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The Talimena Scenic drive winds 54 miles along the crest of Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita National Forest (pronounced Wash-i-tah). If you can resist stopping to enjoy the many vistas and attractions along the way, the route takes 1 hour and 10 minutes to drive. A leisurely drive can take all day.

  • From the West (Oklahoma)

    • U.S. HIGHWAY 271
    • U.S. Highway 271 Intersect Oklahoma Highway 1. The Talimena Scenic Drive, at the West End Visitor Information Station, 7 miles northeast of Talihina, Oklahoma or 30 miles southwest of Poteau, Oklahoma.

    • U.S. HIGHWAY 259
    • U.S. Highway 259 intersects the halfway point of the Talimena scenic Drive 5 miles north of Big Cedar, Oklahoma, and 18 miles south of Heavener, Oklahoma.

    From the East (Arkansas)

    • ARKANSAS HIGHWAY 88
    • Arkansas Highway 88 intersects U.S. Highway 59/71 in the town of Mena.
      The Talimena Scenic drive begins at the East End Visitor Information Station north of town.

    • ARKANSAS HIGHWAY 272
    • Arkansas Highway 272 intersects U.S. Highway 270/59 at the town of Rich Mountain, 8 miles North West of the town of Acorn, Arkansas. This highway goes directly to Queen Wilhelmina State Park.

    • Travel Tips

    • Make sure you have plenty of gas before you begin. There are no gasoline stations on the drive.
    • Before you enter the drive, pack a picnic lunch or take along snacks. Vending machines, located at the West End Visitor Information Station, and the restaurant at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge, offer food and drink.
    • Check weather conditions on the drive before leaving. Ice and fog can be a challenge on the drive even when they are not a problem on lower roads.
    • Visit the East End or West End Visitor Information Stations. These stations are staffed from springtime through fall. They offer area information, brochures and have unique educational materials for sale.
    • Take water with you to drink. Most of the stops along the way do not provide drinking water. Water from streams or springs, although they may run clear, may not be safe to drink.
    • Light jackets are appropriate for windy days, or for fall, winter and spring outings.
    • If you plan to hike, wear comfortable shoes.
    • On most days, photo opportunities are numerous. Take along extra film or make sure that your camera battery is fully charged.
    • During the late spring, summer, and early fall you may want to take insect repellent if you plan to enjoy the trails.
    • Restrooms are located at all Ranger stations, West End VIS (Visitor Information Station), Old Military Road, Horse Thief Spring, Winding Stair Recreation Area, Pipe Spring, Kerr Arboretum and Nature Center, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Rich Mountain Fire Tower, East End Visitor Information Station.

  • High Clearance Vehicle, 4-Wheel Drive, Sport Utility Vehicle:

    The following roads are not paved and can be washed out after storms. The roads are rough and rocky in spots. A spare tire is a must.

    • Forest service (F.S.) Road 6010 – north to Holson Valley Rd., South to Highway 63
    • F.S. Road 6022 – to Billy Creek
    • F.S. Road 6014 – to Cedar Lake
    • F.S. Road 6007 – to Highway 270/59
    • F.S. Road 6029 – to Pipe Spring
    • F.S. Road 6068 – to Highway 259
    • F.S. Road 514 – to Mountain Fork on Highway 8

    Trails:

    Ouachita National Recreation Trail, the Queen Wilhelmina State Park trails, the interpretive trails at the Kerr Arboretum and the Orchard Trail at the East End Visitor Information Station are restricted to foot travel.Trails with shared uses include Billy Creek, Horse Thief spring, Old Military, Boardstand, Kerr Nature Center, and Earthquake Ridge Trail Complex. Information sheets with maps are available at Ranger and Visitor Information Stations. Several detailed publications are available for sale at retail outlets operated at the Visitor Information Stations.

    Horseback Riding

    The Winding Stair Equestrian Trails and Cedar Lake Recreation Area
    Equestrian Camp are just south of Heavener, Oklahoma. Camping facilities are available to horseback riders year round.

    Mountain Bikes

    The Earthquake Ridge Trail complex and Forest Service roads offer opportunities for mountain bike enthusiasts. Bikes are allowed on the Winding Stair Equestrian Trails and Horse Thief Spring Trail, however horses have the right of way.

    Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area

    In October 1988, the United States Congress passed a bill that established the Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation and Wilderness Area. This included more than 97,000 acres in LeFlore County, Oklahoma, and authorized $15 million for tourism and recreation improvements and developments. Special management areas were established including:

    • Black Fork Mountain Wilderness Area
    • Upper Kiamichi River Wilderness Area
    • Robert S. Kerr Memorial Arboretum and Natural center and Botanical Area
    • Beech Creek Botanical Area
    • Indian Nations National Scenic and Wildlife Area
    • Beech creek National Scenic Area
  • Ouachita National Recreation Trail

    Trail Highlights: This is the longest trail in the Ouachita National Forest spanning 192 miles across its entire length.

