Talimena Scenic Byway
east-central Oklahoma & west-central Arkansas
The 52-mile-long Talimena National Scenic Byway has all the signature elements of a memorable route: fun and easy drive, reasonable length, numerous pullouts with picnic tables, wildflowers, birdlife and beautiful vistas of rolling, tree-covered hills. Located about an hour south of Ft. Smith, Arkansas and I-40, it’s a fairly isolated road but worth the detour. Much of the Talimena Byway lies in eastern Oklahoma with a shorter section in Arkansas. And if you start with Oklahoma 1, which becomes Arkansas 88, you’ll wind up in Mena—a small town where you can grab a bite or pick up a souvenir. Talimena National Scenic Byway passes through the Ouachita National Forest, the largest and oldest national forest in the southern U.S. So spring and summer mean gorgeous shades of green with numerous patches of wildflowers, as well as the occasional nourishing and refreshing rainstorm, as documented in the video. This is also one of the best places to see fall colors in Oklahoma. And it’s a particularly fun ride for bikers!
Best Time to Visit
Spring and summer bring a cascade of green to the largely deciduous Ouachita National Forest. Wildflowers, birds and other wildlife are plentiful too—watch out for deer and armadillo, particularly at dusk and dawn. Fall means cooler temperatures, lower humidity and some of the south’s best leaf peeping.
Route & Map
From Ft. Smith, Arkansas and I-40, drive about an hour southwest on US 271 to Oklahoma 1 and the start of the Talimena National Scenic Byway, near the town of Talihina. The road follows the crest of the Rich and Winding Stair mountains for about 35 miles before crossing the state line. It’s another 17 miles on Arkansas 88 to the town of Mena.
Plan on a couple of hours with stops. But that’s just the scenic highway itself. It will take at least an hour to reach Talimena’s start from I-40 and Ft. Smith.
The Talimena Scenic Drive Association maintains an excellent website with maps and information on everything from hiking trails and wildlife to historic sites, camping and lodging options. There’s even a page to buy Talimena t-shirts!