by Travis Owens
Guest Oklahoma Culture Author and Cross Country Runner
I admit it, I am a running junkie. Roads or trails, it really does not matter. But on the trails, out in nature is where I really prefer to be…and one place I love to run is at Greenleaf State Park near Braggs, Oklahoma.
The park has overnight camping, showers, fishing, swimming and a boat ramp for those not into running or hiking the trails. Overnight camping is also allowed on the trails, but you have to carry everything in.
My preferred starting point is the trailhead section of the park. For your safety, do not forget to sign in and out. This part of the trail is really gentle and from this start point, the round trip to the swinging bridge is about 5 miles.
There are some rocky areas and some roots so you need to watch the trail – which can be hard because of the beautiful scenery! If this is as far as you go, do yourself a favor and cross the bridge where you can sit, rest, and see things from a different view.
Across the bridge you can go either left or right, I have always gone left. The next waypoint is Mary’s Cove, about 5.5 miles from the trailhead.
Along this portion you will have some beautiful views of the lake. There are a couple of small streams to cross if there has been much rain, but nothing to worry about. Keep your eyes open for the abundant wildlife. I have seen many deer, coyotes, and a fox among other things.
At Mary’s you have a choice and most will take the cut-over trail on the right; this choice will make for about a 12.5 mile trip. A few will try the entire trail loop and continue on straight into the most difficult and technical part of the trail which spans about 18.3 miles. Either way, from this point on there are good hills and challenging but beautiful terrain.
The cut-over trail is well marked and easy to follow. There are enough roots, rocks and fallen trees to keep it interesting. That is, if the rocky outcroppings, wildlife, trees, and hills are not enough.
Heading across Mary’s for the backside of the trail becomes much more challenging. The trail is not as well marked nor used. You will spend time walking in some areas or trying to find the next trail marker in others, but this is more than compensated for by the sheer beauty and the quiet solitude to be found on this part of the trail.
At about mile point 8.5, you will begin a real roller coaster of a run for approximately 7.5 miles. Around mile 12-13 the cut-over will join back into the trail you are on. This is the only part of the trail where you’ll be going through some larger open fields.
There is one point on the trail you should see a caution sign. Take heed as it gets steep and there is a sharp turn that you really want to make.
Mile 14-15 begins a seemingly relentless ascent of about 230′, followed almost immediately by a descent of the same distance covering .3 miles putting you back at the swinging bridge for the return journey to the trailhead.
Whether running or hiking the trails of Greenleaf be sure to take plenty of fluids for whichever trail loop you are planning to cover. The complete trail can be done in about 4 hours with walk breaks and stopping points to enjoy the scenery.
Be sure to sign out when you return to the trailhead so the rangers do not think there is someone lost or in need of assistance on the trail.
Editor’s Note – Thanks, Travis, for this detailed and intriguing trail guide for the Greenleaf Trails. Wildlife, bridges, streams? You’ve sold me!