Review: Turner Falls is a fun place to visit, just over the Oklahoma border on Interstate 35. Given the flatness of North Texas, we’re not exactly known for our waterfalls, so you have to drive to see one. It’s worth the two hour drive from Dallas to explore the falls, explore the castle, and go for a swim. Don’t forget to wander the creek up top, at the source of the falls. There is a lot to do here!
Distance: The park has several trails including Two Mile trail (2 miles!), the half mile Fire Break Trail, and the Honey Creek Trail (1 mile).
Area of Town: Two hours north of the Metroplex up 35, in Davis, Oklahoma
Facilities: There are primitive camping grounds, cabins for rent. There are bathroom facilities, picnic areas, etc.
Suitable for: Hiking, Swimming
Type of Trail: Natural trails, concrete walkways to get to the Falls
Shade: It’s a large park. The falls are not shady, but other parts of the park are, like around the castle.
Where to Park: There is parking near the falls, although you will need to walk to get to them.
Official Website: Turner Falls Official Site
Nearby Trails: Lake Murray, Arbuckle Wilderness
North Texas has a lot of places to get outdoors, with a lot of varied experiences (hiking, biking, kayaking, forests, prairies, lakes), but the one thing we really lack is waterfalls. If you want to see one, you have to drive. Turner Falls is a two hours drive up Interstate 35, and so worth the time it takes to get there!
Located in Davis, Oklahoma in the Arbuckle Mountains, Turner Falls is more than just a waterfall. While the 77 foot waterfall is the main draw, you can also investigate the ‘Rock Castle’ on the premises, there are 3 caves to explore, and of course swim in the natural pool under the falls.
Turner Falls is very impressive! The water flows down from a rocky overhang, down to a swimming pool basin where visitors can wade and cool off. However before you get to the falls, I recommend you visit the scenic overlook first. It really puts the whole falls and surrounding area into perspective, as you look at it from above, and can take in the view of the surrounding area. Turner Falls is located in the Arbuckle Mountains, so take a second to take in the view.
Once you are done looking, you can head down to the Falls. You’ll park, and then have to walk a bit to get to the falls. On your way to the falls, you will pass the ‘Rock Castle’ (see below for more on that). The falls drop into a basin, forming a pool that you can wade and swim in, even getting directly under the falls. The water is cold, so be ready!
As you walk to the falls from the parking area, you’ll pass by a strange structure, the rock castle. Per the sign, it explains:
“Based on Old English Architecture. The Castle was constructed with native stone and materials in the early ’30s by Doctor Ellsworth Collins. He was a professor at Oklahoma University. The buildings served as “The Bar C Ranch” headquarters and for Dr. Collins summer home.”
You can walk up steps to the castle, and it’s worth the effort (a lot of steps). Dr Collins must have been short, because i can’t imagine living in the structure. There are several rooms and exposed passages to wander through. It’s up in the woods, and definitely one of the more unique things I’ve encountered in an outdoor park. Don’t skip it!
Above the Falls
While here, don’t forget to go up to the top of the falls. You can take the road up to the camping areas, where you can access Honey Creek, which feeds the falls. The creek is rocky and the bed is wide, so it’s a fun area to navigate by foot as you jump from rock to rock, heading downstream to the falls. There are some rocky walls here, including at least one cave that we found in this part of the park.
There are a few more caves here, we didn’t find them on our visit, but this link gives a bit more information in case you are curious: