This short drive around Lake Overholser in West Oklahoma County is short, but enjoyable. Speed limits are low, and there are parks, cyclists, and residences. The scenery is excellent, and a short trip to look at the dam and spillway is worthwhile.
Mountain Gateway Scenic Byway
Heavener, OK to Hon, AR
“This drive isn’t short on spectacular views of the Ouachita Mountains as it winds along with the Mountain Fork, Black Fork, and Glover Rivers. In the spring, the area is covered in wildflowers, which can inspire virtually anyone’s inner photographer to emerge. With heights reaching 2,600 feet above sea level, there are several areas to pull off and survey the landscape for miles on end.” —YourMechanic.com
“The Mountain Gateway Scenic Drive in southeast Oklahoma follows U.S. Highway 59/ 270 for 22 miles between Heavener, Oklahoma and the Arkansas state line. This state highway is a two-lane paved road with some steep grades and sharp curves. Drive through the forested valleys of the Ouachita Mountains, one of America’s oldest land masses.” —OnlyInYourState.com
Mountain Pass Scenic Byway
Octavia, OK to Page, OK.
“This mountain drive traverses mountain tops and goes through the 26,445-acre Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area and is especially beautiful in autumn with the changing of the leaves. Stop at the Kerr Arboretum to enjoy the landscape or hike a trail to forge a more intimate connection with nature. For those wanting to spend a little extra time to soak up the beauty of the region, there are several campgrounds to spend the night.” —YourMechanic.com
“The Mountain Pass Scenic Drive is located in southeast Oklahoma. It follows US Highway 259 for 23 miles between Page, Oklahoma and Octavia, Oklahoma. The byway goes through the Ouachita Mountains and also cuts through the 26,445-acre Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area. Several scenic turnouts are located along the route providing beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding valleys wilderness areas.” —OnlyInYourState.com
Talimena Skyline Drive
Talihina, OK to Mena, AR
“Beginning in Talihina and crossing over into Arkansas toward the end, this drive through the Ouachita Mountains is full of scenic views and recreational opportunities. The road is quite curvy and there aren’t any opportunities to fuel up in between, so preparation is vital before setting out, but the effort is more than worth it. The route passes through a lush array of evergreens and hardwoods with lots of overlooks at high altitude, and Horsethief Spring – named for the outlaws that used to camp there – is a good place to stop and hit trails or enjoy a picnic spread.” –YourMechanic.com
Talihina, OK to Mena, AR
While this is probably not as exciting as the Talimena Scenic Drive above, it’s still a fun stretch of road to drive, and tends to have a lot less traffic.
Hugo, OK to Ft. Smith AR
“Reaching from the banks of the Red River on Oklahoma’s southern border, then stretching northeast to Fort Smith, Arkansas, the Kiamichi Trace is a breathtaking, scenic section of U.S. Highway 271 that was once a military trail connecting Fort Smith and Fort Towson. The Kiamichi Trace’s picturesque beauty meanders through Oklahoma’s southeast region, known as Choctaw Country, and serves as a gateway to the Talimena National Scenic Byway and Beavers Bend State Park.” —TravelOK.gov
Heavener Runestone & Three Sticks Monument
Poteau, OK to Big Cedar, OK
“A 35-mile drive starting at Poteau and heading south through the valley of the Viking explorers and over the Winding Stair Mountains to Big Cedar. The northern part of the drive lies in the Arkansas River valley region of the Ouachitas. Although the Arkansas River is 15 miles to the north, its meandering and flooding over hundreds of thousands of years have influenced the character of the surrounding landscape. Broad, forested floodplains with prairie openings were once common near the river and along its major tributaries such as the Poteau River. On higher ground, rolling hills with scattered trees and a prairie understory provided habitat for elk, bison, and other animals of the open range. Land use changes and overhunting of the animals that once roamed the prairie have destroyed the former ecology.” —Trails.com
Ft. Smith, AR to Talihina, OK
“A 58-mile drive beginning in Fort Smith, then generally heading south to the Spiro Indian Mounds and ending just beyond the Winding Stair Mountains at Talihina. Heading south out of the Arkansas River valley, this drive climbs over the Winding Stair Mountains and comes within sight of the Kiamichi Mountains. Both of these east-west trending mountain chains are located in the western part of the Ouachita Mountains. In the Fort Smith area, the relatively flat to rolling Arkansas River valley was once characterized by prairie and bottomland hardwood forests. Today it is primarily pasture and cultivated land. The Ouachita Mountains, because of their rugged nature, still contain extensive forests of pine and hardwoods.” —Trails.com