    In the west, the trail begins at Talimena State Park on Highway 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma.

    The eastern boundary is south of Perryville, Arkansas on Highway 9.

    An additional 32 miles of trail, located on private and other public lands, extends to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, 15 miles west of Little Rock, Arkansas.

    Elevations range from 600 to 2,600 feet as the trail passes through forested mountains, across sweeping valleys and near clear-running streams.

    Spur trails connect to various recreation areas and points of interest. Numerous road crossings and access points provide opportunities for point to point hikes of various distances.

    Other Attractions:

    Recreation areas adjoining the trail include:

    • Horsethief Springs Picnic Area
    • Winding Stair Mountain Recreation Area
    • Queen Wilhelmina State Park
    • Big Brushy Recreation Area
    • Iron Springs Recreation Area
    • Lake Sylvia Recreation Area

    Beech Creek Trail System

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    Trail Highlights: Located in the Beech Creek National Scenic and Botanical Areas, the trails follow the headwaters of Beech Creek and transverse the mountains surrounding the creek. American Beech trees and other unique plants are common in the creek bottom.

    The Beech Creek Trail sometimes follows at the creek edge or in the fertile ground a few hundred feet away. It is a fairly easy hike for 2.5 miles from the east end of Forest Road K68A to the “Cascades” with small waterfalls and pools.

    The Turkey Snout Loop follows a small tributary and crosses near the beginning of Beech Creek. The Walnut Mountain and Blue Bouncer Loops are best suited to experienced backpackers. The terrain is rugged with limited water sources on the mountains.

    Surrounding Areas:

    • Developed campsites with drinking water and restrooms are available at Billy Creek and Winding Stair Mountain Recreation Areas.
    • Enjoy the grand vistas along the 54-mile Talimena Scenic Drive.
    • Nearby hiking and horseback trails include Winding Stair Equestrian Trails, Billy Creek Trail, Horsethief Springs Trail, and the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.

    Billy Creek Trail

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    Trail Highlights: The Billy Creek Trail winds down from the Talimena Scenic Drive atop Winding Stair Mountain. It offers year-round day hiking as well as horseback riding. The trail curves down the southern face of the mountain to Billy Creek Campground.

    Surrounding Areas:

    • Billy Creek Campground
    • Talimena Scenic Drive
    • Ouachita National Recreation Trail
    • Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area
    • Indian Nations Recreation Area
    • Indian Nations National Scenic and Wildlife Area

    Black Fork Mountain Trail

    wildhorsehiking

    Trail Highlights: The trail offers beautiful panoramic views in every direction. A day hiker or an overnight backpacker may enjoy spectacular views of Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Rich Mountain Fire Tower and the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

    The trail traverses historic sites dating from the late 1800s to 1940 where pioneers once settled. The trail also features unusual geology and vegetation.

    The trail leads you into Black Fork Mountain Wilderness – a place for solitude and primitive recreation.
    Please hike in small groups of less than 10 people.

    Surrounding Areas:

    • Rich Mountain Fire Tower
    • Rich Mountain Botanical Area
    • Talimena Scenic Drive
    • Queen Wilhelmina State Park

    Boardstand Road & Old Military Road Trail

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    Trail Highlights: The Old Military Trail starts along Holson Valley Road and connects with the Ouachita National Recreation Trail on the south side of Winding Stair Mountain. These two trails, along with Boardstand Trail, can be combined to form a looped hike of about 23 miles.

    The trails travel through the western end of Holson Valley and the Indian Nations Scenic and Wildlife Area.

    Surrounding Areas:

    • Winding Stair Mountain Recreation Area
    • Talimena Scenic Drive
    • Ouachita National Recreation Trail
    • Cedar Lake Campgroun
    • Indian Nations National Scenic and Wildlife Area

    Caney Creek Wilderness Trails

    wildhorsehiking

    Trail Highlights: Caney Creek Trail generally follows the Caney Creek drainage. The trail crosses Blaylock Creek, Caney Creek, Katy Creek and the Cossatot River for a total of 13 stream crossings which are subject to flash flooding during heavy rain.

    Vegetation types, which occur along the creek, include beech tree stands, large pines and bottom land hardwoods.

    Buckeye Trail generally follows a ridge offering many vistas before winding down to the Caney Creek Trail.

