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Surrounded by the oak-covered slopes of Ouachita National Forest, Mena is the perfect basecamp for exploring Arkansas’ great outdoors. There’s a myriad of ways to enjoy this open-air playground. West of town, Rich Mountain is the state’s second-highest peak, with jaw-dropping panoramic views. For the adventurous, there are raging whitewaters to navigate by kayak in Cossatot River State Park, or more peaceful trips can be taken down the Ouachita River. Founded in 1896 as a railroad township and then a timber and agriculture hub, Mena also has plenty of history and culture to explore. The main street is lined with saloon-style awnings, and the restored Mena Depot Center now houses a town museum and information center. The Ouachita Little Theatre, based in an original 1920s building, puts on a variety of live performances throughout the year.
Four airports are within 135 miles of Mena. The nearest is Fort Smith Regional Airport (FSM), 53 miles from town, which serves Arkansas and Oklahoma with limited flights. Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT) is the nearest national airport, located 135 miles east in Little Rock. From either, Mena is reachable by taxi or car. Greyhound also connects Mena with other hubs in the South and beyond. Mena sits at a junction of several major highways and interstates, including U.S. Route 71, which runs from Louisiana to Canada, and the Talimena Scenic Byway — a stunning drive from Talihina, Oklahoma, to Mena through the forest and mountains that straddle the state border.
While Mena attracts visitors during all four seasons, the best time to visit is from March to May and from September to November, when the weather is ideal for a breadth of outdoor activities. Spring has arrived when Mena’s iconic Bradford Pear trees burst into pale pink blossoms and purple tulips sprout in the local gardens. Spring is the season when Arkansas’ wildlife comes out to play — don’t be surprised to spot deer, fox, coyote, and bear on your hike. This outdoorsy town is also known for its scenic beauty during autumn, best observed from the many local lookout points or scenic byways.
Queen Wilhelmina State Park offers a blend of wildlife, nature, and history spread across 460 acres in the Ouachita Mountains. The Lovers’ Leap Trail leads hikers on a brief but intimate 1.3-mile wooded loop trail marked by stone pathways and wooden bridges and culminating at a platform overlooking the slopes and valleys. The rest of the park offers campsites, picnic areas, trails, and an old fire tower at the peak of Rich Mountain.
This scenic stretch of blacktop is a convenient way to cover plenty of western Arkansas’ and eastern Oklahoma’s beautiful terrain without expending too much effort. The gorgeous 54-mile route offers opportunities for outdoor activities such as lodging, picnicking, hiking, and camping. During autumn, bronze-tinged slopes and red valleys make for picture-perfect stops along the side of the road.
Go back in time to Mena’s golden days at the Mena Kansas City-Southern Depot, a restored 1920s brick train depot that signals the town’s founding as a railway stop. Now the depot serves as an informative time capsule, with historic memorabilia and artifacts like old cars and artwork.