• Hot Springs, Arkansas to McAlester, Oklahoma: On the Talimena Scenic Highway

      209 miles - about 6 hours

      A drive through the mountains of western Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma can provide some breathtaking sights and a variety of roadside attractions. Along this route you can bathe away your aches and pains, take in the beauty of one of the nation's first designated Scenic Highways, see a 'Castle In The Clouds', have an encounter with Sasquatch, and enjoy some outstanding Italian food.

      Here are some highlights along the route.

      Hot Springs, Arkansas (Starting point)
      The route begins in Hot Springs, Arkansas, home of Hot Springs National Park where heated, mineral-laden waters flow to the earth's surface at numerous springs. These waters are thought by many to posses magical healing and soothing powers. A walk down 'Bathhouse Row' on Central Ave reveals eight ornate bathhouses that have been refurbished and preserved. Several of these have been restored both inside and outside. The Fordyce operates as a museum and also the park Visitor Center and the Buckstaff is still open for visitors to bathe in its soothing waters just like they have since 1912. The Quapaw was refurbished and re-opened in 2008 and provides guests with a unique way to enjoy the thermal water in a traditional spa environment.

      Mena, Arkansass (Mile 89)
      A drive on the Talimena Scenic Highway is a beautiful drive any time of year. But when fall arrives, the foliage is breathtaking. This highway begins in Mena and extends about 60 miles across the Ouachita Mountains (pronounced WASH-i taw) into southeastern Oklahoma. The mountains are relatively modest in height, with the 2,681 foot Rich Mountain, being the tallest, but offer a beautiful, almost seamless carpet of trees. Great spot for capturing fall leaf displays!

      Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Arkansas (Mile 107)
      After just a few miles on the highway you reach Queen Wilhelmina State Park, a 460 acre mountaintop vista that is home to the 'Castle In The Clouds.' Queen Wilhelmina Lodge is a modern re-built facility that retains the royal title and panoramic views of its predecessor which was originally built in 1898 by investors from the Netherlands who named the facility after their young queen hoping she would be flattered enough to visit. Wilhelmina never came, however, and the hotel closed after only a few years but has since been re-built to its current splendor.

      Talihina, Oklahoma (Mile 157)
      When the Frisco railroad pushed its tracks through these rugged hills in 1888, the Choctaw Indians called the rail line talihina, meaning 'iron road' and the name stuck to this track-side community. Here is where the Scenic Highway ends but not the attractions. In near-by Honobia they have an annual Bigfoot Festival in October that includes live music, games, food and other activities along with a conference that provides research workshops and prominent Bigfoot researchers speaking about their experiences and research.

      McAlester, Oklahoma (Mile 209)
      The route ends in McAlester, a seemingly unlikely area for authentic Italian food, but near-by Krebs is the home of Pete's Place where they have been serving up authentic Italian cooking and handcrafted Choc beer since 1925. Krebs is also the home of Lovera’s, a 'Famous Italian Market' providing genuine Italian food since 1946. With a newly remodeled store and more and more products from all over Italy, Lovera's retains and old world atmosphere and it's fun place to hang with friends.

      Quapaw Bathhouse and Bathhouse Row

      Comments 1 Comment
      1. Doc1's Avatar
        Doc1 -
        just to add this in if you will take AR88E out of Mena for a few miles there is a small spot in the road called Pine Ridge.
        This is the home of the Lum and Abner Musem and the famous Jotem down store
        Be sure and ask about the hay baler they have there, This is a wonderful little place to visit and spen a few hours.
        We were fortunate enought to catch the place open and no one there. We sat on the porch and talke dwith the l=elderly lady for about two hours .A great visit