    Tall Peak Trail is a steep rugged trail once you leave the Saline River. It begins in Shady Lake Recreation Area but can also be accessed from Forest Service Road 38. Look for large granite rocks about 1.8 miles north of Shady Lake Recreation Area entrance.

    These trails lead into a 14,460 acre congressionally designated wilderness – a place for solitude and primitive recreation.

    Other Opportunities:

    • Caney Creek Wilderness
    • Valuable Forest Trail
    • Athens Big Fork Trail
    • Shady Lake Recreation Area

    Cedar Lake and Old Pine Trails

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    Trail Highlights: Hikers may access the Cedar Lake Trail from any of the established camping areas. The trail hugs the shoreline and completely encircles Cedar Lake. This trail offers an array of opportunities to day hikers who want to view waterfowl and wading birds which frequent the lake.

    The Old Pine Trail begins at the Cedar Lake day use area and loops to one of the lake’s feeder streams. Interpretive signs along the trail identify the animals that live in the area.

    Surrounding Areas:

    • Cedar Lake Recreation Area
    • Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area

    Earthquake Ridge Trail

    hikingbike

    Trail Highlights: This trail parallels the Talimena Scenic Byway on the north and south sides of Rich Mountain.

    The day hiker will view several interesting rock formations as well as a variety of plant and animal life. The trail system crosses the Talimena Scenic Byway twice.

    Many mountain bikers find this trail system an exciting challenge. There are several loops that enhance this challenge.

    Other Opportunities:

    • Queen Wilhelmina State Park
    • Blue Haze Vista
    • Acorn Vista
    • Ward Lake
    • Talimena Scenic Drive

    Fourche Mountain Trail

    offroadmotorbikehikinghorsebike

    Trail Highlights: The Fourche Mountain Trail (formerly Mill Creek Equestrian Trail) offers breathtaking views of Fourche Mountain and Buck Knob.

    Beautiful streams, and several spectacular views of the Ouachita Mountains are among the trail sites.

    While this trail network provides horseback riding opportunities, it also offers day hiking, mountain biking, ORV and motorcycle riding.


    Horsethief Springs Trail

    hikinghorsebike

    Trail Highlights: Horsethief Springs Trail is one of the most beautiful trails in the area. The trail begins at Cedar Lake and loops through many different tree species. The hiker will cross several small streams before connecting with the Ouachita National Recreation Trail. The trail then loops back down the northern face of Winding Stair Mountain to Cedar Lake.

    Using the Ouachita National Recreation Trail to form the loop results in about an 11-mile hike.

    Surrounding Areas:

    • Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area
    • Cedar Lake Recreation Area
    • Winding Stair Campground
    • Talimena Scenic Drive
    • Ouachita National Recreation Trail

    Kerr Arboretum Trails

    hikinginterp

    Trail Highlights: Located at the Robert S. Kerr Arboretum and Nature Center adjacent to the Talimena Scenic Drive are three interpretive trails. One features a variety of plants that are identified by trail signs.

    Another trail tells the fascinating story of how a tree competes with other inhabitants for survival. The third trail explains the process of soil formation and its importance in the forest life cycle.

    The trails are an easy walk for the day hiker and provide an opportunity to experience the variety of ecological areas that exist on a single mountain.

    A restroom and drinking water are at the nature center where the trails begin. These are open from spring through autumn.

    In winter the trails are open, but the restroom is closed and water is not available.

    Surrounding Areas:

    • Robert S. Kerr Arboretum and Nature Center
    • Talimena Scenic Drive
    • Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area

    Mountain Top Trail

    hikingbike

    Trail Highlights: This loop trail is created by hiking the Ouachita National Recreation Trail on the north side of the mountain and the Mountain Top trail on the south. The trail leads the hiker along the beautiful north side of the mountain where many varieties of oaks and gums grow.

    Approximately ¾ mile from the trailhead, hikers can walk to an overlook where rocks and boulders form a point. The overlook showcases Holson Valley and the Talimena Scenic Drive as it continues west along the mountaintop.

    From this point, the trail continues, crossing the Talimena Scenic Drive and guiding the hiker along the south side of the mountain. On this route, a visitor can walk along a small brook as it flows down the mountain.

    Other Opportunities:

    The Mountain Top Trail is adjacent to the Winding Stair Campground and is located along the Talimena Scenic Drive. It is approximately a 25-minute drive to Cedar Lake Recreation Area.


    Orchard Trail

    hikinginterphandicap

    Trail Highlights: This accessible trail meanders through the picturesque pine and hardwood forest surrounding the Talimena Scenic Byway Visitor Information Station near Mena, AR. This short hike features the ruins of an abandoned home site with a viewing deck and benches.

