Muskogee to Talihina: A beautiful fall drive

Within an hour and a half from our house just south of Muskogee, there is a fall leaf-peeping drive called Talimena Scenic Byway.

The drive through the hills spans 54.0-miles (86.9 km) through Oklahoma State Highway 1 (SH-1) and Arkansas Highway 88 (Hwy 88) from Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas.

Only tents and camping trailers allowed
I did not take the drive but went down as far as Talihina to see if the fall color had arrived. Other than the Staghorn Sumac, the trees are just beginning to respond to the shorter daylight hours.

My route from Muskogee: 64 south to 266/2, east onto 31, south on 82, east on 270, southwest on 271.
The highways were empty and I was able to capture some of the scenes between Muskogee and Talihina to encourage you to make this drive.

The route opened in 1969 and formed a stretch of  Oklahoma State Highway 1, the number 1 assigned due to the scenery. It was dedicated on June 7, 1970 by Lucy Baines Johnson-Nugent, president Lyndon Johnson's daughter.
The name comes from the Frisco Railroad that ran between the towns of Talihina and Mena. The town of Talihina was named by the local Choctaws Native Americans meaning “iron road.” When Oklahoma became a state in 1906, they combined the Choctaw phrases for “red people” to form the word Oklahoma.

In 2005 it was made a (the first) National Scenic Byway by the America's Byway Program. The entire drive goes through the Ouachita National Forest along the highest peaks of the Winding Stair Mountains.

Many of the trees along the way are old growth forest since they have no commercial value and have been left in place.
Where scenic pull-outs were not provided I jumped out of the car or took a photo through the windshield. Other than up hill truck lanes, the roads are two lane.

The visitor's center is at the Hwy 271 intersection where you would turn to take the entire Talimena Scenic Byway drive.

The 13% grades are typical of the drive through the mountains.
The driver has to stay alert. Fortunately, while there were hundreds of motocycles on the road traveling in groups, there were very few other autos.

 Oh, and as this Trip Advisor reviewer said, be sure to have a full tank of gas, water and snacks. The entire drive is non-commercial, no restaurants, no restrooms, no food.


gourdphile said…
This post makes me homesick! Gorgeous drive. I've wanted to make it some day and you've strengthened my resolve. Talihina is one of my favorite Oklahoma names. Thanks for 'splaining it.
Molly Day said…
Hi Gourdphile -
I'm going to take the drive a couple more times and record the changes for you.
By the way, does your name mean you grow gourds?
jan w said…
I've been on this drive several times and it is always breathtaking. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a pleasant day trip. If Wilhemina's castle in Mena is still open, you can eat in the restaurant there.

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