Greenleaf State Park, Oklahoma
The Greenleaf Trail is a very pleasant surprise. Mostly traversing the hills rising out of the east side of Greenleaf Lake, this 17 mile loop trail provides a taste of the rugged terrain of the Ozark flank and some excursion into small patches of xeric sandstone prairie. It was also teaming with wildlife each time I was there in winter 2011. On my main hike I saw 12 armadillos and 4 wild turkeys. And those turkeys were big; chest high if they stood up straight!
The Map: The map is true 1:24,000 scale based on the USGS 7.5 minute quadrangles. The free downloadable image is accessed by clicking the map on the right. Alternatively, it is available on 11x17 Rite in the Rain weatherproof paper for $5 at Backwoods in Tulsa or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org ($5 per map plus S&H).
The trail was tracked with a GPS in February 2011 and is shown in red. The named waypoints are shown with the larger maroon squares and the mile markers and other points of interest with small maroon squares. Some of the roads are based on aerial photos and Google Earth imagery.
GPS File: Right click this link to download the track in a gpx format. Save it to you computer and use your GPS software to load it to your GPS. There are 933 track points so if it exceeds your saved track capacity, you will need to break up into more digestible bites.
Google Earth Track: Right click this link to download the track in the Google Earth kml format and trace the route in interactive 3D. Save it to your computer and open it with Google Earth.
The Hike: The official trailhead is located in the park, just off the road to the docks. Enter the park off Highway 10. At the top of the hill there is a guard station which is unmanned in the off season. To the right (north) is the park office where you can check in. Keep going straight at the guard station, wind down the hill and there is a big sign on the right announcing the trailhead (GL-01, mile 0.0).
The trail is marked with a blue blaze and each miles is marked with a white sign that on close inspection also has the UTM coordinates etched on them. The mile markers are not always accurate. For example, mile zero is at the trailhead and mile 1 is 1.8 miles away. To avoid confusion, I differentiate between mile markers and GPS miles in the narrative.
The trail leaves the trailhead and heads south through the hardwood forest. You are still in the main part of the park so you will see the park road to you left. In just a few hundred feet you will pass the back side of the 17 mile marker. At mile 0.3 you will pass under a little hut like structure and see a cabin on the lake at the end of the park road. In another few hundred feet you will be even with the earthen dam and the trail will start to follow a forest road. Not for long, however. Watch for the blue blazes leaving down hill to the left. After following the lake shore for 0.2 mile, the trail crosses the forest road and goes back into the wood. It will cross the road again in less than 0.1 miles. After crossing under a power line the trail will pass through the woods and come out on Highway 10. Turn left and walk across the Highway 10 bridge. On the other side the trail leaves the highway and heads east on a broad trail to the Alternate Trailhead.
The Alternate Trailhead is accessed by a road off of Highway 10. Though most of it is tarmac, it is no longer maintained and is highly potholed. I have seen regular cars navigate it, but cars with very low clearance might not make it. There are some pull-outs at the bottom of the hill for parking.
The trail from Highway 10 comes in just below (west) of the first and largest pull out. There is a low cable at the turnout that looks like the entrance to the trail. It is not the trail. The trail follows the road uphill for about 100 feet (above the pull out) and then turns left into the woods. There are blue blazes on the tarmac.
This next section follows an arm of the lake heading for the swinging bridge. It passes mile marker 1 about 1.8 miles from the zero mile marker at the main trailhead and then a small bluff with an overhang the might be a good shelter for a surprise thunderstorm. You will pass a cedar groves and get some nice views of the lake.
The swinging bridge (video) is at GPS mile 2.5 and mile 1.7 according to the mile markers (GL-03). It is a pedestrian cable suspension bridge that is safe and easy to cross. It is hard to tell from the map but the gray forest road shown on both sides of the bridge does not cross the lake. When you reach the other side, there is a forest road that leads straight ahead and then bends out of sight to the left. The dirt and gravel road, though well maintained is not open to the public. If you are following the clockwise loop and the sequence of the mile markers, turn left as soon as you get off the bridge and follow the blue blazes. If you are taking the counter-clockwise loop, turn right as soon as you get off the bridge and follow the blue blazes. Do not follow the road.
Following the clockwise loop, the trail is relatively flat for the first mile or so. Just past mile marker 2 (GPS mile 2.8), the trail crosses the forest road, heads up a little hill, crosses an intermittent stream and cross the forest road again. Soon you will be contouring on a wooded hillside with occasional views of the lake. Just before going around a small inlet on the lake is mile marker 3 (GPS mile 3.7).
Over the next mile, you will be crossing a micro xeric sandstone prairie ecosystem. The first thing to notice is are the abundant red cedars and then you will see the prairie grasses and yucca. Next you might observe outcrops of sandstone on the forest floor. You might also notice the gentle topographic slope towards the lake is controlled by the dip slope of the sandstone. What is happening is there is very competent bedding plane of the Bloyd-Hale Formation that is holding up the forest floor. It is resistant to erosion so the soil horizon is thin to non existent. The thin soil horizon means there is little capacity to hold ground water and no ground water pushes the ecosystem from the typical Ozark hardwood forest to a dry land prairie that is favored by red cedar and grasses.
