Arkansas’ second highest peak is on Rich Mountain - a mountain that has the Talimena Scenic Byway on its long ridge and extends into Oklahoma
to the west. It is also the highest point in the Ouachita National Forest.
The 54-mile Talimena Scenic Byway was designated a National Scenic Drive in the late 1980’s. In Arkansas, it is State Route 88 and begins in the town of Mena - the seat of Polk County. On the Oklahoma side it is State Route 1 and begins just north of Talihina near Talimena State Park- hence the name Talimena - after the towns on each end of the drive. Route 1 in Oklahoma can also be picked up at US 259 at the foot of Rich Mountain. West of US 259 - the Talimena road goes over Winding Stair Mountain. Though it’s short compared to such drives like the Blue Ridge Parkway or Skyline Drive in the Appalachians, this drive is similar in spectacular scenery. Visitor & information centers are at each end of the drive.
The observation tower at the apex of Rich Mountain is about nine miles up the road from Mena. There is a sign at the beginning of the short road to drive up to it. No hiking trails lead up to this summit. The 58-foot tower is open on weekend afternoons from Memorial Day to Veterans Day and is staffed by volunteers. Donations are accepted for the upkeep and maintenance of the tower. Interpretive signs & picnic tables are on the grounds too.
Similar to Mount Magazine, the State of Arkansas operates a state park atop this mountain near its summit. Queen Wilhelmina State Park consists of a lodge, campsites and hiking trails on its premises.
The Ouachita Trail
is the primary hiking trail on Rich Mountain and almost runs parallel to the ridge during its run on the mountain. The Ouachita Trail begins at Talimena State Park in Oklahoma to the west. The forest services' trail information says it ends in Perryville, Arkansas making the trail 192 miles long. Other sources say it ends at Pinnacle Mountain State Park near Little Rock - making it 222 miles long.
At the Mena visitor center is the trailhead for the Earthquake Ridge Trails
- a series of loop trails totaling 6.8 miles that are open to both hiking & mountain biking.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park also has a few hiking opportunities. Lovers Leap Trail
begins near the northwest corner of the main lodge. Can't miss the colorful sign at the trailhead. It follows the Ouachita Trail for three tenths of a mile and you come to wooden steps that brings you out to an overlook. This is Lovers Leap and its spectacular view. Continue to follow the yellow markers and the trail will go down and back up to the front of the main lodge - totaling 1.1 miles of a hike. The front of the lodge is also the beginning of the Resevoir Trail
. The signs caution about the hike being strenuous but there are benches along the way.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park
3877 Hwy 88 West
Mena, AR 71953
479-394-2862 or 2864
For reservationONLY 1-800-264-2477