Talimena Scenic Byway

Nothing is more suited to an unforgettable Arkansas road trip than the Talimena Scenic Byway that stretches from Mena in Arkansas to Talihena in Oklahoma, along the way climbing Rich Mountain, Arkansas's second highest peak at 2,681 feet, and passing through beautiful state parks, including Ouachita National Forest and Queen Wilhelmina State Park. This scenic drive in Arkansas covers 54 miles of wonderful scenery and provides spectacular views along its course. Along the way are opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, with camping, white water rafting, and trout fishing. While only eighteen miles of this route are actually in the state, the area is a prime destination for Arkansas vacations.

The starting point of the scenic drive in Arkansas is the town of Mena, itself a center of tourism and rich in history, with its lovely historic homes and churches. Other attractions in the town include a rail museum and historic cabin, located in Janssen Park and dating to 1851. There are several important events that take place here, including a well-respected arts and crafts festival, a great car show, and annual butterfly festival. Some of the best white water rafting in the entire state is located in Cossatot River State Park, just outside of town.

The town is set in the Ouachita National Forest that contains the tallest mountain range in mid-America and the Western Hemisphere's only mountains that run east to west. This national forest, headquartered in Hot Springs, covers 1.8 million acres in central Arkansas and stretches into southeastern Oklahoma. If you're beginning your Arkansas road trip here, you will surely explore this pristine wilderness area. There are many things to do here involving outdoor recreation, including fishing for bass, catfish, and bluegill, among other species; hiking on an extensive network of more than 800 miles of trails; and camping, both primitive and with hook ups for recreational vehicles and motor homes. These kinds of activities will reveal an array of wildlife, including deer, raccoons, and even black bear, as well as colorful indigenous wildflowers.

Set atop Rich Mountain along the Talimena Scenic Byway is one of the popular Arkansas state parks, beautiful Queen Wilhelmina State Park. At the pinnacle of the mountain is a wonderful lodge, replacing the historic "Castle in the Clouds" originally built in 1897. The state park has its unusual name after the Queen of the Netherlands to honor her coronation in 1898, a move instigated by the Dutch railroad magnates of the time. In addition to rooms at the lodge, there are campsites in the park, and you can find great vacation cabins to rent in the vicinity.

The Queen Wilhelmina section of the Talimena Scenic Byway offers incredible scenery because of the vistas from atop Rich Mountain. If you're wondering when to go, be assured that vistas and views along this scenic drive in Arkansas are spectacular during all four seasons—blanketed by snow, decorated in fall foliage, and under the blue skies of summer and spring. There's a "Christmas on the Mountain" celebration. In August, you can enjoy the much anticipated Rod Run that draws more than 200 street rods and classic antique cars. This is certainly a suitable event, since taking an Arkansas road trip here is one of the most popular things to do.

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