Choctaw Country's most popular scenic drive is the Talimena Scenic Byway, but it's far from the only beautiful backroad in the region. The Kiamichi Trace is a little less developed, winding its way through wilderness areas, protected forests, and numerous state parks. It follows a former route used by Native Americans, more or less hugging the banks of the Kiamichi River. Cruise the route and soak up the views on your way to the Talimena Scenic Byway, and enjoy the peace and beauty of this sliver of Oklahoma's natural beauty.
The South end of the Kiamichi Trace is at Beavers Bend State Park on Broken Bow Lake. Rent a cabin or camp out on the shores of the peaceful lake, or at least spend an afternoon exploring the many coves and crannies on the water via canoe or kayak. If you're a big fisherman, this is a great place to cast a line or even try your hand at spear fishing. The park provides plenty of hiking, biking, golfing, and other outdoor opportunities as well. There's even a swimming beach, perfect for a quick dip!
Also on Broken Bow Lake is Hochatown State Park, which is the perfect destination for those vacationing at the lake. Every kind of cabin and campsite imaginable is available here, and you'll find great amenities like boat launches and a fish cleaning station. One of the coolest things about the park? The lake was created in the 1960s by damming Mountain Fork River and flooding the settlement of Hochatown. You can visit the original Hochatown remains by scuba diving, or you can drive to the second Hochatown location, not far away.
Within the stunning Ouachita National Forest you'll find a slice of wild, untamed beauty known as the Upper Kiamichi River Wilderness. The river and its tributaries feature waterfalls and fishing opportunities, or you can hike Pine and Rich Mountains, which offer incredible views of the forest. You can't bring cars or bikes into the wilderness as there are no roads, but you can camp, fish, and hunt with the proper permits. It's a special experience to explore the wilderness as it was originally meant to be seen, so take advantage of the untouched beauty here.
The Peter Conser Home is a gorgeous late 19th-century structure that's been lovingly restored to its original appearance. It was once the home of a Choctaw Council senator and well-respected legislator named Peter Conser, so a visit here will provide tons of information on the history of the Choctaw Nation, along with some seriously quaint 1800s vibes. The peaceful historic home is a great place to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.
The Trace makes its way past another lake, Lake Wister. Located at the edge of the Ouachita National Forest, this park has lakeshore camping and boating opportunities, along with a splash pad, cabins for rent, mini golf, and several hiking trails. Even if you just cruise the roads through the park, you'll get to take in some pretty awesome sweeping views of the water.
Heavener Runestone Park preserves a unique bit of Oklahoma history that is not to be missed. In the 1920s, a mysterious runestone was discovered with strange writing on it. People still aren't sure who wrote it, or why, or even what it says, and while some think it could be evidence of medieval Vikings in Oklahoma, it's more likely that it was carved by a Swedish immigrant or Native American in the 19th century. You can examine the runestone for yourself and attempt to unlock its secrets... or just take in the beauty of Poteau Mountain. If you're lucky, you can stop by during a spring or fall Viking celebration, featuring music, demonstrations, costumes, and tons of fun.
For more gorgeous historic architecture and inspiration, pop into the LeFlore County Museum, located in the former Hotel Lowrey. Antiques and artifacts from the hotel, local schools and businesses provide insights into the past, and old tiles from various manufacturers in the area add a unique flavor to this charming museum. Poteau is a cute little railroad town that's definitely worth spending some time exploring, as well.
Cavanal Hill is the world's tallest hill, standing at 1,999 feet... one foot short of achieving official status as a mountain. You can hike or drive to the summit, stopping at scenic pull-offs where you can soak up views of the Ouachita Forest, Wister Lake, Sugar Loaf Mountain, and more along the way. Pro tip: if you visit during the summer, you might want to bring along a sweatshirt... the top of the hill is about 20 degrees cooler than the valley!
Spiro Mounds is an incredible architectural site built by Caddoan Indians between the 9th and 15th centuries. It was a powerful religious and political center for the tribe, and the earthworks they built can still be seen today. Sadly, many of the artifacts left here by the Caddoans have been lost; during the Great Depression, treasure hunters bought the rights to tunnel into one of the site's largest mounds, Craig Mound, and mine it for the pieces buried there. The artifacts were sold across the globe. Craig Mound was sort of an American version of King Tut's tomb, where important people were buried along with incredible examples of artistry like baskets, shell carvings, textiles, and more, which were well-preserved. Visit to see the mounds, learn about the art, religion, and culture of the Caddoans, and see some of the remaining artifacts.
The Kiamichi Trace ends in Spiro, after winding its way through natural beauty and amazing history across the region. Whatever scenic route you take through Choctaw Country, you're sure to uncover incredible roadside stops, enchanting small towns, and stunning parks, and make some incredible memories along the way.
Whether you’re looking to wander off the beaten path, explore hidden gems, take a peek into the past, or enjoy beautiful scenery as you cruise, Choctaw Country in Southeastern Oklahoma has all the makings of the great American road trip.