The Perfect Day on the Talimena Scenic Drive

Scenic,Curbing,Roadside,View,At,The,Talimena,National,Scenic,Byway

When staying in Broken Bow, especially during the fall season, you can’t miss this famed day trip. Tucked away in the heart of Southeast Oklahoma lies a hidden gem, the Talimena Scenic Drive. A winding path of 54 miles, this drive offers breathtaking views and a glimpse into the region’s rich natural history.

After a day of taking in these amazing sights along the way, there’s no better way to relax than by staying at our beautiful Bear Cabins in Broken Bow. Dive into this guide and start planning your perfect day on the Talimena Scenic Drive!

What is the Talimena Scenic Drive

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Photo Credit: Jimmy Emerson, DVM via Flickr CC2.0

The Talimena Scenic Drive (a National Forest Scenic Byway) is a 54-mile route located in Southeast Oklahoma, with a portion extending past the state line of Arkansas. It is a must-add activity for your Broken Bow itinerary! It winds through sites like the Ouachita National Forest, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, and the Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area.

Established as an official National Scenic Byway, the drive was specifically constructed to showcase the region’s impressive fall foliage. Its path follows the ridge of two significant mountains: Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain.

The Talimena Scenic Drive kicks off just outside of Talihina at the intersection of Highway 271 and Highway 1 and ends in Mena, Arkansas. The start of the Talimena National Scenic Byway is about an hour’s drive from our rental homes in Broken Bow.

Fun fact: The name “Talimena” combines Talihina and Mena, the two towns where the byway starts and ends.

The Best Stops Along the Talimena Scenic Drive

Viewpoints

The Talimena Scenic Drive, with enchanting landscapes and panoramic views, boasts 22 well-marked vista points. Each of these offers travelers the opportunity to pause and absorb the beauty of their surroundings. You’ll find pullout spots for all of these vistas, and some even come with the convenience of parking lots.

While we’ve cherry-picked a few of these scenic vistas in our recommended list below, feel encouraged to stop at any of the overlooks that call to you along the road.

Beyond these vistas, the Talimena Scenic Drive offers several other unique things to see. These range from historic sites to lovely nature areas perfect for exploring.

Stopping Points

If you’re planning a day to do the Talimena Scenic Drive, here is our recommended West to East list of stops:

Talimena State Park

As the western gateway to the scenic drive, Talimena State Park is an ideal spot to start your journey.

Talimena State Park is great for hiking, biking, and birdwatching, and if you’ve driven from Broken Bow, it’s the perfect spot to get out and stretch your legs out on the hiking trails after some time in the car and get ready for the rest of the drive.

Horse Thief Spring

A little further down the drive, you’ll find Horse Thief Spring. Horse Thief Spring is a historic site where legend says outlaws used to hide out during the Wild West era.

Pioneer Cemetery

A silent testament to the area’s tragic past lies ahead at the Pioneer Cemetery. Set aside by James Witherspoon to be his family’s cemetery, his family and 20 residents of Rich Mountain are said to be buried here.

Rich Mountain Fire Tower

If you’re feeling daring, the Rich Mountain Fire Tower is an exciting stop on the Talimena Scenic Drive.

If you climb to the top, you’ll be treated to an amazing 360-degree view of the surrounding area, providing a bird’s-eye view of the landscapes you’ve been driving through.

The Wonderhouse by Queen Wilhelmina

As you near the drive’s eastern edge, about 25 minutes from the fire tower, the historic Wonderhouse stands as a testament to the legacy of Queen Wilhelmina. Built in 1930, the house is free to visit, although the inside is no longer open so that you can explore the perimeter and peek in through the windows from the outside. It’s a truly unique stone building and well worth exploring.

Best Time of Year for the Talimena Scenic Drive

Photo Credit: RaksyBH

What is the best time of year to make the Talimena Scenic Drive? Here’s a breakdown of each season, and remember, there is never a bad time for the Talimena Scenic drive.

Fall

If we had to pick, fall is definitely the best time of year for the Talimena Scenic Drive. After all, the byway was made with the specific intention of showing off the fall colors of the region!

The best time to see fall foliage along the Talimena Scenic Drive is from late October to early November or mid-November, depending on the year.

Spring

The Talimena Scenic Drive is also amazing in spring. Between late March and early April, you can spot fields of beautiful wildflowers blooming, and the weather is pleasant, too.

Summer

Summer offers bright, clear days, presenting uninterrupted views of the landscapes. However, it can get very, very hot along the byway. Be sure to bring plenty of water, and make sure your car’s air conditioning is fully functioning.

Winter

Winter is also a beautiful time for the Talimena Scenic Drive. Seeing the Ouachita Mountains blanketed in snow is a site built for the background of a family selfie! However, the road can get slick, and parts are quite steep, making it a bit dangerous during snowy conditions.

How Long Does the Talimena Scenic Drive Take?

Photo Credit: Robert Hensley via Flickr CC2.0

Accounting for the stops on this list, you can delegate about 2 to 5 hours for driving the Talimena Scenic Drive. If you decide to stop at every vista (and we wouldn’t blame you; they’re incredible), the drive will likely take a little longer.

If you’re short on time, it takes one hour to drive one way through without stopping. If you’re doing the drive round trip without stopping, it’ll take about two hours.

Tips for the Talimena Scenic Drive

  • Fuel up: Before pulling onto the Talimena Scenic Drive, fill your tank, as there are no gas stations directly on the byway.
  • Pack a lunch: There’s nothing quite like having a picnic at one of the many beautiful vistas along the Talimena Scenic Drive or within Talimena State Park. We recommend packing lunch so you can have a picnic along the way.
  • Wear comfortable shoes: Some stops might invite a short trek or a wander, especially if you’re interested in hiking or exploring Talimena State Park. Comfortable footwear ensures you can explore without discomfort and take a hike on a whim if you’d like.
  • Keep an eye on the weather: Weather conditions can change rapidly in this area. Be sure to look at the forecast before you leave so you can plan for any inclement weather and pack appropriately.
    • Capture the moments: Don’t forget your camera. There are so many amazing photo opportunities along the Talimena Scenic Drive; you’ll be glad you have it.

Enjoy the Talimena Scenic Drive

This beautiful drive offers some of the best views of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and the Ouachita Mountains. When you stay at the Bear Cabins in Broken Bow, you’re only a short drive away from the beginning of the Talimena Scenic Drive. Book your stay today to start planning your adventure.