Turkey Mountain: An easy 3.8 mile looped trail takes you through the hills surrounding urban Tulsa. A quick escape from the hustle and bustle, the trail meanders up to the top of what’s more of a hill and less of a mountain, showing off views of the Arkansas River. Formerly the home of an oil operation, Turkey Mountain shows signs of its history if you look hard enough.
Get Ready: Turkey Mountain is near highway I-44. Turkey Mountain’s name is somewhat deceptive as it is actually a hill. The wilderness area has a few official trails to choose from and many unofficial trails. While the Yellow Trail is only 3.8 miles, there are actually over 20 miles of trails to explore to your heart’s content.
Get Set: From I-44, get off on the Riverside Drive exit. You’ll head west. Turn left onto 71st street and drive over the Arkansas River. You’ll then
turn right onto Elwood. The urban wilderness area will be on your right. There are actually two parking lots. The official lot has a giant turkey statue that you can’t miss. Park here for the trailhead to the yellow trail. Just up the road and at the crest of the hill there is a second gravel lot. This lot leads to many other unofficial trails in the area.
Go: This trail heads right into the trees – it’s a nice wide open trailhead lined by big rocks.
This is the start to both the blue and yellow trail. An easy gradient for the first mile, you’ll head up into the woods and briefly through a grassy “meadow” with views of Downtown Tulsa. You’ll take a steep incline up, for the most taxing part of the trek. A short but difficult scramble up rocks and you’ve made it to the top of Turkey Mountain.
At this point you can either turn right or left to begin the looped portion of this trail. I usually go left to continue into the woods and out again at the top and near the edge of the hill. Here there are several lookout points to take in the Arkansas River. On a good day the river is flowing and blue, on an ok day the river is flowing and brown, and sometimes there’s very little water in the river at all. Even though there are several dams and levees up and down stream, the Arkansas River in Tulsa is a floodplain river, meaning the amount of water you see is dependent on the rain nearby.
Continue walking through tall grassy sections of the trail and surprisingly giant bouldered sections. The trail will head back downhill and curve around. At this point in the trail you’ll head into the woods and stay there for the remainder of the hike, with peeks of the river. A plant upstream has the potential for a brief jaunt through some not-so-pleasant smells but it’s unpredictable. Continue onward until you come back around to the steep ascent you made in the beginning. You’ll head back down to familiar territory to finish the hike off.
Effort: This trail will take a fit hiker 45 minutes to an hour.
A less fit hiker, or someone who wants to meander, might take an hour-and-a-half to two hours to complete. This trail is easy with a couple very short bursts of moderate effort.
Takeaway: This trail is an excellent escape if passing through this part of the country or if you live nearby. It is especially beautiful in the fall. It can be somewhat crowded, but once out in the woods groups tend to spread out at their own pace without too much run-in. The views are very nice, but keep an eye out for the yellow spray paint on the trees. It’s easy to get sidetracked on one of the unofficial trails. Also, quite a few mountain bikers use this trail. Make sure to check the weather – you don’t want to get stuck up here in a rain storm. I have, and the trail quickly becomes a river.