over the spillway.
Greenleaf Spillway after a month of rain.
Return back to the asphalt road and turn left to get back to the trail. The trail runs un-interrupted for most of the remainder. Some military roads run alongside the trail in certain sections and are useful as landmarks if an emergency occurs and help is needed. Between the asphalt road and the swinging bridge is the most technical section of trail that runs alongside the lake. Take caution if riding a bicycle as many obstacles can jar your bike from the trail and send you plummeting into the lake.
Moderate trail section on the "Ankle Express".
Cross over the swinging bridge and you will arrive at a T in the trail, turn left and follow the trail along the lake. This section of the trail offers the best mountain bike riding section of this trail and the least dangerous section. Several man-made bridges and downed trees offer excellent obstacles that my new 29-er rolled over without a problem. I did incur some small damage to my new bike that kept me in a limited number of gears, so I turned back and managed to get back to the trail-head without any major problems. I rode a total of around 8 miles round-trip and really enjoyed the trail and getting my bike legs back. The trail is kept in great shape and I only had to move a couple of small downed trees.
All in all, my winter experience at Greenleaf State Park was excellent and this visit only got me more excited for a trip back to this park when the weather warms up. I highly recommend this park to anyone trying to escape for a day hike with beautiful scenery and excellent facilities.
Lake Greenleaf To see all of the images from this trip, please visit the gallery here.
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All comments are welcome and thanks for reading along!