Just past mile marker 4 (GPS mile 4.7) the trail climbs a small bluff overlooking the lake. Then it is back to fairly level ground and alternating combinations of hard wood forest and cedar. The trail soon follows another small arm of the lake and leads to Mary's Cove, a well used area with fire rings and log furniture (GL-04, GPS mile 5.3). It is also the junction with the spur trail that connects the east (uphill) and west (downhill) legs of the trail. To get to GL-05, follow the white blazes heading east for about 0.3 miles. Near the top of the 160 foot climb is a boulder strewn creek bed on the left.
Continuing on the clockwise loop, leave Mary's Cove following the blue blazes, cross a small creek and climb a small hill to another small prairie. I noticed cacti in this one and a bunch of lichen covered scrub trees with ovoid leaves like a hornbeam.
Past mile markers 5 (GPS mile 5.6) and 6 (GPS mile 6.6) the trail follows the low side of a bluff. The area features small outcrops, moss covered rocks and hardwoods. Above it over this section is the upper trail. It is close but hidden from the lower trail and accessible only through a short but difficult bushwhack.
At GPS mile 7, the trail intersects the forest road and follows it for 0.3 miles. Then it is back in the woods, past mile marker 7 (GPS mile 7.5) and up to a bench below another bluff. There are a few rugged areas in this section so watch you footing. The blazes in this section of trail are orange. I think that is so that hikers leaving the primitive camp can differentiate which leg of the trail to take.
The Primitive Camp (GL-06, GPS mile 8.0) is a level area with a fire ring. It is not as big, as flat or as used as Mary's Cove. The water source is the lake.
The return trail takes off up the hill to the southeast. Facing the lake from the campsite, turn left about 150 degrees and follow the blue blazes. This upper trail is a bit more rugged than the lower. There are many places where the path is gone and you have to follow the blazes, which are not always evident. If you go too far without seeing a blaze, return the way you came until you find one.
The trail stays on the side of the hill as it passes mile marker 8 (GPS mile 8.5) and crosses the main forest road (GPS mile 8.7). In another 0.7 miles the trail goes down a hill and crosses a small stream bed. The stream drains a fairly large area so it has the potential of being a wet crossing, but normally it is dry or just a boulder hop. In another 0.3 mile, the trail crosses the road again. There is a little offset in the trail so turn right on the road and then look for a quick left. Then it is back on the side of the ridge for 1.8 miles until the junction of the Mary's Cove spur trail and mile marker 11 (GL-05, GPS mile 11.4).
If you are keeping track, you'll note that mile markers 9 and 10 are missing. I was hiking the loop in reverse in this section and either missed them or maybe they aren't there. If you know where they are and can send coordinates, I'll fix this omission.
At about GPS mile 12.1, the trail crosses a small creek bed and begins a 130 foot climb. It begins towards the lake (west). About half way up the trail, it intersects an old road bed and follows it up hill heading east. Just after mile marker 12 (GPS mile 12.3), it leaves the road bed and climbs through the woods to the top of the hill. It is a level stroll across the flat topped hill for about 0.4 miles an then it is down hill. At the beginning of the descent is a rock wall that must have been build as a dam. At the bottom of the hill is a creek crossing.
Then it is back up to the side of the ridge, past mile marker 13 (GPS mile 13.3) and across the forest road, again. The trail drops down a hill into a creek valley and then follows the creek upstream towards the east. The valley is fairly narrow with prominent outcrops of broken sandstone layers. Pass mile marker 14 at GPS mile 14.2, cross the creek at GPS mile 14.5 and head up hill to the top of the ridge. Stay on the flat topped ridge until mile marker 15 and then make a steep descent. At GPS mile 15.5 you will be at the swinging bridge and close the loop. I never saw mile marker 16 and 17 is just before the main trailhead.
Trail Maintenance: This trail is mainteained by the Green Country Outdoor Club of Tulsa. If you are interested in joining, email JD Blackwell at the club.
Info: USGS 7.5 minute Quadrangles: Webber Falls and Braggs. Greenleaf State Park, Braggs OK, (918) 487-5196.
Directions: Take US Highway 62 east out of Muskogee or take the east US Highway 62 exit off the Muskogee Turnpike. Go 2.3 mile west to the OK Highway 10 junction and turn south. Go 15.2 miles on Highway 10 and the entrance to the park is on the left.
Free Map. Click on the map image at the top of the page and it will load a full size 1:24,000 scale version on you browser. Down load it and print it on you own computer. Alternatively, color, weatherproof versions (11x17) of the map are also available at Backwoods, Tulsa, OKC and Norman each or for $5 plus S&H by emailing email@example.com.
Weatherproof Topographic Maps at
OuachitaMaps.com - Hiking Trails of the Ouachitas and Ozarks