17 Essential Talimena Scenic Drive Travel Tips: A Complete Guide to Planning a Talimena Drive!

17 Essential Talimena Scenic Drive Travel Tips Planning a Talimena Drive the Easy Way! by Stephanie Craig
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The Talimena Scenic Drive is one of the most popular scenic drives in Oklahoma for a reason: it’s stunning! 

This is especially true during autumn when the fall foliage changes into brilliant oranges and glimmering yellows.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

If you are planning a trip on the Talimena, here’s everything you need to plan the perfect Talimena road trip. 

I’ve included the best stops on the Talimena, tips for seeing the surrounding towns of Talihina, Oklahoma, and Mena, Arkansas, plus the most popular restaurants and places to stay.

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Talimena Drive at a Glance

Accommodation and transportation tips for your Talimena vacation.

Where to Stay near the Talimena

Hootie Creek Guest House (Hotel in Talihina)

Talihina Retreat with Kiamichi River Access! (Cabin in Talihina)

OYO Hotel (Budget Motel forty minutes from Mena)

Transportation

Discover Cars (for road trips and independent day trips)

Travel Insurance

Get a travel insurance quote with Safety Wings (I’ve used them!)

Facts About the Talimena National Scenic Byway

Famous for stunning vistas, panoramic views, and vivid fall colors, you might have heard about the Talimena Scenic Drive, but not know much about the actual road itself!

At least, that’s where I was. I knew of the Talimena drive, but not much about it. In researching my own Oklahoma travels, I realized right away that this was one of the places I wanted to go the most!

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - Photo by Stephanie Craig

This road is so beautiful that this short Oklahoma highway does belong on everyone’s Oklahoma bucket list, no matter what part of the state you live in.

Here are some important facts about the Talimena National Scenic Byway to help you get started with your Talimena trip planning.

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Why is it called the Talimena Scenic Drive?

Talimena is a portmanteau of the town names of Talihina, Oklahoma, and Mena, Arkansas – the two towns at the beginning and end of the route.

What is the Official Name of the Talimena Drive?

The Talimena has a lot of names and is referred to by many different constructions. It’s officially called the Talimena National Scenic Byway, and it runs on Oklahoma State Highway 1 and Arkansas Highway 88.

Some of the other names you might hear that are technically wrong include the Talimena National Forest Scenic Byway (its former name), Talimena Scenic Highway, and the Talimena National Highway.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Even the most common moniker, the Talimena Scenic Drive, is inaccurate. However, I tend to use all of these interchangeably.

Where Does the Talimena Drive Start and End?

The Talimena runs between Talihina, Oklahoma, near U.S. Highway 271, and Mena, Arkansas, near U.S. Highway 71.

How Long is the Talimena Scenic Drive?

The Talimena is fifty-four miles long. The majority of the route is in Oklahoma, with the rest in Arkansas.

Talimena Scenic Drive Map

powered by Proxi

Use this map of the Talimena to see some of the most important vistas and trailheads, as well as state parks and other things to do on the Talimena.

What Mountain Range Does the Talimena Scenic Drive Go Through?

The Talimena runs along the Ouachita Mountains (or the Ouachitas). The Ouachias and the Ozarks comprise the region known as the US Interior Highlands, which is one of the few mountainous areas of the US between the Rockies and the Appalachians.

It might surprise Oklahomans, who don’t think of our state as “mountainous,” to learn that there are over eight hundred named peaks in this range. The range runs from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Atoka, Oklahoma.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

The only national park in the Ouachitas is Hot Springs National Park, which is the closest national park to Oklahoma.

See also
How to Visit the Arcadia Round Barn on Route 66

The highest peaks in the Ouachitas include Mount Magazine, Rich Mountain, and Poteau Mountain in Arkansas and Winding Stair Mountain in Oklahoma.

The Rich Mountain Fire Tower is the highest point located on the Talimena.

USA - Arkansas- Mount Magazine State Park

Mount Magazine is in Mount Magazine State Park, a popular Arkansas weekend getaway, while Poteau Mountain is located outside of the Talimena in the Ouachita National Forest.

Good to know: Some of the mountains listed in Arkansas technically cross the state line into Oklahoma.

Who Built the Talimena Scenic Drive?

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built two routes in the 1930s. In the late 1960s, the Federal Highway Administration connected them to create the route as we know it.

It was not designated as an official National Scenic Byway until 2005. In the interim, it had various designations and monikers.

Who Maintains the Talimena National Scenic Byway?

The Talimena, the Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area, and the Ouachita National Forest are maintained by the US National Forest Service.

