The Talimena Scenic Drive is a beautiful 54-mile stretch of (mostly) gentle curves that follow the spine of Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in southwest Arkansas and southeast Oklahoma.
"Talimena" is an acronym derived from the names of the two towns that anchor the ends of the route. On the Arkansas side is Mena. On the Oklahoma side is Talihina. In between is the Ouachita National Forest.
The two-lane road roams up and down each mountain peak instead of skirting around the sides, so for most the route, you are looking down on ridge after ridge of forested mountains on either side of the road.
If all this sounds a little familiar, its because the Talimena Scenic Drive has many of the same appeals as the Cherohala Skyway in Tennessee and North Carolina.
The Talimena actually predates the Cherohala by a couple decades, opening in 1969. The Oklahoma stretch is designated as OK-01 and the Arkansas portion is AR-88. The route was based on roads laid by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s.
Along this National Scenic Byway are 22 scenic vista stops, a number of hiking trails, and Arkansas' Queen Wilhelmina State Park. Rich Mountain is the second-highest peak in Arkansas.
The route does have a couple cautions. For one, there is no gas along the route, so having enough fuel for at least 60 miles is advisable. Second, Queen Wilhelmina State Park's huge lodge can attract some slow-moving traffic at peak tourism periods.
Other than the drive's ends, there are only two places to get on/off midway. One is a County Road that weaves down off the mountains to the south. The other is AR-272, which is a direct route down to US-272. At that intersection is the Rich Mountain Country Store, which has a reputation for very friendly service and is the only business relatively close to the drive.
For more about the Talimena Scenic Drive, see talimenascenicdrive.com.