When I think about some of the most scenic drives I’ve been on in my lifetime, I think about winding my way around the coastline in Crete, driving through northern Portugal in the Douro wine valley, and road tripping around Slea Head Drive in Ireland. But I also, honestly, think about sunset in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
With my whole heart I can say, after visiting sixty-seven countries and territories, Oklahoma scenic drives are some of the best in the world.
Here are the best scenic drives in Oklahoma spread out across the state. These are especially good if you need to get out in nature (don’t we all), but you want to stay away from people.
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The Best Scenic Drives in Oklahoma
If you’re itching to get out of the house and explore nature, but you’re not looking for a hike (or being near people), check out these beautiful Oklahoma scenic byways and drives.
Talimena National Scenic Byway
While most of the Talimena National Scenic Byway is in southeastern Oklahoma, a bit crosses over into southwester Arkansas. This route, perhaps the most famous scenic road in Oklahoma, rivals New England for fall colors.
Running through the Ouachita National Forrest, the drive is gorgeous year-round (though be careful of winter weather).
The route goes between Talihina, Oklahoma, and Mena, Arkansas. In between are fifty-four miles of mountain vistas and valleys, complete with stunning views.
If you want to drive right through, the route will take a little over an hour one-way. However, if you want to get out and enjoy the viewpoints along the way you can spend far more time here. There are twenty-two scenic pull-outs, so you can take your pick of where to stop!
While I think of Route 66 as more kitschy than scenic, there are some lovely spots along the way, including the bridge over Lake Overholser in Bethany/Oklahoma City.
There are other important sites you can see from the road along the way. Some you can appreciate from the road and others you will want to get out and see.
Highlights include the Arcadia Round Barn and the Catoosa Whale. Oklahoma also has some fabulous Route 66 dedicated museums on the route that you can visit.
A lot of Oklahomans aren’t aware that the state actually contains the longest portion of the Mother Road, and is well-respected among Route 66 enthusiasts as having one of the most impressive stretches of the route for roadside attractions.
With over three hundred miles of Route 66 stretching from Miami in the northeast to Erick in the southwest, you can choose to do a portion or make it a full Oklahoma weekend getaway and do the entire thing.
Wichita Mountains Scenic Byway
One of my favorite Oklahoma travel memories is driveng through the Wichita Mountains at sunset. This part of the state is just magical.
The entire route is beautiful, but the stretch that goes through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is special. Here you can find herds of longhorn cattle and bison!
The drive is 29 miles long between Elgin and Lost Lake, and it takes just a little over forty minutes if you drive it straight through. However, between adding a drive to the top of Mt. Scott and stopping for photography opportunities, prepare to spend hours here.
You can find a detailed write-up of the route and its sites here.
Quartz Mountain State Park
The drive around Quartz Mountain State Park centers around Quartz Mountain. Because of the namesake quartz deposits, the mountain actually shimmers in the right light! Nature’s glitter, my friends.
The route goes around Lake Altus, which also offers it’s own beautiful views.
This twenty-seven mile route runs between Altus and Lone Wolf. The route takes less than forty minutes if you drive straight through, but I doubt you won’t want to stop for photography and to enjoy the views.
Lake Hefner Drive & Parkway
If you want to see something pretty and you can’t get out of OKC, why not head over to Lake Hefner? You can drive around the shores of the lake. If you want to also take in the lighthouse, make sure to detour to it at the end or the beginning of your drive.
The lake has a seventeen-mile shoreline, but the roads aren’t quite a perfect shoreline drive.
Mountain Gateway Scenic Byway
Running twenty-two miles between Heavener, Oklahoma and the Arkansas border, the Mountain Gateway Scenic Byway is near several other scenic drives on this list. However, its worth its own stops to enjoy the beautiful Ouchita views here.
Famous for beautiful spring wildflowers, this is a great place to come if you need to get outdoors and you’re looking for a pop of color.
Running twenty-six miles from Guthrie to Perkins, this small road runs through important parts of the state’s territorial history. You can plan an entire prairie-themed days.
Start by exploring the Guthrie historic district and end with a tour of the Oklahoma Territorial Plaza in Perkins.
On the drive, stop and enjoy this unpopulated portion of the state and imagine what it must have been like here one hundred and fifty years ago.
Osage Nation Heritage Trail Byway
Inaugerated in 2019, the Osage Nation Heritage Trail Byway stretches sixty-five miles across Osage Nation. This is the Oklahoma drive you should take if you’re looking for culture and history along with natural beauty.
Along the drive there are markers covering four important themes: Osage Heritage, Oil Heritage, the Tallgrass Prairie, and Ranching Heritage in the Osage. Each of these stops is a great place to stretch your legs, learn a bit, and take in the scenery.
Along the way you can stop and see bison at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska.
Cherokee Hills Scenic Byway
Running through the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in northeastern Oklahoma, the Cherokee Hills Scenic Byway starts in Gore and runs through Talequah, along Lake Tenkiller and the Illinois River, and even near Natural Falls State Park (home to one of the best waterfalls in Oklahoma).
This isn’t just some pretty road. This is a federally recognized scenic byway in Oklahoma and far too few people come out to enjoy it! And at eighty-eight miles long, you can take advantage of stopping at quite a few sights along the way!
If you’re near Talequah but you’ve already completed the previous drive, Highway 10 takes advantage of the beauty of the same region to see some different sites.
Running between Muskogee and Tahlequah, you get gorgeous Illinois river views with optional stops at the Cherokee Heritage Center and Fort Gibson Historic Site.
This route is thirty-four miles long, so it’s also good if you have less time.
Route 8 State Parks
The drive between Watonga and Hinton is just thirty-one miles long, but it’s packed with so much to see!
You can stop at both Roman Nose State Park and Red Rock Canyon State Park to appreciate their stunning views, or you can plan to go on a short hike in either and leave your car behind for a bit!
If you want to explore by car, you can traverse the entire Route 8, which is about one hundred and eighty miles long.
Mountain Pass Scenic Byway
Close to Talimena and Mountain Gateway, Mountain Pass Scenic Byway is another reason you need to put southeastern Oklahoma on your bucket list!
This two-lane road cutting through the Ouchita Mountain is twenty-two miles long and has views of the Glover River and one of its waterfalls.
Running between Page and Octavia, it’s considered the more beautiful of the two if you must choose between Mountain Pass and Mountain Gateway (though they’re still very similar and close enough you can do them both).
Highway 325 through the Panhandle
All the way on Oklahoma’s border with New Mexico at the very tip of the Oklahoma Panhandle, Highway 325 winds through some stunning sites!
Running between Boise and Kenton, the drive is thirty-eight miles long.
The highlight is seeing Black Mesa, the highest point in the state. You can get out and explore on foot or simple marvel from the car!
Meers-Porter Hill Road
The beauty of the Meers-Porter Hill Road is getting to see the beauty of approaching the Wichita Mountains. The road runs between Elgin and Meers and includes views of the beautiful Lake Lawtonka.
Running forty miles between Claremore and Spavinaw, Highway 20 is a great place to get a little back-country atmosphere.
In Claremore you can pay homage to Will Rogers at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. (You can even time it with the film festival in his honor).
This road is considered great for motorcycle enthusiasts, but if you’re doing it by bike you need to watch out for Deadman’s Curve!