The Talimena Scenic Drive Association (TSDA) is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization that promotes education and tourism for the TNSB.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Talimena Scenic Drive Travel Tips

Here’s what you need to know to plan your trip!

How Long Should You Spend on Your Talimena Trip?

If you are driving the Talimena in one day, you can plan to spend 3-5 hours driving and getting out to appreciate the vistas.

Add extra time for hiking and picnicking along the route.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

If you have two days or more, plan a Talimena getaway with enough time to explore Talihina and Mina, as well as enjoy some hiking and, depending on your travel style, some camping.

Talimena Scenic Byway Drive Time One Way & Round Trip?

The Talimena’s drive time is about an hour one-way and two hours round-trip. However, this wouldn’t leave time to get out and appreciate the view, let alone relax and enjoy everything you can see on the route.

See also
23 Oklahoma Hidden Gems: Best Off-the-Beaten-Path & Secret Spots
Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

In addition, inclement weather can make the drive time longer.

A realistic timeframe if your purpose is recreation is to spend a minimum of 3-5 hours on the Talimena Scenic Drive.

Best Time of Year to Do the Talimena Scenic Drive

The most popular spot for an Oklahoma fall foliage road trip, we pay close attention to the Oklahoma fall foliage report to know which days will be the best for appreciating the autumn colors.

If you are coming from further away, the best week to come is the first week of November. The most common window for a foilage trip on the Talimena is from the last week of October through early November.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Spring is also a popular time to complete the drive. Oklahoma and Arkansas have wildflowers and spring greenery popping up in late March and early April.

The route is beautiful in the snow, but it can be a challenging drive since there are steep places along this two-lane highway.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Summertime is good – if your car has powerful air conditioning. One hundred-degree day are not unheard of in this part of the country.

Best Time of Day for the Talimena Drive

If you get up early, you can enjoy hiking before the heat hits and have time to hit as many of the viewpoints and things to do as possible.

Alternatively, time your drive so that you experience sunset on the Talimena, which is one of the best times to be on the Talimena.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

The only downside to sunset is that it will shroud the rest of your drive in darkness, so this is best done on a round-trip drive on your way back to your starting point.

Where Should You Stay for the Best Talimena Lodging?

You can reserve one of the campsites along the Talimena Drive, or you can stay in one of the towns near the end.

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Where to Stay on the Oklahoma Side

Talihina

Hootie Creek Guest House (Mid-Range Hotel)

Talihina Retreat with Kiamichi River Access! (Mid-Range Cabin)

Poteau (40 min to Talihina)

Holiday Inn Express & Suites (Mid-Range Hotel)

SureStay Plus Hotel by Best Western (Mid-Range Hotel)

Heavener (45 min to Talihina)

Hodler Inn (Budget Hotel)

Broken Bow + Hochatown (80 min to Talihina)

HiWay Inn Express of Broken Bow (Mid-Range Hotel)

Summer Sundance! Hochatown Adventures RV PARK! (Mid-Range RV)

Elk Grove Cabin (Mid-Range Cabin)

Shear Pleasure (Mid-Range Cabin)

Stunning Cabin w Hot Tub and Fire Pit (Luxury Cabin)

Hugo + Grant (90 min to Talihina)

Choctaw Resort Hotel (3-star Resort Hotel)

The closest major city is Oklahoma City, which is three hours away.

Where to Stay on the Arkansas Side

Mena

Ozark Inn (Mid-Range Motel)

Stonehill Cottages (Vacation Rental)

Woodland Cottage (Vacation Rental)

The Ouachita Depot (Vacation Rental)

Waldron (40 min to Mena)

OYO Hotel (Budget Motel)

De Queen (55 min to Mena)

Western Plaza In (Budget Motel)

The closest major city is Fort Smith, which is 90 minutes away.

What Kind of Vehicle Should You Take to Drive the Talimena?

You will be happy to know that you do not need a four-wheel drive to drive the Talimena.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

How Much Does it Cost to Drive the Talimena Scenic Byway?

Entrance to the Talimena Scenic Byway is free. You will, of course, spend money on gas, food, and any gear or car rentals you need.

The Best Restaurants Near the Talimena Scenic  Hwy

Outlaw Bar-B-Que and Pam’s Diner are the best-rated restaurants in Talihina.

The Rock House in Talihina was the most famous restaurant near the Talimena, but it is now closed.

In Mena, check out the Skyline Cafe and American Artisans.

