Talimena Scenic Drive: The Ultimate Fall Attraction

Rich Mountain, Arkansas – Photo: B.J. Bumgarner / Flickr

When most people think of places to see beautiful fall foliage, they think about areas in the Northeast, like Vermont or New Hampshire. There are plenty of other impressive locations to add to your fall bucket list, though, including the Talimena National Scenic Byway.

Outlined below is everything you need to know to plan a great trip to this stunning destination.

Talimena National Scenic Byway: The Basics

The Talimena National Scenic Byway is found in the Ouachita National Forest, which is located on the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma.

This road is 54 miles long, starting in Mena, Arkansas, and heading west until it ends in Talihina, Oklahoma (yes, Talimena is a combination of these two towns’ names). It winds along the mountain ridge and takes visitors through some of the area’s highest peaks, such as Winding Stair Mountain and Rich Mountain.

When Should You Visit the Talimena National Scenic Byway?

If you’re looking to see stunning fall foliage, you must visit the Talimena National Scenic Byway in the fall. Peak fall typically lands between mid-October and early November.

Rich Mountain, Arkansas – Photo: B.J. Bumgarner / Flickr

If you don’t make it in the fall, don’t worry. You haven’t completely missed out on an opportunity to enjoy a great view. You can also visit during the spring to see the trees in bloom

How Long Does the Trip Take? 

If you don’t pull over for any stops, you can easily make your way through the Talimena National Scenic Byway in about two hours. If you do this, though, you’ll miss out on a lot of great opportunities to stop and take in the view, or maybe even take a hike.

This relatively small piece of land is home to 22 scenic vistas, three state parks, and a wide range of hiking trails. If you’re coming from out of town to see the Talimena National Scenic Byway, plan on spending two or three days in the area so you can take your time and enjoy all that the byway has to offer.

Where Should You Stay?

You can choose from a variety of hotels and lodges around the Talimena National Scenic Byway. Some of the most popular hotel options include Mena Mountain ResortStonehill Cottages, and Queen Wilhelmina Lodge.

If you prefer to rough it, you can also camp in Queen Wilhelmina State Park or Winding Stairs Campground.

Where Should You Stop During Your Drive?

To get the most out of your drive along the Talimena National Scenic Byway, it’s best to plan at least a couple of stops to get out of the car, stretch, and take in the sites. Here are some of the most popular places to stop:

– Mena, Arkansas –

The Talimena Scenic Drive starts in Mena, Arkansas. Mena is home to several restaurants and inns, so it’s a great place to fuel up before you head out on the road. You can also visit the Talimena Drive Eastern Visitor Center between April and November to learn more about the byway.

– Rich Mountain Fire Tower –

Coming in at 2,681 feet, Rich Mountain is the second-highest peak in Arkansas and the highest peak on the Talimena Scenic Byway.

Here, you’ll find the Rich Mountain Fire Tower, which stands 58 feet tall and was once used for fire detection. Today, it’s open from Memorial Day to Veteran’s Day and serves as an observation tower.

– Queen Wilhelmina State Park –

Queen Wilhelmina State Park is a great place to take in the area’s views, grab a meal at Queen’s Restaurant, or take a hike. You can also take a miniature train ride that starts from Mountain Glory Station.

– Pioneer Cemetery –

Rich Mountain Pioneer Cemetery is located at the end of a short trail. It’s home to around 20 graves and honors those who once lived on Rich Mountain.

– Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area –

Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation is home to Winding Stair campground, Emerald Vista, and a variety of trail systems. It’s a great place for campers and hikers to stop for the night before continuing their journey.

– Talimena State Park –

Talimena State Park is located 1 mile from Talihina’s visitor center. It’s a great place to take in fall colors and is home to many well-marked hiking trails, as well as a playground and camping facilities.

– Talihina, Oklahoma –

Talihina is also known as the “Village Between the Mountains.” It’s located on the western end of the Talimena Scenic Byway and serves as a gateway to Talimena State Park.

– Choctaw Vista –

The Choctaw Vista is located on the state-line marker between Arkansas and Oklahoma. It once served as a marker of the boundary between the state of Arkansas and the Choctaw Nations’ land.

Important Things to Know About the Talimena National Scenic Byway

Before you plan your trip and head out on the byway, there are a few key things you should keep in mind:

  • There are no gas stations along the byway, so fill up before you go
  • The only restaurant is Queen’s Restaurant in Queen Wilhelmina State Park; pack a picnic lunch if you don’t want to stop here
  • There are a few restrooms along the drive, including at Rich Mountain Fire Tower in Queen Wilhelmina State Park; try to use the restroom before you leave if you don’t want to have to track one down along the way