Trail Riding: Choctaw Country on the Hoof

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, October 1993

Trail Riding: Choctaw Country on the Hoof
By Sharon Martin

Few states make a bigger hoopla over their equestrian heritage than Oklahoma, and few places can justify it like the state's southeastern corner, which rises from the plains into gentle hardwood- and pine-blanketed slopes. If you own a horse, your options here unfold before you like a road map--point blindly at one and your finger will probably land within 50 miles of good riding.

The 67-mile Cedar Lake Equestrian Trail, in and around Ouachita National Forest's Winding Stair National Recreation Area, is one of the most extensive systems in the state and ranges in difficulty from easy to intense. One moderate 15.5-mile loop (on trails 1, 1a, and 3) connects Cedar Lake's equestrian campground with the historic home of Peter Conser, the stern half-Choctaw, half-French judge-and-jury of the Choctaw nation until 1907. For expert riders, the 16.5-mile Emerald Vista Route (on trails 5, 5a, and 7) is a must when autumn decks out the hardwoods. The system starts three miles west of U.S. 270 on Holson Valley Road, 15 miles south of Heavener. Campsites cost $4- $12 per night. For maps and reservations, call the Choctaw Ranger District at 918-653-2991.

Robbers Cave State Park, 50 miles west, is famous for the grotto where horse thief Belle Starr holed up during the Civil War, but its 25-mile trail and well-equipped equestrian campground have more modern merits. Riders follow forest roads, pipeline right-of-ways, and creekside paths through pine and oak-hickory forest in the foothills of the Sans Bois Mountains. The park is five miles north of Wilburton on Oklahoma 2. Campsites cost $6-$10 per night. Call the park at 918-465-2565.

Several outfitters organize rides in the Kiamichi Mountains. Wild Horse Trail Camp (918-755-4570), near Honobia, runs three main rides a year from its 85-acre spread. A five-day ride costs $150 per person, including more steak than you've eaten all year. By appointment, rides cost $95 per day per person, with discounts for groups and additional days. Rent a horse from Gene Faust (405-661-3982), an associate of the camp, for $50 per day. Jess and Audrey Johnson (918-456-6031 or 918-569-4761) lead three-day trips in the Kiamichis almost every weekend from their Indian Mounds Campground near Clayton ($155 per person including meals and a horse); their sites are also open to the public for $6 per night.

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