As I write this, there is snow on the ground in Dallas and we are cuddled by a fire in our house for the next couple of days. Do you want to know where I'd rather be? In Broken Bow, Oklahoma.
Living in Dallas, sometimes I miss the trees. Yes, we have trees, but I miss tall trees. I’m an Air Force brat and we lived for a several years within the tall trees of Dayton. I used to get lost for hours in the woods, crossing logs over the creek, catching frogs and turtles.
It seems like everyone prefers beaches or mountains. Me? I prefer trees.
So when I visited Broken Bow, Oklahoma for the first time several years ago, I was very happy. If you’ve been to the Smoky Mountains, it’s kind of like that. The hills and mountains aren't as tall in OK, but it is a family-friendly destination that is big on fun.
[Sidebar: I wrote the above paragraph a few days ago based on my recollection of the area. Later, when I was doing research, I learned that the area is affectionately known as the "Little Smokies" by locals so I am giving myself props for an accurate description.]
For North Texans around the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex and Oklahoma City and Tulsa Oklahomans, Broken Bow offers a charming escape from a big city.
Most people rent a house with one or more families and that’s easy to do around here. Many houses are huge and built for a good time with arcades, billiards and perhaps even a hot tub. And whether you stay in Hochatown or Broken Bow directly, you aren’t far from Beavers Bend State Park where you can kayak, fish, boat or take a hike.
There's also a great petting zoo, miniature golf and lots of other family-friendly activities. There are breweries and fun restaurants when you need a break from the action.
Broken Bow and Hochatown Activities
Beavers Bend State Park
Beavers Bend State Park surrounds the southwestern end of Broken Bow Lake. The Mountain Fork River meanders through the park, providing ample fishing opportunities for Rainbow and German Brown Trout. There are mountains, hardwoods and pine trees that surround the breath-taking park.
Make sure that you get out on the water. Broken Bow Lake has crystal clear water and there are coves surrounding the lake that make for fun exploring or just a great rest stop to take in the view.
Of course, hiking and water activities are the stars, but many also spend half a day golfing at the Cedar Creek Golf Course.
Broken Bow is such a great place to hike. We took daily hikes from our cabin just through the woods surrounding it, not on any official trail. AllTrails has a great list of Broken Bow hikes, most contained within Beavers Bend State Park.
One of the highlights within the park is the David Boren 26-mile hiking trail. This trail is actually comprised of seven smaller trails that can be combined to make the right length and skill level for your group.
Kayaking and Boat Rentals
This area is an outdoor lover's paradise and there are a lot of great places to rent a kayak or boat if you didn't bring your own. If you are planning on kayaking or canoeing on the river, make sure that you check river levels before you go. Some places (like Yippie Kayo) are closed during the winter and open up again in the spring.
Broken Bow Lake is 12 miles long with 180 miles of shoreline. The lake is known for its large mouth bass fishing. Other lake species include: small mouth bass, striper, trout, crappie, perch, and catfish. The Mountain Fork River has Rainbow and German Brown Trout. You can fish on your own or with a guide if you want to improve your chances.
We haven't hired a guide in this area, but we did in East Texas a couple of times and it is money well spent. The guides know where to find the fish and how to best catch them. Often, you can catch your maximum and it will feed you and a large group several meals. The cost often is comparable to what you would pay for that amount of meat plus you gain some skills along the way. Here are some guides that are highly rated:
Huffman's Guide Service (specializing in crappie fishing)
Mountain Fork Outfitters (specializing in trout fishing)
Of course, you don't have to hire a guide and there are plenty of great places to try your luck whether you prefer the sport of fly fishing on the river or fishing from the boat or land at the lake.
Rugaru Adventures has you covered if you are interested in zip lining through the tree canopies. Pre-teens and teens often love this activity and it really is fun for anyone that qualifies by age or weight (check both of those requirements before you go as it matters!).
Broken Bow is not only a great destination for families, but it's great for a girls weekend. Of course, no girls weekend is complete without a trip to a spa. There are a few in the area, but this one has my pick:
Body Harmony Day Spa - I haven't been to a spa in Broken Bow, but I will definitely be booking here the next time that I go. This massage sounds like 90 minutes of awesomeness: you are dripped in shea butter, massaged head to toe and then exfoliated with Dead Sea mud and salt
There are a few gift shops and antique or vintage stores in the area. I'm not a huge shopper and truthfully, none of these particularly appealed to me. Everyone is different though so if you enjoy shopping, here are the more popular places in the area:
Janet's Treasure Shop - this is gift shop. If you are looking for something with Big Foot on it, they've got your covered:)
Broknbo Vintage Market - this store has antiques and vintage items. It does have some cute things in there. You never know what you might find.
