When is the best time to visit Arkansas?
Of course it depends on what you are planning to do!
If you are planning to spend time skiing or tubing on one of our gorgeous lakes then the heat of summer would be perfect for you.
If you want to hike you might find that the best time to visit Arkansas is in the fall or even the winter.
I was born and raised in Arkansas and have lived her for most of my adult years. I’m going to share with you what the climate is really like and how the weather really feels in the various seasons.
This will allow you to determine when is the best time to visit Arkansas – for you!
When About the Climate in Arkansas?
Temperatures in Arkansas vary drastically.
They range from scorching summer days with temperatures over 100 degree days to ice storms in the winter. However, most of the time you will find the weather somewhere in between these two extremes and manageable for your visit.
Always check the weather before your visit so that you will have a better idea of what to expect!
The climate in Arkansas is officially classified as Humid Sub-tropical
The Koppen climate classification says that the weather in Arkansas is humid sub-tropical. This means that the climate is generally mild with a hot summer and no specific dry season.
Even though it doesn’t border the Gulf of Mexico you will find that the weather in Arkansas is heavily influenced by warm air coming north from that body of water.
Even though the Koppen classification is correct, I do want to point out that Arkansas truly has four seasons. The weather in each of the seasons can range from fairly mild to incredibly extreme.
Let’s talk first about those extremes.
Extreme weather in Arkansas
Although per our states classification we have hot, humid summers and mild, slightly drier winters you should know that there can be variety, changeability, and sometimes extreme weather in the state.
Heat in Arkansas
Summers are always hot. Occasionally they are scorching. Highs are typically in the 90’s in July and August but on occasion we will get a run of 100+ degree days. Those are tough. Plan to stay in or near water.
Rainfall in Arkansas
Arkansas averages between approximately 50 inches of rain a year.
These tend to be sporadic periods of rain rather than ongoing stretches.
In other words although occasionally you will have several days of rain in a row you are more likely to experience a hard rainfall followed by several days of sun.
Thunderstorms and Tornadoes
Thunderstorms tend to pop up and be fierce for a short period of time. They often dump inches of rain in their wake. Hail is fairly common during these storms and they occasionally spawn tornadoes.
Storms can happen any time of year but are most common in the spring.
On average 26 tornadoes occur in Arkansas every year. Most of these happen in the spring but you might be surprised to learn that some of the deadliest of the Arkansas tornadoes have occurred in the winter.
Snow and ice
The average snowfall in the state is only about 5 inches. However we do occasionally get larger snow storms as well as ice storms. A snowfall will slow things down, causing school and business closing for a short period of time.
An ice storm can shut the state down for days.
You should not let our extreme weather deter you from a visit to Arkansas! Most of the time it is mild.
So when is the best time to visit Arkansas?
There are great reasons to visit Arkansas in every season as well as fun things to do year round.
Let’s talk about the best time to visit Arkansas season by season as well as the best things to do in each season.
A summer visit to Arkansas
If you are from the south then you already know what I’m going to say…summers in the south, including Arkansas, are hot. Very hot and very humid.
The weather is hot by late May and stays hot well into September. The average highs in the state are 93 degrees at their peak in July, but they do occasionally exceed 100 degrees. The humidity can be as high as 85% and is usually well over 65%.
So, yes, it is hot.
Does this mean that summer is not the best time to visit Arkansas? Not necessarily!
I would not let the heat put you off from visiting Arkansas in the summer because the summers are also green and lush and beautiful. Just prepared for the weather and plan accordingly.
Make sure you have cool clothing and drink plenty of water and take a break from the afternoon heat.
We have a list of things to do in Arkansas in the summer and many of them involve being in or near water.
If you are coming to Arkansas to enjoy some of our beautiful lakes and rivers then summer is the perfect time for you.
Spending some time in the cities would also be a good choice for summer because everywhere you go will have air-conditioning. You can enjoy shopping, or visiting museums such as Crystal Bridges Museum and the Momentary in Bentonville.
Food people will find that there are excellent restaurants in Arkansas. We have a list of our favorite restaurants in Little Rock.
If you enjoy beer you will discover that there are more and more breweries popping up all over the state. Trying some of the local brews could be a fun summer time activity. You might want to check out the Arkansas Brewery Trail.
Here is our list of breweries in Little Rock.
I would not recommend hiking in the heat of summer.
Local hiking groups almost always take a break during June, July and August not just due to the heat but also because of the ticks, and chiggers, and mosquitoes. Yes, Arkansas has an abundance of bugs.
Many people, especially families with children, can only travel in the summer. If that is the case for you then try coming to Arkansas in June before the peak of the summer heat.
Also think about finding a hotel or one of our wonderful state parks that have a swimming pool. Petit Jean State Park and Mount Nebo State Park both have swimming pools for the use of those who are staying in the parks.
Ideas for things to do in Arkansas in the summer:
- Lakes and water sports
- Kayaking and Canoeing on the rivers
- Swimming holes and swimming pools
- Water Parks
- Go to Museums
- Tour caverns
- Dine out
- Visit a Brewery
- Attend a summertime festivals
- Go to a minor league baseball game
- Go to the Farmer’s Markets and enjoy the amazing summer produce
A fall visit to Arkansas
I think that fall is the very best time to visit Arkansas!
