The Civilian Conservation Corps began the creation of the Talimena National Scenic Byway in the 1930s as two truck trails. Then in the late 1960s, the roads were connected and paved, forming what is now known as Oklahoma State Highway 1 and Arkansas Highway 88. This scenic drive became a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1989, receiving National Scenic Byway status in 2005.
The Talimena Scenic Drive covers 54 miles from southeastern Oklahoma to western Arkansas, along the ridges of the Winding Stair and Rich Mountains. The entire route from just northeast of Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena, Arkansas, is in the boundaries of the Ouachita National Forest.
The Ouachita National Forest covers more than 1.78 million acres. Established in 1907, it's the oldest national forest in the southern United States. With six wilderness areas and nearly 800,000 acres of old-growth forest, it’s truly unspoiled nature. The forest offers a wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities. One of the best is riding the scenic byway that wanders across the unique Ouachita Mountains.
The Ouachita Mountains are unique in that they run east and west. Most mountain ranges in the lower 48 states run north and south. They represent one of the few mountainous regions in the central states between the Rockies and the Appalachians. Divided into several distinct sub ranges, the Talimena National Scenic Byway is located in the Fourche Mountains and crosses Winding Stair and Rich Mountains. The byway’s highest elevation is on Rich Mountain at 2,681 feet in Arkansas.
One of the charms of the Talimena National Scenic Byway and the Ouachita National Forest is they’re not conveniently located off an interstate exit ramp. Centrally located between Oklahoma City, Dallas/Fort Worth, Fort Smith, Little Rock, and Texarkana, they’re accessible to many millions of people—but are well off the beaten path. This gives you a wonderful opportunity to get out your maps and plan a motorcycle tour that takes a different way there and back home. However you get there, enjoy wandering over this scenic byway on the tops of the mountains in the middle of America.
And if you have time while travelling in Arkansas, there are a number of other opportunities to extend your motorcycle road trip. The state’s website has a special section for motorcycle tours—including Crowley’s Ridge Parkway. The site suggests 25 classic on-road routes and six off-road/dual-sport routes that cover every region of the state. Digital and print versions of their motorcycling guide feature trip routes and suggestions, and a newsletter with events, deals, travel tips, and anything else you might need to plan a motorcycle road trip in Arkansas.
In addition to the routes, there are also a number of events that motorcyclists from all over the country attend. The renowned Bikes, Blues, and BBQ is hosted every fall in Fayetteville, as well as the annual Motorcycle Rally in Hot Springs and the Steel Horse Rally that takes place in Fort Smith each May.
Remember, if you’re traveling with other riders, you can save more on your insurance with a rider group discount from Dairyland. Take a look at our website for details.
Till next time, ride safe!
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