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11 Best Places To See The Arkansas Fall Foliage

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Are you ready to plan your 2023  fall road trips yet? I suggest taking a road trip to the Ozarks to see the Arkansas fall foliage.

As the summer heat begins to fade, nature paints a stunning tapestry of colors across Arkansas.

The state’s diverse landscapes, from rolling mountains to picturesque lakeshores, become adorned with the breathtaking hues of autumn.

Arkansas may be known for its hot springs, beautiful lakes, and rivers but make no mistake the fall foliage in Arkansas can compete with the foliage in Tennessee, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado.

The state of Arkansas turns into gorgeous shades of reds, oranges, and yellows every fall.  I suggest starting your road trip to see the Arkansas fall colors in the northern part of the state and slowly driving south.

The fall foliage will be in its full glory from late October to mid-November every year. 

2023 will not be any different so it’s time you start planning your annual Arkansas fall foliage road trip that will take you on a peaceful and beautiful journey to all of the most scenic spots in Arkansas to see the leaves change color.

Fall colors begin to appear in the Ozarks and other northern sections of the state by the second week in October and continue slowly toward the southern part of the state.

Mid to late October generally provides peak fall color in the northern portions of Arkansas.

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October and November are two of the most popular months that travelers embark on to Arkansas to see the beautiful fall colors and cool brisk weather.

I suggest visiting the Ozarks during the fall months because Fall in the Ozarks is an amazing experience. 

The Ozark Mountains cover much of the southern half of Missouri and Northern Arkansas which makes it one of the Midwest’s most beautiful and overlooked places and the fall foliage in the Ozarks is absolutely stunning!

Every autumn, nature paints the mountains and valleys with gorgeous hues of gold, red, and orange.

Many of Arkansas’s visitors travel here for special fall vacations to catch a glimpse (and take some incredible Instagrammable photos) of the season.

Fall colors begin to appear in the Ozarks and other northern sections of the state by the second week in October and continue slowly southward. 

Mid to late October generally provides peak fall color in the northern portions of Arkansas. October and November are two of the most popular months for visitors due to the beautiful fall colors and favorable weather.

Here is your Fall 2023 Weekend Guide to Arkansas Fall Colors: 

  • Where is the fall foliage in Arkansas
  • Where can you see the fall foliage in Arkansas
  • When do the leaves change in the Ozarks
  • Best time to see the fall foliage in the Ozarks

The Ozarks aren’t limited to scenery; fall weather is ideal for enjoying the variety of outdoor activities that the state has to offer. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Arkansas for camping, hiking, biking, and rock climbing.

The weather in Arkansas ranges from the ’40s to the ’70s in the fall months, making it a perfect fall getaway for family-oriented fall festivals or romantic weekend getaways with the hubby.  

In this article, we will explore some of the best places to witness the vibrant fall foliage in Arkansas.

So grab your camera, put on your walking shoes, and let’s embark on a memorable journey through the Natural State’s autumn wonderland.

Best Places to see the Fall Foliage

Arkansas Fall Foliage Timeline

The peak time for leaf change is generally from late October to around Thanksgiving.  When the leaves are at their most colorful, take a drive down nearby Scenic Highway 7 or the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. 

The Ozarks have over 4,000 acres of parkland, three beautiful lakes, and over 60 miles of trails for those who love fishing, biking, hiking, and exploring awe-inspiring caverns.

False Peak Occurs First, Typically Between October 14th through the 20th – give or take 2 to 3 days
True Peak Occurs Next, Typically Between October 26th through November 5 – give or take 2 to 3 days
Arrive between these two peak date ranges and you will not enjoy the best color.
The good news is that you do not have to hit prime peak to enjoy fantastic colors. If a perfect peak is a “10” but you arrive when the peak is at an “8” you will notice very little difference.

Fall Color Reports 2023

According to the Farmers Almanac fall will arrive September 22 and end December 21st but Arkansas fall colors will come into full bloom around late October.   

October 23: Fall weather has finally arrived in Arkansas and while the weather is still in the upper 70s the nights are much cooler and you will begin to see the leaves change from green to vibrant colors of red and orange.

October 31: In the Northern part of Arkansas, the colors have finally arrived especially around the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop.