Cherokee Nation Byway
Tahlequah, OK to Sallisaw, OK
“A 58-mile drive beginning at Sallisaw in the Arkansas River valley and traveling west and then north into the Ozarks to the heart of the Cherokee Nation at Tahlequah. The drive begins in the Arkansas River valley in what is known as the Arkoma Basin, which separates the Ozarks from the Ouachita Mountains. Mountain remnants viewed to the south were isolated from the main Ouachitas by basin settling and the erosive action of rivers over millions of years. The Arkansas River valley was once primarily a mixture of prairie and bottomland hardwood forest, with some marshes and sloughs left behind by the meandering Arkansas River. Today, the deep, fertile soil produces crops and provides pastures for cattle. The northern part of the drive enters the Cookson Hills on the western edge of the Ozarks. The terrain is less mountainous, being characterized instead by large, rolling hills covered with upland hardwood forests of oak and hickory. In some parts of this region the forests were more like woodlands or savannas with scattered trees and an understory of prairie grasses and forbs (wildflowers). Elk and bison once roamed this land, as did the Caddo and then the Osage Indians, long before the time of European settlement and the displacement of eastern Indian nations to this part of Oklahoma.” —Trails.com
Beaver’s Bend/Highway 259
Big Cedar, OK to Broken Bow, OK
“For another prime fall foliage viewing area, look no further than Highway 259, located directly south of the Talimena National Scenic Byway. Begin your drive in the town of Big Cedar in southeast Oklahoma and crisscross your way southward along the lush tops of the Ouachita Mountains. This beautiful fall foliage drive leads directly to one of the state’s most popular state park destinations, Beavers Bend State Park. Within the boundaries of this enchanting park, visitors will find towering trees ablaze with vibrant yellows and deep reds dispersed throughout pine forests in a nature lover’s paradise.
Continue your drive on Highway 259 south past Broken Bow to Idabel, or make your way to the Upper and Lower Mountain Fork River for year-round trout fishing in the river’s rushing waters and float trips amidst remote, natural splendor. Also, mark your calendars for the annual Beavers Bend Folk Festival & Craft Show and spend a crisp fall afternoon enjoying folk music, vintage crafts, hayrides and a wide variety of tasty treats.” —TravelOK.com
U.S. Highway 69 U.S. Highway 75
Colbert, OK to McAlester, OK
“Fruit stands, cattle ranches and wide open vistas greet travelers on this stretch of road.” See write up at TravelOK.com
Oklahoma Highway 7
Broken Bow, OK to Davis, OK
Page, OK to Hot Springs, AR
“A 91-mile drive beginning at Hot Springs; traveling westward through the heart of the Ouachita Mountains where beautiful quartz crystals abound; and ending at Page, Oklahoma. While the Ozarks are flat-topped mountains, the Ouachitas are long, narrow ridges running from east to west. Both mountain regions began forming during the Paleozoic Era, about 300 million years ago, when the continents of South America and Africa collided with the southern end of North America. The Ozarks were uplifted into a high, flat plateau, while the Ouachitas, being closer to the point of collision, were wrinkled and folded into long ridges. This mountain-building process occurred over millions of years and added a couple of inches of height per year, then abruptly stopped. Since then, the mountains have been eroded by rain and wind to their present shape. This east-west trending chain of mountains is unique in the United States. Most mountain ranges, like the Appalachians, Rockies, and Sierra Nevada, have a north-south alignment due to past continental collisions from the east (forming the Appalachian mountains) or from the west (forming the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains). This tour takes you through the heart of the Ouachitas and provides excellent opportunities to see the results of this ancient mountain-building process.” –Trails.com
2016 Fall Tour Route (Amended)
Mena, AR to Mena, AR
This is the Day 2 Route from the 2016 Fall Tour. Only alteration was to avoid the unpaved portion of County Road 260 between the Oklahoma State line, through Zafra, OK, and over to Octavia. The portion between Waldron, AR and Rover, AR was not quite as fun as I had hoped. It’s not bad, just not as twisty as the map made it appear.
Southeast Arklahoma Via Krebs
Oklahoma City, OK to Mena, AR
This route is from Day 1 (and in reverse, Day 3) of the 2016 Fall Tour, and is intended to get from Oklahoma City to Mena, AR. A fun drive in its own right, and well worth stopping in Krebs for some Italian food.
Shawnee Trail – US Highway 69
Bartlesville, OK to Durant, OK
The Shawnee Trail was a cattle trail from Texas to Kansas and Missouri, also known as the Texas Road. It’s path is closely followed by US Highway 69. More information at TravelOK.com.