- 22 miles (35 km)
- Allow 3 hours to take advantage of all this byway offers.
The Mountain Gateway Scenic Drive is in southeast Oklahoma. It follows U.S. Highway 59/ 270 for 22 miles between Heavener, Oklahoma and the Arkansas state line. This state highway is a two-lane paved road with some steep grades and sharp curves. All types of vehicles can safely drive the byway. Temporary closure is possible during winter,otherwise the byway remains open year-round.
Mountain Gateway Scenic Drive rides through the forested valleys of the Ouachita Mountains, one of America's oldest land masses. These mountains are unique because they stretch east to west rather than north and south. The byway also cuts through the 26,445-acre Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area. Some scenic turnouts are located along the route providing beautiful panoramic views of the mountain slopes of the Black Fork Wilderness to the north and the Robert S. Kerr Arboretum to the south. Numerous side roads and other scenic byways invite the traveler to further explore these heavily forested mountains. Wildflowers in spring proudly display their colors while autumn, not to be outdone, also puts on its own beautiful display.
White oak trees that are 200 years old and 100 feet tall on the north slopes have cousins on the ridge lines that are only 10 feet tall. The results of these two extremes are distinct plant and animal communities. Typically, shortleaf pine, post oak, blackjack oak, black hickory, and service berry are predominant on the south slopes. The north facing slopes will support white oak, red oak, sugar maple,dogwood, paw paw, Carolina silver bell, wild hydrangea and various species of salamanders and snails not commonly found on any other slope. Large, unusual rock fields, made up of sandstone blocks and boulders, are located on several of the Ouachita Mountain slopes and are often called rock glaciers. Communities of worms and snails enjoy these talis environments.
The byway offers nearly unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation. Wilderness areas and the Arboretum adjacent to the byway offer seclusion for hikers, backpackers, and horseback riders. Also popular with the hiker or backpacker is the Ouachita National Recreation Trail, showcasing many unique vistas and can be accessed from the byway.There is a backpacker s camp on the Talimena Scenic Drive, which parallels this byway,that is open all year and has a breath-taking view of Holson Valley.
Several national forest campgrounds are located along or a short drive off the byway. Cedar Lake Recreation Area is one of the larger camping areas. It is situated on the shores of the 90-acre lake and has 98 sites for tents, recreational vehicles, and equestrians. Many of the sites have water, electric and sewer hookups. The campground also has drinking water, restrooms, a boat ramp, shower facilities, hiking trails, fishing, and swimming beaches. Hundreds of miles of horseback riding trails are also in the area. Billy Creek Recreation Area is a short drive off the byway and has picnicking and 11 camp units. Winding Stair Recreation Area is a solar-powered facility campground located a short distance off the byway with picnicking and 26 campsites. Drinking water and restrooms are provided. The Mountain Gateway Scenic Drive is a component of the State Scenic Byway network located in southwest Oklahoma and includes the Mountain Pass Scenic Drive and the Talimena Scenic Drive. All three of these state byways are applying for national status this year in hopes of creating Oklahoma's first national scenic byway network.
Points of Interest
Points of Interest Along The Way
Black Fork Mountain Wilderness Trail (OK)
The trail leads you into the wilderness and offers beautiful panoramic views in every direction. A day hiker or an overnight backpacker may enjoy spectacular views of Queen Wilhelmina State Park, Rich Mountain Fire Tower, and the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The trail traverses historic sites dating from the late 1800s to 1940 where pioneers once settled. The trail also features unusual geology and vegetation.
From US Hwy 59/270 (Mountain Gateway Scenic Drive) in Page, OK; Turn north on Big Creek road. There is a wilderness sign at this interesction indicating the direction to the Black Fork Mountain Trailhead. Proceed 2 miles to the trailhead entrance.
Cedar Lake Recreation Center (OK)
This 86-acre lake, surrounded by oak and pine covered hills, is a perfect place to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Campers and day visitors are welcome and can choose from a wide variety of water and trail activities. Facilities include tent camping, RV camping with water, electric, and sewer, separate equestrian camping, hiking around the lake, cross-country hiking and equestrian trails, picnic shelters, two beaches, a boat ramp, fishing decks, flush toilets, hot showers. If you are driving in a RV or pulling a trailer, the Tall Cedar Road is not suitable.
From the U.S. HIghway 59/270 junction with Holson Valley Road (about 1/4 mile north of the Choctaw Visitor Information Center), proceed west for about 3.5 miles on Holson Valley Road to the entrance road of Cedar Lake. Approach and welcome signs are posted.
Choctaw Visitor Information Center (OK)
This is a full service information and education facility that highlights the message of the Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area. Spend time here to stretch your legs, eat lunch, browse the gift shop, study exhibits, and gather information on the scenic, recreational, cultural, and historical sites of the area. Here, the US Forest Service will help with any questions or comments you may have about the Ouachita National Forest.
Emerald Point Vista (OK)
Appropriately named for the emerald green haze typically found upon this part of the Ouachita Mountains. Pull out your sack lunch and stay awhile. Walk off lunch on the neighboring Mountain Top Trail or the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.
Go south on US Hwy 259 to SR 1 turn west for about 1.5 miles. The vista is just beyond Winding Stair Campground.
Kerr Nature Center (OK)
Located at the Kerr Nature Center on the Talimena Scenic Drive, three interpretive trails feature a variety of plants which are identified by trail signs. The interpretive signs tell fascinating stories of how a tree competes with other forest inhabitants for survival, help explain the process of soil formation and its importance in the forest life cycle, and help to experience the variety of ecological areas that exist on Rich Mountain.
Take US Hwy 259 to SR 1. Turn west for about 1.5 miles
Ouachita National Recreation Trail (OK)
This trail parallels the entire length of the Talimena Scenic Drive and provides hiking and backpacking opportunities for the Byway traveler at almost any point. There are many other trail systems that intersect the Ouachita National Recreation Trail providing for a variety of loop-hike opportunities in various locations.
From the US Highway 59/270 and US Highway 259 junction, proceed south on US 259 for 7 miles to the trailhead junction. Signs are posted on the highway.
Winding Stair Campground (OK)
This mountain-top, solar-powered campground offers an excellent opportunity for getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It lies on a scenic ridge along the Talimena Scenic Drive in the heart of the 26,445-acre Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area. The campground provides an excellent base from which to enjoy the beauty of the scenic highway, or the natural wonders of the national recreation area. Parking and 21 campsites for hiking and backpacking.
Take US Hwy 259 south to SR 1. Turn west for 1.5 miles.