The Northwest part of the state is where you will initially see the fall colors but you will have to wait until mid-November for the rest of the state to transform into palettes of red, gold, and orange.

Grab your camera to take those Instagram-worthy photos.

November 6: Arkansas fall colors are almost near full peak, making it a great time to take a family road trip to Arkansas.  

November 13: The entire state of Arkansas is in full fall foliage colors. From north to south and everywhere in between you will find stunning colors so grab your hiking gear, coat, and camera!

This is the perfect time to explore fall in Arkansas

The Natural State’s Fall Foliage: A Kaleidoscope of Colors

1. Ozark Mountains:

A Symphony of Autumnal Splendor The Ozark Mountains, located in northwestern Arkansas, offers a kaleidoscope of colors during the fall season.

As the leaves transition from green to vibrant shades of red, orange, and gold, the hillsides and valleys become a breathtaking panorama.

Explore the scenic byways, such as the Pig Trail Scenic Byway or the Arkansas Grand Canyon Drive, to witness the beauty of the changing foliage.

2. Buffalo National River:

A Serene Retreat Nestled within the Ozark Mountains, the Buffalo National River provides a serene setting to enjoy the fall foliage.

Embark on a canoe or kayak trip along the river, surrounded by towering bluffs draped in vibrant autumnal hues.

Take a leisurely hike along the riverbanks to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the changing seasons.

3. Mount Magazine:

An Elevated Experience Rising to a height of 2,753 feet, Mount Magazine boasts the title of the highest point in Arkansas.

This lofty vantage point offers panoramic views of the surrounding forests as they transform into a breathtaking medley of colors.

Take a scenic drive along the Mount Magazine Scenic Byway, hike the diverse trails, or even spend a night at the mountaintop lodge to witness the sunrise amidst the golden foliage.

4. Historic Bathhouse Row:

A Quaint Backdrop Hot Springs National Park, renowned for its therapeutic hot springs, reveals a different kind of therapy during the fall season.

Stroll along the picturesque Historic Bathhouse Row, where colorful foliage complements the grandeur of the historic buildings.

Take a relaxing dip in the thermal waters while soaking up the autumnal ambiance.

5. Mountain Tower:

A Panoramic Perspective For a breathtaking view of Hot Springs and its surrounding natural beauty, visit the Mountain Tower.

Ascend the observation deck to witness the city and the Ouachita Mountains transformed by the fiery hues of fall. Enjoy a leisurely picnic while relishing the stunning vistas spread out before you.

6. Cedar Falls:

A Stunning Cascade Nestled within Petit Jean State Park, Cedar Falls showcases nature’s artistic prowess.

As the autumn leaves adorn the landscape, the 95-foot waterfall cascades amidst a tapestry of vibrant colors.

Take a hike along the Cedar Falls Trail to witness this captivating sight and immerse yourself in the enchantment of the season.

7. Seven Hollows Trail:

A Journey Through Time Embark on a journey through geological wonders and fall foliage at Seven Hollows Trail in Petit Jean State Park.

This trail leads you through unique rock formations, hidden caves, and vibrant forests. Marvel at the colors of the changing leaves while discovering the park’s rich natural history.

Best Photo-op To See Fall Colors in Arkansas

Hawksbill Crag, Whitaker Point

This is the most iconic and recognizable spot in the state of Arkansas and is easily the best spot in the state to take stunning Instagram-worthy photos showcasing the fall colors for your friends and family to see. 

Hawksbill Crag is in Ozark National Forest and it’s an easy 3.0-mile round trip hike where you will see gigantic boulders, stunning waterfalls, and colorful trees.

Peak Viewing: October 12 – 28

Fall Foliage Tree Descriptions 

The Ozark fall foliage can be attributed to the leaves of many trees. Determining exactly which trees you’re viewing while overlooking the Ozark Mountain landscape can be tough, as many trees carry dozens of color variations and change color at different intervals.

This guide will highlight some of the Ozarks’ trees and provides you with a good reference for matching the vivid fall colors to the appropriate trees.

Blackgum Tree

When you see the brilliant scarlet colors of the Blackgum, you’ll know summer has ended.

