The Midwestern state of Oklahoma is known for its prairielands, mesas, minor mountain ranges, and blend of cultures. The Native American influence there is great with 24 tribal languages still in use, and there are also thriving German, Scottish, and Scotch-Irish communities all living in close proximity. As it is home to several cultures, it also plays host to a wide range of wildlife and native plants. To start your exploration of this diverse state, consider using one of these tried-and-true Oklahoma scenic drives as a jumping-off point before blazing your own way through the rest of this spectacular region:

No. 10 – Oklahoma Highway 10

Starting Location: Tahlequah, OK
Ending Location: Muskogee, OK
Length: 34 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer
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Ideal for a leisurely morning or afternoon drive winding through verdant forests and along craggy bluffs, this route along Highway 10 should be savored and not rushed. Be sure to stop at the Fort Gibson Historic Site, which was once an army outpost in Indian Territory and preserves 29 buildings to this day. Once in Greenleaf State Park, enjoy one of many hiking trails or test your skills on the on-site, 18-hole golf course.

No. 9 – Nostalgic Route 33

Starting Location: Guthrie, OK
Ending Location: Perkins, OK
Length: 26 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
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Travelers along this way may feel transported back in time on this route through the state’s central frontier country. In Guthrie, be sure to peek at the Santa Fe Depot, which was the heart of the town’s operations in the 1900s, or fuel up for the trip at Stable’s Café with a Western theme and killer steaks. Once in Perkins, tour the Oklahoma Territorial Plaza, an open-air museum with several restored buildings, including an 1800s one-room schoolhouse and a 1901 log cabin.

No. 8 – Oklahoma Highway 20

Starting Location: Claremore, OK
Ending Location: Spavinaw, OK
Length: 40 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
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This winding road past lakes and across sweeping open lands is chock full of unusual stops and things to do. From the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore, honoring the Oklahoma native with a large assemblage of memorabilia, to learning how the small town of Hoot Owl gained its name by chatting up the locals, it’s a ride not soon to be forgotten. For more traditional entertainment, hit the turquoise water of Spavinaw Lake in Grand Lake State Park Oklahoma.

No. 7 – Route 8 State Parks

Starting Location: Watonga, OK
Ending Location:  Hinton, OK
Length: 31 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
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Full of interesting geological features mixed into the cliffs and canyons of the region, this drive has plenty of visual appeal. In Watonga, take time to explore Roman Nose State Park, which is home to three natural springs Native Americans once believed had healing properties. Toward the end of the trip lies Red Rock Canyon State Park with an array of hiking trails geared for all fitness levels from beginner to expert.

No. 6 – Quartz Mountain State Park

Starting Location: Altus, OK
Ending Location: Lone Wolf, OK
Length: 27 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer
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The focal point of this route is the 2,040-foot high Quartz Mountain, which was once 20,000 feet tall before erosion took its toll and is situated on the western end of the Wichita Mountain Range. With a wealth of quartz deposits, the mountain shimmers when the sun hits it just right. It overlooks Lake Althaus in the small town of Lugert, where visitors flock to swim, fish, and enjoy boat rides.

No. 5 – Mountain Gateway Scenic Byway

Starting Location: Heavener, OK
Ending Location: Heavener, OK
Length: 11 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
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Although this drive is quite short, it isn’t short on spectacular views of the Ouachita Mountains as it winds along with the Mountain Fork, Black Fork, and Glover Rivers. In the spring, the area is covered in wildflowers, which can inspire virtually anyone’s inner photographer to emerge. With heights reaching 2,600 feet above sea level, there are several areas to pull off and survey the landscape for miles on end.

No. 4 – Route 66

Starting Location: Miami, OK
Ending Location: Erick, OK
Length: 337 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
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Although Route 66 is not intact the way it once was, the portion that once lay in Oklahoma lies chiefly on Highway 44 and is still full of iconic charm and roadside attractions. Motorcycle enthusiasts may enjoy a tour of the Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum in Miami, known for its collection of Evel Knievel memorabilia. Along this stretch across the state, there are tons of tiny cafes with down-home cooking, and learn more about the history of this drive at the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton.

No. 3 – Wichita Mountains

Starting Location: Elgin, OK
Ending Location: Lost Lake, OK
Length: 28 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
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This route begins in the small town of Elgin, known for the Fort Sill National Cemetery, and passes through a diverse array of terrain before its termination at Lost Lake in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Photo opportunities abound of grassy prairies, rocky outcroppings, cross timbers, and aquatic areas. While there is no shortage of places to stop and enjoy the views or hit a trail, travelers should stop at Turkey Creek Prairie Dog Town to watch the black-tailed prairie dogs scamper as if nobody were watching.

No. 2 – Mountain Pass Scenic Byway

Starting Location: Page, OK
Ending Location: Octavia, OK
Length: 28 miles
Best Season to Drive: Fall, Spring, Summer
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This mountain drive traverses mountain tops and goes through the 26,445-acre Winding Stair Mountain National Recreation Area and is especially beautiful in autumn with the changing of the leaves. Stop at the Kerr Arboretum to enjoy the landscape or hike a trail to forge a more intimate connection with nature. For those wanting to spend a little extra time to soak up the beauty of the region, there are several campgrounds to spend the night.

No. 1 – Talimena Scenic Drive

Starting Location: Talihina, OK
Ending Location: Mena, AR
Length: 52 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer
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Beginning in Talihina and crossing over into Arkansas toward the end, this drive through the Ouachita Mountains is full of scenic views and recreational opportunities. The road is quite curvy and there aren’t any opportunities to fuel up in between, so preparation is vital before setting out, but the effort is more than worth it. The route passes through a lush array of evergreens and hardwoods with lots of overlooks at high altitude, and Horsethief Spring – named for the outlaws that used to camp there – is a good place to stop and hit trails or enjoy a picnic spread.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Top 10 Scenic Drives in Oklahoma and was authored by Elan McAfee.


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