Queen’s Restaurant at the Queen Wilhelmina Lodge is the only restaurant on the drive itself. There are also vending machines at the West End Visitor Center, which is open from spring through fall.

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Facilities available on the Talimena Drive

You’ll find many of the same amenities that you would find in a national park, like picnic areas, public restrooms, and visitor centers.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

There are two visitor centers: the West End Visitor Information Center and the East End Visitor Information Station. They are open from spring through autumn.

Camping

Billy Creek Recreation Area

Cedar Lake Recreation Area

Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Talimena State Park

Winding Stair Campground

Gas Stations

There are no gas stations on the Talimena Scenic Byway. Get gas in Talihina or Mena before embarking.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Picnic Areas

East End Visitor Information Station

Emerald Vista

Horsethief Springs

Kerr Nature Center

Old Military Road

Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Rich Mountain Fire Tower

State Line Historical Monument

Talimena State Park

Restrooms

East End Visitor Information Station

Horsethief Springs

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Kerr Nature Center

Old Military Road

Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Talimena State Park

Winding Stair Campground

Showers

Talimena State Park

Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Water Fountains

Kerr Arboretum

Things to Do on the Talimena Scenic Drive

Yes, you can just drive the entire route one-way in a little over an hour, or you can spend time enjoying all the best things to do on the Talimena.

State Parks

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig - Talimena State Park

The two state parks on the Talimena are worth visiting. Talimena State Park is near Talihina on the western end. Queen Wilhelmina State Park is on the drive before you reach Mena.

Historic Sites

There are a few historic sites and other points of interest along the trail that are not located at viewpoints.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Pioneer Cemetary

The Wonder House

Rich Mountain Fire Tower (Rich Mountain Lookout Tower)

Horse Thief Springs Historic Site

Oklahoma/Arkansas State Line Monument (Choctaw Nation/State Line Historical Monument)

Kerr Memorial Arboretum

Horseback Riding

You can ride your horses at the Winding Stair Equestrian Trails and on the Horse Thief Spring Trail.

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Mountain Biking

Mountain biking is allowed on the Earthquake Ridge Trail complex and Forest Service roads. You can also go mountain biking on the Winding Stair Equestrian Trails and Horse Thief Spring Trail, but horses get the right of way.

List of Talimena Scenic Drive Viewpoints

The drive offers spectacular views and mountain vistas along the entire fifty-four miles.

There are 22 designated scenic overlooks. Each overlook has an information plaque describing what you’re looking at and its significance. Most have a pull-out, though some have a full parking lot.

2024 Solar Eclipse

The Talimena National Scenic Byway will be in the path of totality for the 2024 Solar Eclipse.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

The scenic vistas on the Talimena from west to east:

Choctaw Vista

Potato Hill Vista

Holson Valley Vista

Panorama Vista

Deadman Vista

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Sugarloaf Vista

Lenox Vista

Cedar Lake Vista

Shawnee Vista

Emerald Vista

Big Cedar Vista

Sunset Point Vista

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

Kiamichi Valley Vista

Chaha Vista

Pine Mountain Vista (last vista in Oklahoma)

Mountain Fork Vista (first vista in Arkansas)

Lake Wilhelmina Vista

Grandview Vista

Eagleton Vista

Round Mountain Vista

Acorn Vista

Blue Haze Vista

The Best Hiking Trails along the Talimena Scenic Drive

There are many different trails and combinations of trails along the Talimena Scenic Drive.

The longest is the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, which is a 223-mile thru-hike that goes from Talimena all the way to close to Little Rock, Arkansas.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

If you want a day hike or a short trail, check out:

Billy Creek Trail (7.5-mile loop trail)

Boardstand Trail (19.8-mile loop trail)

Cedar Lake Equestrian Trails (11.2-mile loop trail)

Earthquake Ridge Trail (4.4-mile loop trail)

Horsethief Springs Trail (13.9-mile loop trail)

Kerr Arboretum Trails: Struggle for Survival (0.7-mile loop trail), The Soil and You (0.8-mile loop trail), Arboretum Trail (0.6-mile out-and-back trail)

Old Military Road Trail (11.9-mile out-and-back trail)

Orchard Interpretive Trail (0.5-mile loop trail)

See also
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Things to Do in Talihina, Oklahoma

Beyond the Talimena and Talimena State Park, you can enjoy a day in the town of Talihina.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

The top three things to do in town are visiting the Talimena Farmers Market, indulging your sweet tooth at the Treats & Treasures Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain, and checking out the iconic Pam’s Hateful Hussy Diner.