Among the first to change its color, the Blackgum tree has presented some of the most luminous leaves in the forest. Some folks consider the Blackgum’s tint the ultimate autumn display.

Sweetgum Tree

Sweetgums help kick off the fall season with a variety of fall colors in red, yellow, purple, and orange. Sweetgum leaves can change colors at different times, leaving the tree with a varying assortment of leave colors.

Hickory Tree

The Hickory tree projects gorgeous yellow fall foliage. As one of the first trees to peak, Hickories shed their leaves early in the season. But, if you catch it at its peak, the tree is truly a sight to see.

Sassafrass Tree

The Sassafrass tree makes up for its lack of size with beautiful fall colors of orange, yellow and deep wine, and red colors. You’ll often spot the early season colors of the Sassafrass along fencerows, roadsides, and forest edges.

Maple Tree

Silver, Sugar, and Red Maples can be found in plenty across the Ozark Mountain Region. As fall-lover favorites, the maples develop a wide array of colors.

From deep yellow and blazing orange to fiery red and to a dull burgundy, Maples often carry leaves of varying colors on the same tree.

Sycamore Tree

Maybe more impressive than its beautiful orange and yellow leaves, the Sycamore’s flour-white trunk provides a magnificent contrast to the surrounding fall colors.

Its large leaves and lightly colored trunk distinguish the Sycamore tree from all the others.

Flowering Dogwood Tree

Mostly noted for its beauty in the spring, the modest Flowering Dogwood contributes to the autumn color with deep red to reddish-purple foliage.

Its graceful horizontal branching pattern can carry foliage well into December.

Oak Tree

The most abundant Ozark trees, Oak trees change into a variety of colors during the fall. Though the Oaktree has nearly 50 different variations, Red Oaks, White Oaks, and Black Oaks are the most common in the region.

The green summer leaves of the Red, White, and Black oaks turn to orange and deep red in ideal fall conditions, or reddish-brown during less-than-perfect seasons.

Oak trees peak later than any other tree, which allows for a nice extension of the fall color.

Things to do in the fall

Quick Guide To Exploring The Ozarks This Fall 

If your goal is to see as many brilliant colors as possible in a day or two I suggest staying on the main highways if your time is limited to an hour or two to see the fall foliage in the Ozarks.

For the full adventure travel the secondary paved roads and the backcountry dirt roads, and then spend some time on the water.

Bull Shoals Lake and Norfork Lake both have marinas and small resorts renting lake boats. You can rent a riverboat with, or without a guide.

If you want to float the rivers for fall color keep in mind the foliage along the rivers turns earlier than any other fall color.

Since most of the trees along the river banks are Sycamores the color will be mostly yellow. Plan your river foliage trip for the second week of October. Peak color upon the ridges happens at the end of October. 

The Smoke Tree Experience
The American Smoke Tree has the most beautiful fall color of all trees. Its brilliant oranges, pinks, and scarlets are just beautiful.  

The smoke trees turn early, much earlier than other trees, typically in the first week of October.

The best place to see smoke trees is along the Glade Top Trail near Ava, Missouri but later in the month, you can view them in Arkansas along Highway 314.

By Main Paved Highways
State Highway 62/412 is the main highway running east and west through the Arkansas Ozark Mountains.  Several towns along Highway 62/412 have restaurants, gas stations, etc.

The major north/south highway is State Highway 5 which runs through both the Arkansas and Missouri Ozark Mountains.

I recommend driving highways if you have a limited amount of time. 

By Secondary Paved Paved
Secondary highways are paved roads running out into rural areas. They connect small towns and the farms in between.

The Secondary roads also put you closer to the hills where color is best. Stopping in at the small country stores and restaurants is a true Norman Rockwell Americana experience!

Back Country Dirt Roads
Most county roads that really put you up close and in touch with fall foliage have dirt surfaces. There are hundreds of miles of these county roads running all through the Ozarks.

Pack a picnic lunch, make sure you have a good County map or two, and pick a series of roads that roughly form a circle so that you end up back where you started.

While this is great to see area foliage, it is also a great way to get lost if you are not careful. Cell Phone signal is spotty in these areas so don’t rely on cell phones.

