Ouachita National Forest
|Shady Lake, Ouachita National Forest (Arkansas Dept. of Parks and Tourism)|
The Ouachita has two designated National Forest Scenic BywaysArkansas Highway 7 and the Talimena Scenic Drive. Both byways offer outstanding opportunities to enjoy pleasure driving and scenic viewing.
Arkansas Highway 7 is a good drive for those who want to explore the human culture of the Ozarks. It passes through towns all geared toward capturing the tourist dollar, either through thoughtful museums and markets, or through schlock. But what's a vacation without a little fun schlock? Along the way there's plenty of gorgeous nature, and plenty of ways to explore it, too.
The Talimena Scenic Byway offers curve after curve of breathtaking panoramas of the east-west ranges of the Ouachita Mountains. The drive winds 54 miles west along the spine of Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain. Between Mena, Arkansas, and Talihina, Oklahoma, the drive offers scenic vistas, historical sites, camping, picnicking, hiking, Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Robert S. Kerr Memorial Arboretum and Nature Center, and visitor information stations.
Three other drives may not have fancy designations, but they're all special in their own ways. The Poteau Mountain Tour is a rustic ridgeline route that takes you into the heart of nearby wilderness. The Winona Tour is an interpretative auto tour, where you can learn about oaks and maybe even find some crystals. It also offers a compelling glimpse of the Flatside Wilderness.
If you're interested in crystals, you'll for sure want to drive the Crystal Valley Tour. This 21-mile tour provides an opportunity to look at the geologic history of the region, as well as a chance to try your hand at crystal collection. In addition, there's a rock collection area, so if you don't find a rock, you can at least find a stone that will look nice among the impatiens in your front yard.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication