Late October is typically peak time for fall foliage, and the seasonal change of color can be a major tourist draw. Millions of people flock to New England states each year to witness picturesque mountain drives and quaint hamlets awash in brilliant yellow, red and orange leaves. The Smoky Mountains and the vast aspen forests of Colorado offer similar autumnal appeal to visitors, but many don’t know about the fabulous fall color we have right here in Oklahoma.
According to Chuck Mai, vice president of public affairs with AAA Oklahoma, three places in the Sooner State really stand out.
Mai says the famed Talimena National Scenic Byway between Talihina, Okla., and Mena, Ark., is at the top of most lists. “The roadway takes you through some of the prettiest forested scenery you’ll find anywhere, and there are plenty of scenic turnouts – 26 vistas – where you can stop along the way. Motorists catch eagle-eye views of the gorgeous Ouachita National Forest, the highest mountain range between the Appalachians and the Rockies. You’ll have to keep reminding yourself that, yes, you are still in Oklahoma,” says Mai.
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area isn’t as popular, but Mai says the region, which is one of Oklahoma’s oldest national parks, offers splendid color. “The area just south of Sulphur in south central Oklahoma now includes Lake of the Arbuckles with its 36 miles of shoreline as well as the less well-known 67-acre Veteran’s Lake,” he says. “Surrounding them are some of the best hardwoods around for fall foliage ogling.”
Most people know Grand Lake as a premier destination for anything to do on the water, but Mai says that, with 1,300 miles of forested shoreline, it’s one of the best places to watch the seasons change. “Oak-hickories, silver maples, American elms, pin oaks, hackberries, pecans – there’s a wonderland of color-producers all the way from Twin Bridges State Park near Wyandotte down through Bernice and Honey Creek State Parks and south to Little Blue and Cherokee State Parks,” says Mai.