Oklahoma Scenic Drives: Little Smokies

Follow this map to take in the beauty of the Little Smokies.
Follow this map to take in the beauty of the Little Smokies.

Oklahomans call southeastern Oklahoma's rumpled terrain the "Little Smokies." Not so lofty as the Great Smoky Mountains, these rugged green mountains boast an abundance of tall timber, splashing streams, and crystal-clear lakes.

Oklahoma's Little Smokies is a drive both for outdoor lovers who simply want to savor the views and for those more active travelers eager to tackle a hiking trail, paddle a canoe, or test their skill at fly-fishing. Swimming beaches at several lakes provide an inviting break from touring.

For much of the way, the north-to-south route traverses sprawling 1.8-million-acre Ouachita National Forest, which drapes across the Ouachita Mountains on the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas. Deer and black bear are abundant--this part of Oklahoma claims to be the "deer capital of the world." Ouachita is the French version of an American Indian word that means "good hunting grounds." Colorful wildflowers carpet the meadows along the road. The fall foliage is renowned as some of the finest.

A part of the forest, called the Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area, has been designated primarily for outdoor fun. Trails range in difficulty from the rigorous--for example, the 192-mile Ouachita National Recreation Trail, which intersects this drive--to the comfortably easy. Almost anyone can manage a trio of short, gentle nature trails at the Robert S. Kerr Memorial Arboretum.

Unless you are a resident of the Sooner State, signs that declare this corner of the state Kiamichi Country may puzzle you. The official Oklahoma Travel Guide also uses the phrase. Kiamichi, tourism officials explain, is a French word for a "water bird." French explorers, fur trappers, and traders were early visitors here.

The drive begins among the farmlands and orchards of Spiro, where a dozen ancient mounds display evidence of the people who lived here from A.D. 850 to 1450. And it ends in the state's far southeast corner at Idabel, the state's "dogwood capital" and home to the Museum of the Red River. The museum houses what is considered some of the finest art and artifacts from the earliest residents here.

Find more useful information related to Oklahoma's LIttle Smokies:

  • Broken Bow, Idabel, Poteau, Spiro: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Oklahoma's Little Smokies.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Oklahoma? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.

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