Fortunately, the locals are friendly and will be glad to help out if you get lost.

Additional Places To See The Fall Foliage

The region you live in or travel to will determine the color patterns.  The type of trees in the area will dictate whether you see more reds, yellows, or oranges.

1. Arkansas Scenic Byway 7

October is the perfect time to see the best fall foliage in the Ozarks and northern areas of The Natural State. It’s the first place to begin the transformation.

In this area of the state, you will encounter bright red, orange, and even pretty purple colors.

If you’re planning a drive through the Ozarks and northern Arkansas to see the best fall foliage, schedule your trip for early October.

Scenic Byway 7 goes through four of the state’s geographic regions: the Western Gulf Coastal Plain, the Ouachita Mountains, the Ozark Mountains, and the Ozark National Forest. 

Arkansas Scenic Byway 7 has the most beautiful spots to get some of the perfect pictures of the foliage.

The Ouachitas

The southern part of Arkansas peaks around mid-November. Ouachita State Park is the best place to see the best fall foliage on the oaks, maples, and other hardwoods. Also, check out Pinnacle Mountain and Petit Jean for some spectacular views in central Arkansas.

Delta and Gulf Coastal Plain

Finally, we reach the southernmost end of Arkansas. It is the final region painted by nature’s brush. Plan this trip for around mid-November.

Visit state parks such as Lake Chicot, Moro Bay, and Logoly to see the best fall foliage.

Witness the Solar Eclipse in Arkansas in 2024

Are you ready for a celestial spectacle? Mark your calendars for April 8, 2024, as Arkansas becomes a prime location to witness a total solar eclipse.

This rare astronomical event occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow that transforms the day into an ethereal twilight.

Arkansas’s vast landscapes provide ample opportunities to witness this cosmic phenomenon.

Plan your trip to one of the state’s scenic locations, such as Hot Springs National Park or the Ozark Mountains, and experience the eclipse amidst the backdrop of fall foliage.

Be sure to take the necessary safety precautions when observing the eclipse.

Where To Stay in The Ozarks

1. Big Cedar Lodge

Nestled in its own wooded hollow, on 800 acres of rugged Ozark Mountain preserve, Big Cedar Lodge is the epitome of a luxury wilderness resort.

Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, purchased the then-humble property, just 10 minutes south of Branson, envisioning a modest fishing camp for his employees.

The final—and ultimately magnificent project—resulted in a retreat that overlooks the blue-green waters of Table Rock Lake.

One would be remiss not to cast a reel here, as there are plenty of professional guides on hand, along with boat rentals for a no-doubt glorious day on the lake.

But if gills and rods aren’t your things, there’s a world-class, full-service spa, too. 

Click here to book your reservation now! 

2. The Hive at the 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville

This impossibly hip hotel is one-third of an art-focused mini collection that’s amassed best-of accolades across the U.S.

The Hive, the restaurant located on the first floor, is no different—sleek and funky, with modern embellishments like the neon green penguins—yet firmly rooted in Ozark culture.

Items on the menu are upscale but unfussy. There’s a tangy pimento cheese crowned with sweet bacon jam or pickled shrimp with salt-cured country ham and mustard greens.

The cocktail list is inventive, the wine superb, and it’s not uncommon to ask for a PBR in an ice-cold glass. 

Click here to book your reservation now!

3. Tan-Tar-A Resort 

A $10 million renovation is turning the 420-acre Osage Beach property, which opened in 1960, into a Margaritaville resort, with refreshed rooms and new restaurants.

Located just minutes from Margaritaville Lake Resort Lake of the Ozarks, Tan-Tar-A Estates offers over 100 beautiful residential-style units in a neighborhood setting surrounded by all the fun and relaxation that Margaritaville Lake Resort has to offer.

A welcoming check-in experience at the resort’s front desk, staffed 24 hours a day, greets you with directions to your unit, information on current resort activities, answers to all of your questions, and of course, a friendly smile.

Click here to book your reservation now!

4. Graduate Hotel

For a long weekend in Fayetteville, stay at the modern boutique The Graduate Hotel. 

The Graduate Hotel is just off the square in downtown Fayetteville it’s an ideal location for walking to shops, restaurants, and nightlife (and the farmer’s market on the weekends).

