One of our favorite places in southeast Oklahoma is Robbers Cave State Park, located just north of Wilburton. It’s one of a handful of parks that has something for everyone, no matter what time of year, and it also has a rather colorful history.
Indian Territory was a wild place in the years between the Civil War and statehood. Indian police and US Marshals struggled to keep the peace. The rugged landscape of eastern Oklahoma offered plenty of shelter for outlaws and fugitives, and perhaps no place could be better than Robbers Cave. The cave was much larger in those days before treasure hunters damaged it, and it’s nearly impossible to find in the thick forest. With it’s proximity to the Texas and California roads, it was a perfect hideout. Although no major treasures have been found in the cave (that we know of), a large stash of stolen wedding bands was discovered some years ago by park staff. I would highly recommend catching one the park’s guided tours; we ran across one by accident, and learned some fascinating history.
Things to do
Hiking is our #1 activity at Robbers Cave. The Sans Bois Mountains offer challenging hikes with great views, and the area around the cave is lots of fun for climbing and scrambling around. The trail to the cave is slightly difficult, but it is short. Our son first made the climb at two years old with a little help. The park also offers trails for longer trips, including overnight backpacking.
Fishing is also good at the park. The park has three small lakes, and the most accessible is Lake Carlton. We have caught plenty of sunfish by the dam and in the spillway, and I lost a big bass in Fourche Maline Creek. From November through mid-March, the creek is also stocked with rainbow trout.
The stables can set you up on a trail ride, and they also have a small petting zoo for the kids. There is also a miniature train ride, which I recommend if you have young children (older kids will find it boring).
We have yet to visit the park during the summer (I went to Boy Scout camp in nearby Talihina, and I can attest that summer in southeast Oklahoma is not pleasant), but there are a lot more things to do: swimming, canoeing, mini-golf, etc.
Robbers Cave has a lodge, cabins, and tent and RV camping. We have only stayed in the lodge, which sits on a cliff overlooking Coon Creek Lake. Not a bad place to wake up and watch the sunrise on the mountains.
Robbers Cave has a lot to offer, so don’t limit yourself to a day trip. Because of it’s proximity to several other interesting places (Lake Wister, Heavener runestone, Clayton Lake, Talimena State Park, Krebs), Robbers Cave is a great hub for any southeast Oklahoma adventure. If you’re going to visit a state park anytime soon, put this place near the top of your list.
One more suggestion: stop by Pete’s Place, an Italian restaurant in Krebs, on your way home. Be prepared for a TON of awesome food, and make sure you bring the ice chest for leftovers.
Robbers Cave State Park: www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.6415
Pete’s Place: www.petes.org/