Most people think of Oklahoma as a state that is flat, brown, dry and filled with oil wells. How wrong they are! The Sooner State also has mountains and forests, with vibrant colors that rival New England's foliage in the fall. The main difference is that, in New England, buses carry thousands of tourists on fall foliage tours. In eastern Oklahoma, which is considered to have the state's most spectacular fall colors, tourists must provide their own wheels.
Talimena National Scenic Byway
Travel Oklahoma, the state's official tourism website, and many others rate the Talimena National Scenic Byway as the best place to see fall foliage in eastern Oklahoma. The 54-mile route begins in western Arkansas and ends at Talihina in eastern Oklahoma. Highway 1, filled with twists and turns, runs through the Ouachita National Forest and the Ouachita Mountains, the highest range between the Appalachians and the Rockies. The route offers plenty of turnouts to enjoy the view, and the Oklahoma tourism folks suggest spending more time in the area by camping out at Talimena or Lake Wister state parks.
State Highway 2
State Highway 2 also is considered a good spot to see fall foliage in eastern Oklahoma at its best. The route passes through the San Bois Mountains where visitors can see a "dazzling array of reds, oranges and yellows," the tourism folks say. Tourism officials also suggest taking time to hike the fall trails at Robbers Cave State Park. Savvy tourists time their visits to coincide with the Robbers Cave Fall Festival, which draws nearly 70,000 people annually to the three-day event.
Will Rogers Country
A third fall foliage tour centers around the Oologah area, the birthplace of the folksy comedian Will Rogers, and Claremore, home to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum and the JM Davis Arms & Historical Museum, which houses the largest collection of guns in the world. Tourism officials say visitors can easily spend a day touring the Lake Oologah area, including hiking the Skull Hollow Nature Trail through stands of oak and hickory trees.
For those who prefer to view fall foliage on two wheels instead of four, the Oklahoma Bicycle Society offers an annual biking tour, the Tour de Trees, of fall foliage spots. Eastern Oklahoma's Lake Eufaula was the destination in 2011. The society provides maps and assistance, including a suggestion for the best place to stop for ice cream as you bike around the lake. The group's trips last for two days; membership in the society is not required.
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