Spacious rooms with really great design features. My favorite is the entire wall across from the bed is one long countertop so it is perfect for laying out your things and easy for a group of friends to get ready to go out!

Click here to book your reservation now!

Things To Do In The Ozarks

1. Dickson Street in Fayetteville

Fall and Winter in Ozark’s historic Downtown Fayetteville Square are known for their beautiful gardens and award-winning Farmer’s Market that run three days a week beginning in April and ending in November. 

The square is transformed on the first Thursday of each month starting in April featuring local artists, live music, a beer garden, and last but not least children’s entertainment.

The culinary scene in Fayetteville is just as spectacular as the entertainment and outdoor scene. 

Your first stop should be the French Bouchee Bistro on Downtown Square and sample their handmade chocolates and macarons, or if you are into street food try Shulertown food truck court on Dickson Street.

2. Downtown Eureka Springs

Eureka Springs in the hills of northern Arkansas has been called the “place where misfits fit” and “the hole in the Bible Belt.” It’s here that bikers, artists, accountants, lawyers, and a large gay community happily thrive.

Lively restaurants, and seemingly haunted hotels, all with rambling vintage Victorian architecture, pepper the downright charming streets of the downtown area.

Naturally, there’s plenty of art to peruse at the local galleries and shops, perhaps a tarot reading to be had, and spas boasting the healing waters of the town’s natural springs.

3. Copper Run Distillery

Moonshine has certainly become a hot commodity at bars these days, but in the Ozarks, the history of bootlegged liquor runs deep.

Because of the low hollows and caves, this nook of America became a favored location for making white lightning.

Jim Blansit, a master distiller, started Copper Run in 2008, along with his co-owner Aris Aristidou, who joined the small staff in 2012.

Both have been distilling long before they were legally allowed to swill the stuff and view the operation as more artistry than manufacturing.

It’s apparent when guests visit the small-batch distillery: More cozy cabin than a factory, the wraparound porch welcomes with live music—where you’ll often find one of the distillers picking a guitar or playing the bass

The Swinging Bridges of Brumley

Located within the southeast boundary of Lake of the Ozarks State Park, near the small village of Brumley, two steel-suspension bridges have stood the test of time to remain a tourist attraction today.

Both bridges, the 414-foot Grand Auglaize and the 134-foot Miller Creek Bridge were built in the 1930s by Joseph A. Dice, a prominent swinging bridge builder from Missouri historically noted for “eyeballing” his bridge designs.

Regardless of his methods, visitors can still drive over the loose planks of the Auglaize Bridge today.

The entire area surrounding the two bridges is a dense woodland ripe for activity, including swimming in the shallows of Auglaize Creek or using the primitive camping sites found ashore.

Fall in the Ozark Mountains is a compelling scenic destination that is not to be missed.

Conclusion of Arkansas Fall Foliage

Arkansas is truly a feast for the senses during the fall season.

From the majestic Ozark Mountains to the soothing hot springs and enchanting state parks, this state offers a diverse array of landscapes to witness nature’s autumnal transformation.

So pack your bags, grab your camera, and embark on a memorable journey through Arkansas’s vibrant fall foliage.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the solar eclipse in 2024—an extraordinary event that blends celestial wonder with the mesmerizing beauty of Arkansas’s fall colors.


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8 Comments

  1. Four senior young at heart ladies will be traveling together this fall in our lovely state of Arkansas. We graduated from HS together from a small rural town in NE Arkansas in 1958. We are so looking forward to the fall foliage road trip. Our adventure starts at Hot Spring travelling Hwy 7N to Branson Mo for several days. to take in some shows and on to Bentonville to enjoy the much recommended Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art . We’ll relax for a day from our travels to experience some beautiful views from our cabin on Beaver Lake. We’ll take the Pig Trail scenic Hwy and connect to Hwy 10 to see the views from Mt. Magazine and hopefully a nice lunch at the lodge. Back on Hwy 10 to Hwy 7 and arrive back at Hot Springs to enjoy a visit with another classmate. Camera in tow, looking forward to some beautiful foliage and good times with wonderful friends.

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