Horseback Riding and More
There are several stables in the area and its a beautiful way to see more of the area. I'm always jealous when I see people riding horses through the area. It's making me realize: I really need to book a horseback ride next time.
River Man Trail Rides - River Man has several services. They also have guided fishing and wagon rides and it is located close to the state park.
Beavers Bend Depot and Stables - Within Beavers Bend State Park, there are stables and a small replica train that runs 2 times per hour through the park and even includes a tunnel. The ride usually takes 15-20 minutes.
Hochatown Petting Zoo, Old West Mini Golf and Beaver's Bend Mining Company
I put all three of these places together because they are immediately next to each other and even share the same parking lot. You could easily spend a day here with your kids and have a blast.
We did the petting zoo with our kids and some friends and everyone had a great time. The entrance and interior is an old house that has been converted to a public space. Inside are reptiles, insects and some medium warm-blooded mammals. Outside are turkey, donkeys, a peacock, pigs and some livestock. The staff is extremely friendly and went out of their way to let us interact with the animals. The animals all looked healthy and happy.
Where to Stay
Broken Bow and Hochatown Cabins
Most people rent a large cabin and share among families. You can find places that can host up to 20 guests.
Most cabins are decorated in typical cabin style: wood everywhere. It's not hard to find a place the whole family will love. Many of the cabins have game rooms with pool and shuffleboard, arcade games and you can usually count on an outdoor hot tub and a campfire surrounded by Adirondack chairs. You could easily stay in the cabins for the entire time and no one would be upset.
Our kids and our friends' kids enjoyed building fairy houses out of things they found in the yard. They were even gifted coins by the fairies the next morning!
Whether you need a large cabin for a group, or a small romantic couples getaway, there are lots of options. A word of caution though - Broken Bow is not a secret so make sure you plan at least six months in advance to get the best selection.
Camping near Broken Bow
There are a lot of places to camp with your RV or tent. Beavers Bend State Park has 47 cabins with kitchenettes, 393 RV sites and 50 tent camping sites. Rooms can also be rented at the Lakeview Lodge (note: the lodge is currently closed for renovations through Fall 2022).
Creekside RV Park has spacious, tree-covered sites with full hook-ups and laundry facilities. It is conveniently located to all of the area attractions.
Where to Eat and Drink
Call ahead for the more popular restaurants or go early. Often, many of the restaurants can have waits during peak times (I'm talking to you, Grateful Head Pizza Oven and Taproom). We found this out the hard way.
Grateful Head Pizza and Taproom, Hochatown - this place has a cult following and is a first stop to families that make the Broken Bow area a regular trip
Abendigo's Grill & Patio - fried catfish, shrimp and grits, brisket campfire tacos? This place has a great menu and the mid-range prices are very fair. This is my pick for a nice meal.
Foggy Bottom's Kitchen - this is a chain that around Oklahoma that has locations near some of the more popular state parks. The menu is large and good for families.
There are several breweries in town. Here are a couple of recommendations:
Mountain Fork Brewery - Mountain Fork has a wider range of food: burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, etc. If you have a picky crowd, they are sure to find something yummy here.
There are 4 wineries in the area. You'll find that everything is in close proximity between Hochatown and Broken Bow:
Broken Bow Lake and Mountain Fork River Levels
Being on the water is such an important part of a trip to Broken Bow. Visit the US Army Corps of Engineers site for up-to-date information about current Broken Bow lake levels.
Getting to Broken Bow
Broken Bow and Hochatown, Oklahoma are located in the southeast corner of Oklahoma near the borders with Texas and Arkansas. Most people arrive by car from one of the following cities:
Broken Bow, Oklahoma
3 hours, 20 minutes
3 hours, 10 minutes
3 hours, 40 minutes
When to Go
Broken Bow is really a year-round destination. When the heat of Texas gets to be too much, it's a slight respite up north. In the fall, the changing leave colors are a spectacle to see. In the winter, it's the perfect place to cozy up next to a fire with friends and family in one of the huge multi-family cabins available for rental.
If you enjoyed this, why not share it with a friend and plan a trip together?