Things to Do in Mena, Arkansas

The town of Mena is much larger than Talihina, so you might decide to stay here a little longer. I would suggest enjoying a day here.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

The top three things to do in Mena (outside of everything related to the Talimena) are visiting Cossatot River State Park, shopping on North Mena Street, and looking for crystals at Board Camp Crystal Mine.

Things to Do Near the Talimena National Scenic Byway

If you want to plan a longer itinerary for the area, you can add stops in Broken Bow, Beavers Bend State Park, Mount Magazine State Park, and even visit the Paris Texas Eiffel Tower.

(Okay, a trip to Paris, Texas isn’t as exciting as a weekend in Paris, France, but it’s kitschy and fun!)

What to Wear on the Talimena

Dress in layers. The mountains can be cooler than the towns on either end. I like to always bring a packable down jacket.

Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona - National Parks near Oklahoma - photo by Stephanie Craig
I take this jacket on all my park trips.

If you want to hike, wear hiking shoes with performance socks. I have two pairs of hiking shoes: a pair similar to these and this pair.

Choose the style you like based on your hiking plans.

Otherwise, good travel shoes will suffice. I like to wear Tevas like these and these Birkenstocks on road trips.

What to Bring with You for the Talimena Byway

For your road trip, pack a day bag.

I use this day bag, and I’ve taken it to over twenty national parks on road trips from Oklahoma as well as Oklahoma state parks.

Badlands National Park in South Dakota - National Parks near Oklahoma - photo by Stephanie Craig-2
This day bag goes with me everywhere.

In your day bag, make sure to have:

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wallet

ID

driver’s license

cash

credit cards

cell phone

sunglasses

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig
Sunglasses are crucial because of the Talimena’s changing light and angles

camera

offline version of Google Maps

travel tripod

portable charger 

insect repellant

small vaseline 

bandaids 

small pocket knife.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Talimena Scenic Drive (FAQ)

These are the most common questions travelers ask about driving the Talimena Scenic Byway.

What is the Talimena Drive?

The Talimena Drive is a national scenic byway that runs from Oklahoma to Arkansas over fifty-four miles through the Ouachita Mountains.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig
Oklahoma – Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive – photo by Stephanie Craig

What highway is the Talimena Scenic Drive?

The Talimena Scenic Drive is Oklahoma State Highway 1 and Arkansas Highway 88.

What towns are near Talimena Scenic Drive?

The towns near the Talimena Scenic Drive are Talihina, Oklahoma, and Mena, Arkansas.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

How long is the Talimena Scenic Drive?

The Talimena Scenic Drive is 54 miles.

Where does Talimena Scenic Drive start and end?

The Talimena Scenic Drive starts in Talihina, Oklahoma, and it ends in Mena, Arkansas.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

What is the best time for the Talimena Drive?

The most popular times to visit the Taliemna Drive are in the autumn during the fall foliage season and in the spring during the wildflower season.

Which side is prettier on the Talimena Scenic Byway – Oklahoma or Arkansas?

Both sides of the Talimena Scenic Byway are beautiful and worth visiting.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

How is the foliage on the Talimena Drive?

The Talimena Drive is famous for its beautiful autumn foliage.

Can you drive through Ouachita National Forest?

Yes, there are roads through the Ouachita National Forest. The three most famous in Oklahoma are the Talimena National Scenic Byway, the Mountain Gateway Scenic Byway, and the Mountain Pass Scenic Byway.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig
Oklahoma – Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive – photo by Stephanie Craig

What are the top things to do on the Talimena drive?

The most popular things to do on the Talimena Drive are picnicking, enjoying the scenic overlooks, photography, and hiking.

See also
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What is the best time for Talimena Drive pictures?

The best times to photograph the Talimena Drive are at sunrise, sunset, and golden hour. The light during midday is very harsh when there is no cloud cover.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

What is the trailhead for the Talimena Scenic Drive?

There are many recreational trails on the Talimena Scenic Drive with various trailhead locations.

What state parks are on the Talimena Byway?

The two state parks on the Talimena Byway are Talimena State Park in Oklahoma and Queen Wilhemina State Park in Arkansas.

Oklahoma - Talimena National Scenic Byway AKA the Talimena Scenic Drive - photo by Stephanie Craig

How is the foliage on the Talimena Drive?

The fall foliage is beautiful on the Talimena Drive. The peak is late October and early November, with the first week of November as the most popular.

Pin this Talimena Scenic Drive Guide for Your Talimena Vacation!

17 Essential Talimena Scenic Drive Travel Tips Planning a Talimena Drive the Easy Way! by Stephanie Craig

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