Where to go Leaf Peeping in McCurtain County: Talimena Scenic Byway
Looking for something scenic to snap? Oklahoma’s best fall foliage views can be found along the 54-mile long Talimena Scenic Byway, located in the southeastern part of the state in the Ouachita Mountains. One of the first National Forest Scenic Byways, this spectacular route was built in the 1980s to highlight fall colors, and is just an easy road trip away from the state’s unofficial outdoor capital: Beavers Bend.
The Talimena National Scenic Byway climbs and twists through the mountains past evergreen and hardwood trees, and boasts stunning panoramas visible at 22 scenic pullouts along the way. Drive the road straight through in just over an hour, or linger longer and make it a daylong adventure by exploring the Ouachita Mountains and the Oklahoma and Arkansas towns that dot the route.
The byway’s fall colors typically peak around early November, but October offers fantastic fall foliage views all month long. Red and gold leaves commingle with evergreens and dazzle drivers and cyclists as they climb through the highest mountain range between the Rockies and the Appalachians.
Where to Stay: Mountain Cabins in McCurtain County
Fall is an excellent time to rent a cabin and enjoy the autumn colors and cooler temperatures. Photo by Jeremy Charles.
The best place to kick off your fall color tour is in Beavers Bend, Oklahoma. Less than an hour from Talimena National Scenic Byway, Beavers Bend is another incredible autumn leaf viewing locale, and is home to top-notch outdoor recreation opportunities.
Here, groups of any size can rent rustic and luxurious cabins to spend a night or a whole week. Popular with motorcyclists, drivers, and families, cabin options range from cozy single-bedrooms for two with outdoor hot tubs and fire pits to opulent cabin mansions fit for your whole family.
Find the perfect cabin and book your home away from home, then spend the rest of your trip exploring all the Beavers Bend region has to offer.
Enjoy stunning views of fall foliage from the Lower Mountain Fork River. Photo by Jeremy Charles.
Beavers Bend State Park is, like the byway, found in the Ouachita Mountains, and a short drive away from the Dallas-Fort Worth or Oklahoma City metros. Home to stunning lakes and rivers perfect for fishing, floating, and paddling, cool fall temperatures make it an ideal time to catch trout on Broken Bow Lake or hike and bike on the miles of surrounding trails.
Beavers Bend State Park is one of the premiere places for spotting fall foliage in Oklahoma. This is due in part to the rich reds, yellows, and oranges created by the wide variety of trees here—hickory, ash, red maple, and sweetgum. And kayaking or floating on Broken Bow Lake offers the area’s most stunning vantage point of the changing colors.
The Talimena National Scenic Byway never looks better than in the fall. Photo by Jeremy Charles
From Broken Bow/Beavers Bend area, travel north on U.S. Highway 271 to where it intersects Oklahoma Highway 1, seven miles northeast of Talihina, Oklahoma. You’ll follow the byway from Oklahoma into Arkansas, completing the 54-mile journey near where Arkansas Highway 88 intersects U.S. Highway 59/71 in the town of Mena, Arkansas. The Talimena Scenic Byway ends at the East End Visitor Information Station near town.
Drivers can also reverse the route and travel the scenic byway from Arkansas to Oklahoma instead.
What to See and Do On the Byway
Pull over for a picnic at one of the many stops on the Talimena National Scenic Byway. Photo by Jeremy Charles
Along the scenic byway, you’ll pass endless colored trees, impressive vistas, and sites like the2,681-foot tall Rich Mountain (the Ouachita Range’s highest point). Great recreation areas to stop in for a picnic or hike include Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area, and Talimena State Park.
Enjoy grade A leaf-peeping in McCurtain County. Photo by Jeremy Charles.
Exhibits covering the region’s history are plentiful along the route, and visitors can learn about early residents like the prehistoric Caddoan people and the Choctaw Nation Indian tribe.
The steep, winding roads climb up and over the mountains, requiring drivers to be vigilant and watch their speed as they navigate the many turns. Be prepared for long climbs, thrilling descents, and turn after turn of views that will wow you. Slow down to enjoy it all.
On the Talimena National Scenic Byway, going at your own pace and enjoying the scenic route is exactly what you came to do—and why thousands of visitors flock the area each autumn. So stop off at the scenic pullouts, go for a hike, or pack a lunch to enjoy, and appreciate the slower pace and changing seasons that come with taking the long way.
Originally written by RootsRated for McCurtain County. Photos by Jeremy Charles.