    This trail and all site facilities allow easy access for all visitors including those physically challenged.

    Surrounding Areas:

    • For an extended hike try the 2.8 mile Earthquake Ridge Hiking and Mountain Bike Trail beginning at the northwest side of the Visitor Information Station parking lot.
    • Continue driving west on the Talimena Scenic Byway and enjoy the beautiful vistas from high mountain ridgelines and cultural treasures such as Rich Mountain Fire Tower and Pioneer Cemetery.
    • The Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge at the top of Rich Mountain offers travellers a beautiful and historic place to spend the night or enjoy a tasty meal.

    Shady Lake Trail

    hikingbike

    Trail Highlights: The Civilian Conservation Corps developed the Shady Lake Recreation Area in 1937. The Shady Lake Trail traverses Saline Creek and passes the historic Shady Lake Dam. It continues along the eastern edge of the campground. The trail is ideal for day hiking. Mountain bikers may also use the trail.

    Other Opportunities:

    • Caney Creek Wilderness
    • A Valuable Forest Interpretive Trail
    • Athens Big Fork Trail
    • Shady Lake Recreation Area

    Winding Stair Equestrian Trails

    hikinghorsebike

    Trail Highlights: The Winding Stair Equestrian Trails begin at the Cedar Lake Equestrian Camp.

    The trails form a network of loops with different lengths so riders can plan their rides according to their experience and desires.

    Trails climb over mountains, meander along creeks, and travel through different forest types.

    Other Opportunities:

    • The Cedar Lake Equestrian Camp was built specifically for people bringing their horses. It is an ideal place to begin a day’s ride. Day riders can park at the Equestrian Camp or at various trail junctions along the roads.
    • At Cedar Lake Recreation Area there is an 86-acre lake where people can swim at two beaches and fish.
    • The Talimena Scenic Drive that travels the crest of Winding Stair Mountain is just 15 miles away.

    Wolf Pen Gap Trail Complex

    offroadmotorbikehikingbike

    Trail Highlights: Featuring high mountain vistas, the trail leads the rider through an array of areas, including scenic Gap Creek and Board Camp Creek.

    The trail continues through a forest of large pines and hardwoods before passing the unique 2-footed oak tree and an abandoned mine shaft.

    The trail loops are connected to accommodate riders who want to vary the length of their trips.

    Surrounding Areas:

    • Enjoy the beautiful scenery along the Cossatot Scenic and Recreational River.
    • For an extended hike, there are 18 miles of hiking trails in the Caney Creek Wilderness.
    • South of Caney Creek is the Shady Lake Recreation Area, which offers camping, fishing, swimming, boating and hiking at the campground.

FALL-FOLIAGE-UPDATE-GFX

Foliage Update 10-27-2014

The fall foliage season along the Talimena National Scenic Byway is just beginning with some light yellows and patches of autumn color on the still mostly green trees. Talimena State Park has a few trees beginning to change, and the trees at Lake Wister State Park are showing oranges, bronze, yellows and a little red. They are on their way to peaking. The Ouachita National Forest is showing signs of change with a few yellows and reds popping out against the mostly green foliage. Oklahoma's peak fall foliage season typically begins in late October.

Foliage Fact

Don't wait too long to visit a favorite fall foliage destination. The leaves usually look best just before they fall. The stems are thin and fragile. Rain and wind can bring an end to color in a region in a matter of hours.

Estimated Peak Period

Last week of October first week of November

Along the Drive...

Along the drive are several historic sites and numerous turnouts with panoramic vistas. Many of the sites have exhibits that explain the natural and historical significance of the area. Learn about the prehistoric Caddoan people, early settlers of Rich Mountain, the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Choctaw Nation (tribe) in Indian Territory. Discover interesting facts about the natural environment while absorbing the beauty of shortleaf pine and hardwood forests.

In response to the popularity of ‘driving for pleasure,’ the USDA Forest service established the National Forest Scenic Byway Program in May 1988. This program promotes and recognizes highways in the 156 national forests across 44 states with outstanding scenery and historical significance.

One of the first National forest Scenic Byways, the Talimena Scenic Drive, is located in the western part of the Ouachita Mountains. The drive, designated in February 1989, is between the city limits of Mena, Arkansas and a point of US highway 271 just north of Talihina, Oklahoma.

Constructed by the Oklahoma and Arkansas Highway departments between 1964 and 1969 with federal public highway funds, the route connected two truck trails originally built by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The Oklahoma and Arkansas highway departments’ now maintain the byway.

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