In a state like Oklahoma, with very little in the way of deserts, even relatively small sand dunes can be breathtaking. The sand dunes at Little Sahara State Park and Beaver Dunes Park in Oklahoma don’t take up much space. However, they offer loads of excitement for visitors. Even better, entry to the parks has remained very affordable. Off-road enthusiasts can spend all day playing in the sand, or camp out and stay longer. And for those who love wildlife, there is also plenty to see nearby. Let’s learn more about Oklahoma’s two popular locations for sand dunes.
Little Sahara State Park
The top place to find sand dunes in Oklahoma is the Little Sahara State Park. Don’t confuse this park with the Sahara Desert, for which it was named, or the Little Sahara Recreation Area in Utah. The Sahara Desert, in Africa, covers nearly 2.3 billion acres with dunes hundreds of feet high. The Little Sahara Recreation Area in Utah covers about 60,000 acres with one sand dune that reaches 700 feet.
Little Sahara State Park in Waynoka, Oklahoma has only 1,600 acres of sand dunes. The dunes range in height from 25 to 75 feet. That may seem pretty small, but the park draws visitors from all across the state and beyond each year. Some bring their own dune buggy or other ATVs, and others rent vehicles from proprietors near the park. Visitors can enjoy all-day excitement for roughly the same price as a fast food combo.
ATVs Only on the Dunes
Little Sahara State Park does not allow hiking or walking on the sand dunes. Only ATVs can access the dunes, and riders must follow strict safety guidelines. The park does provide an observation deck at one of the campgrounds. From that vantage point, visitors can watch the riders on the sand.
According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, the sand dunes at Little Sahara State Park in Oklahoma developed during the Pleistocene epoch. The sand came from the Cimarron River, which crossed the area at that time.
How to Get to Little Sahara State Park
The sand dunes at Little Sahara State Park in Oklahoma lie south of the small town of Waynoka, on Highway 281. From Tulsa, drive west on Highway 412 roughly 170 miles to Highway 281, then go north, about 10 miles to the park.
From Oklahoma City, drive west on I-40 for about 40 miles, then head north on Highway 281 toward Waynoka. The total distance to the park is roughly 140 miles. If you have an RV or a tent, you can stay right in the park. Little Sahara State Park offers camping with full hookups at a reasonable price.
Other Nearby Attractions
If you plan to visit Little Sahara State Park, you should check out some of the other natural attractions near Waynoka, Oklahoma.
Gloss Mountain State Park stands roughly 25 miles to the southeast of Little Sahara State Park and features a beautiful landscape with towering hills that glitter in the sun. Sometimes called Glass Mountain, the surface contains selenite, a glass-like crystal that shimmers in the light.
You can also find Alabaster Caverns State Park just to the northwest, about a 40-minute drive from Little Sahara State Park. This unique attraction features one of the largest gypsum caves open to the public in the world and the only gypsum show cave in the United States. Nestled in a beautiful, truly breathtaking setting, this park is definitely worth the drive.
Beaver Dunes Park
The second location to find sand dunes in Oklahoma is Beaver Dunes Park. This park, run by the town of Beaver, lies in the eastern part of the Oklahoma panhandle, a few miles south of Liberal, Kansas. Beaver Dunes Park was formerly an Oklahoma State Park, but it was turned over to the town of Beaver in 2011.
Beaver Dunes Park encompasses about 520 acres with 300 acres of sand hills or dunes. Visitors can bring their own ATV or dune buggy to tackle the dunes. The park also offers hiking, camping, and other recreation. Located in a mostly dry area, the small, stocked lake at Beaver Dunes Park offers an oasis to wildlife. Visitors can fish in the lake, enjoy birdwatching, and more. Some of the animals that visitors might see in Beaver Dunes Park include deer, shorebirds, migrating waterfowl, raccoons, and bobcats.
Things to Do Near Beaver Dunes Park
If you just want to ride your ATV on the sand dunes in Beaver, Oklahoma, you can visit the park any time. But if you want to make even more of your trip, try to visit in the spring or fall. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, literally hundreds of thousands of birds, including ducks, geese, pelicans, and more, migrate through the nearby Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge each fall and spring.
And don’t forget to check out the World Championship Cow Chip Throwing Contest. That’s right, Beaver, Oklahoma is the Cow Chip Tossing Capital of the World. And you can be a part of the excitement if you plan your visit right!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Andreas Stroh/iStock via Getty Images
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