Branch Out This Summer at Keystone Ancient Forest
Sand Springs is located between glittering skyscrapers and a centuries-old forest, but many Sandites may not even know about Keystone Ancient Forest 𑁋 or that it’s only nine miles from town.
Keystone Ancient Forest is a 1,360 acre conservatory home to hiking trails and a variety of wildlife like deer, eagles, and migratory birds. The park features five trails, including one that opened in mid-April, with various trail ratings for beginners and experts alike.
Molly Richardson, a volunteer-turned-events-coordinator for the Keystone Ancient Forest, says the trail options range from a 6/10th mile loop to a moderate 4.1 mile horseshoe.
“The shortest and most accessible trail is the Childers Trail,” says Molly. “It’s right at the entrance of the forest and it’s paved, so it’s accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.”
The Frank Trail 𑁋 which was named after Irvin and Sharna Frank, the couple who made the land available for the Keystone Ancient Forest 𑁋 is a moderate, 2.8 mile trail (roundtrip) with expansive scenery that overlooks jagged cliffs. “The George Washington Irving look-out is so named because we were actually able to trace that he was here,” Molly says, “where the Arkansas River and Cimarron River meet.”
Another moderate trail, called The Less Traveled, is a horseshoe-shaped trail that’s almost five miles all told. “It’s quiet and secluded,” Molly says, “with some hilly areas and a creek bed that flows through a portion of the trail.”
Molly says one of her favorite trails is the Wilson Trail, a one mile loop that’s rated difficult. “It has boulders and some really steep spots that look down to the water,” Molly says. “It’s really dense and dynamic, kind-of the heart of the forest.”
Even if you have hiked each of these trails, you may not have explored the newest trail: the Falls Trail. It opened just a few weeks ago and features two waterfalls, which are believed to be spring-fed, and at one point it intertwines with The Less Traveled trail. With boulders and other rock formations to climb, this trail is a welcome challenge for hiking enthusiasts.
“We’re really excited about the Falls Trail,” Molly says. “It features some of the oldest cedars on the property, and you’re able to get up close.” The cedars are nearly 500 years old. Molly adds that cedars don’t typically grow to be that old. “Because these cedars grew in rock,” Molly says, “they have this [unusual] strength and durability.”
The Keystone Ancient Forest is ideal for individuals, families, and groups. After exploring, you and your crew can enjoy a picnic outside the new visitor’s center at one of the ten available benches or on the grassy area nearby. Whether you simply share a bag of trail mix with a friend or bring a full spread of sandwiches for your little ones, be sure to leave no trace behind.
Near the picnic area is a seating area featuring a fire pit with steel logs crafted in Colorado. “The fire pit is a great gathering point before or after a hike, especially when it’s chilly out,” Molly says.
The visitor center, which held its grand opening April 10th, features brand new restrooms and a space for visitors to learn more about Keystone Ancient Forest. Volunteers are available at the visitor center during hiking hours, which have recently expanded. The need for volunteers has grown, too.
Molly says, “People who have an interest in [the outdoors] who can help make the forest more welcome and more vibrant are encouraged to reach out to Jeff Edwards with the City of Sand Springs.” Volunteers need to be 18 and available on weekends.
In addition to growing trail offerings and extending hours, the City of Sand Springs and the Keystone Ancient Forest volunteers are adding programming soon. “Programming for educational groups are in the works,” Molly says, “for those who want to learn about specific plants and trees, for example.”
For those interested in group hikes or those who simply want to learn more about the Keystone Ancient Forest, the Keystone Ancient Forest Facebook page is the best way to get information and updates.
Keystone Ancient Forest is open from 7AM to 2PM on Thursdays and 7AM to 6PM Friday through Sunday. Dogs are welcome on the first Saturday and the third Sunday of each month.
Read more articles about Sand Springs Recreation here.