We usually get our first hint of cooler weather in mid to late September. Now, I’m not saying that we will have “cool” weather by then. But we have weather in September that is less hot.
What usually happens is that the humidity begins to lower and one day you will begin to feel a hint of cooler air in the breeze. Ahhhh, it is so refreshing and something that most Arkansans eagerly anticipate after the summer heat.
Fall is simply gorgeous and perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities. Although there will be cool days the temperatures typically stay moderate and not too cold well into November. Even if you get a cold snap it will typically warm up within a day or two.
Leaves don’t normally begin to change in Arkansas until well into October and sometimes are still lovely in November. The peak changes year to year. “Leaf peeping” is one of the best things to do in fall.
Here is a list of some of the best places to experience fall color in Arkansas.
This is also a great time for pumpkin patches and fall festivals in the state.
Fall is also my favorite time for hiking! The weather has cooled and the bugs have diminished, the leaves crunch under your feet and it is simply glorious. Here are some of our favorite hikes in Arkansas.
Fall is also a great time to travel some of the scenic back roads of Arkansas either in a car or on a motorcycle.
Ideas for things to do in Arkansas in the Fall
- See the fall color in Arkansas
- Hiking is gorgeous in the fall
- Visit pumpkin patches
- Travel some of the scenic routes in Arkansas
- Visit Hot Spring National Park
- Listen to Music on the Square in Mountain View
- Attend a Fall festival
- Watch the Razorbacks play football
A visit to Arkansas in the Winter
Although we do occasionally get snow and ice, winters are typically mild in Arkansas.
The highs average about 51 degrees in winter with the lows dropping to about freezing.
There will be some very cold days mixed in along with a few glorious days with bright blue skies and temperatures in the high 50’s and low 60’s. Those are days that feel like little winter gifts.
I am writing this post on January 24 in central Arkansas. The skies are clear and the temperature is currently 57 and the high is supposed to be 63.
However, about every 5 – 10 years we get a major ice storm.
Winter in Arkansas is kind of like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you might get. However, it will typically be pretty mild.
Is winter the best time to visit Arkansas. Maybe not as good as fall, but winters can be beautiful here.
I love hiking in Arkansas in winter. On clear days during the leaf-off you can see for miles. Plus you don’t have to worry about bugs or snakes!
It is really fun to visit some of the Arkansas waterfalls during times when there have been several days of below freezing temperatures. The ice formations are spectacular. During the first freezes in the state you can often find frost flowers if you take a walk in the woods.
Renting a secluded cabin in the Ozarks that has a fireplace can be a nice and romantic winter getaway.
One fun and unique thing to do in winter is to stop by to see the Trumpeter Swans on Magness Lake.
You might also enjoy visiting some of the state parks during the off season, especially Mount Magazine with its lovely cabins and hot tubs. But do check with each state park individually as they don’t all have accommodations open year round.
Like in the heat of summer, museums and restaurants and shopping are also good choices for cold days.
Ideas for things to do in Arkansas in the Winter
- Hiking – you can do a “first day” hike on January 1
- Attend an Arkansas Razorback basketball game
- Visit a museum
- Eat out
- Drive the Trail of Holiday Lights
- Visit a Christmas Tree Farm
- See the Trumpeter Swans at Magness Lake
- Have an off-season getaway in a cabin in the Ozarks
A spring visit to Arkansas
After autumn, I think that spring is the second best time to visit Arkansas.
Spring comes quickly to this state. The first hints of color arrive in early March and the most of the vegetation is in full bloom by the middle of April.
It’s true that the weather will be capricious. You will have glorious warm days mixed with cool ones. Even though everything is blooming the date after which you can be assured of no frost isn’t until the middle of April in most of the state.
There is likely to be rain and perhaps storms, and yes, occasionally even tornadoes.
Even so, spring is glorious in Arkansas. The dogwoods and red buds against the pale green of the budding trees is a sight to behold.
This is the time of year that your hikes should include waterfalls. The wet weather streams will usually be full and the waterfalls that might dry up later in the summer will be rushing.
Late spring is also the best season for float trips. The buffalo and many other Arkansas rivers are flowing well and high enough for a kayaks and canoes.
You will also want to visit some of the gardens in Arkansas. The tulips at Garvan Gardens should simply not be missed. This is a perfect time of year to take a tour of Moss Mountain Farm. This is the home of famous horticulturist P. Allen Smith.
ideas for things to do in Arkansas in the spring
- Hike to waterfalls
- Float trips
- Visit Garvan Woodland Gardens when the tulips are in bloom.
- Attend a spring festival like the Wye Mountain Daffodil festival.
- Visit Hot Springs National Park before the weather gets too hot.
- Visit Eureka Springs and see the hillsides in bloom.
- Attend a Razorback baseball game
- Take a tour of Moss Mountain Farm
- Enjoy the spring produce at a local Farmer’s Market
Hope that you enjoyed learning about the best time to visit Arkansas. The state is truly beautiful year round.
Thanks for stopping by!