Fall in Arkansas is dreamy. The Natural State does it right when it comes to cooler weather, clear blue skies, and gorgeous foliage. Even better is the fact that the amazing fall color in Arkansas is still a bit of a secret!
Most people do not realize that Arkansas is a wonderful destination to experience the colors of fall which means that YOU won’t have to deal with hordes of “leaf peepers.”
Driving the winding backroads of Arkansas on a sunny October day with a cool breeze blowing in your open window and a canopy of reds and yellows silhouetted against a bright blue sky above you is truly an Arkansas fall foliage experience that can’t be missed.
Enjoy our list of the best places to experience fall color in Arkansas!
We have another post with even more information about fall activities in Arkansas as well.
When Do the Leaves Begin to Turn in Arkansas
The answer is: It varies.
Every year is different depending on the weather. Typically you won’t see tinges of color until mid to late October and they will peak in early to mid November. But it changes from year to year.
Of course the leaves will begin to change earlier in the northern part of the state and later in the south.
Another thing to know is that the fall color in Arkansas can be more or less vibrant depending on the weather conditions. A dry year can mean that the leaves quickly turn brown and fall without going into their gorgeous gold, orange, and red hues.
Check the conditions and color forecasts before you plan your trip!
Best Drives to Experience Fall Color in Arkansas
One of the best ways to experience Arkansas fall foliage is to take a scenic drive!
You have tons of options for backroads that wind through the Ozark, Ouachita, and Boston Mountains.
Here are some of our favorite scenic drives to see the fall color in Arkansas.
Arkansas Scenic Highway 7 Byway
Scenic Highway 7 was the state’s designated scenic byway. It travels through four of the state’s varied geographical regions. This highway begins near El Dorado, Arkansas and ends in Harrison, Arkansas.
For the best fall color I would suggest starting the byway just off of I-40 near Russellville, Arkansas and head north. You will find several places to pull off and see the views including “The Grand Canyon of the Ozarks.”
Take a stop at the Cliff House Inn and in the mountain town of Jasper along the Buffalo River for more pretty sights.
Drive the Pig Trail
Arkansas 23 is a 19 mile stretch of road also called the pig trail. It winds through the Boston Mountains as well as the Ozarks.
I am not using the word “winds” in a figurative or poetic way here. This is a twisty, turning road topped with a canopy of gorgeous tree cover. It is stunning in the fall.
The name comes from the fact that long before I-49 was built to go north from I-40 this was the route that many people from more southern parts of Arkansas took to get to the Razorback games in Fayetteville.
US Hwy 71 Through the Boston Mountains
US 71 is another great fall route to Fayetteville that twists and turns through the Boston Mountains. You can pick up the route from just outside of Alma, Arkansas.
You will have several places to pull over and stop as well as some charming small towns to see along the way.
Talimena National Scenic Byway
Only 18 miles of the 54 mile long Talimena Scenic Byway are in Arkansas, but this is a gorgeous fall drive! It is one of my favorites and tends to be a little less traveled than some of the others.
The Talimena Byway begins near Mena, Arkansas and continues along the crest of the Ouachita Mountains on into Oklahoma. There are 22 scenic pull outs along the route.
Sometimes on the Talimena Byway you might be fortunate enough to see a black bear scampering into the woods.
Mount Magazine Scenic Byway
Mount Magazine Scenic Byway is a pretty driving route that crosses over the highest mountain in Arkansas. You can begin at State Highway 309 in Havana, Arkansas and follow that up 2,753 feet to the top of Mount Magazine and Mount Magazine State Park.
You then descend down the other side of the mountain through the town of Paris until the road ends at Highway 23 in Webb City. There are plenty of stops and things to see along the way.
The Twisted Lady
The Twisted Lady is a motorcycle route that is also glorious for people who love to drive.
It is a loop connecting several different roads that begins and ends in Harrison, Arkansas. Among others, this loop goes through the towns of Jasper, Deer, and Ponca as well as the stunning Boxley Valley.
In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful areas in Arkansas year round and never more so than in the fall.
This route is 126 miles and is said to have 517 curves.
Best Places to go for Fall Color in Arkansas
Hawksbill Crag / Whitaker Point
This is one of the best and most iconic hiking trails in Arkansas. Photos of Whitaker Point (also known as Hawksbill Crag) tend to be plastered on every bit of promotional material for the state.
Whitaker Point is beautiful year round but never more so than when the leaves begin to turn.
This is not a difficult hike, but the heights and edges of the hawksbill makes it dangerous for young children.
Here is a list of some more Arkansas hikes that would be good for viewing fall foliage.
Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean is one of our favorite state parks in Arkansas. There are some beautiful overlooks if you want to experience the foliage without a lot of effort. You can even sit by a window at Mather Lodge and enjoy a meal with while viewing the leaves.
If you want to hike there are some great hiking trails through the colorful forests. Our favorite is Seven Hollows Trail.
Mount Magazine State Park
After Hawksbill Crag, Mount Magazine may be one of the most photographed places in Arkansas, especially in the fall. The drive up to the mountain is beautiful and there are some amazing overlooks in the park.
Cameron Bluff off of Signal Hill Trail is a magical place to watch the sunset and of course those last rays of sun make the changing leaves look even more beautiful.
In addition to Petit Jean and Mount Magazine nearby Mount Nebo is another state park with gorgeous overlooks and some great hiking and biking.
I know that this may sound a little odd, but a cemetery is one of the best places to see fall color in Arkansas! Maplewood Cemetery is located just a few minutes from Harrison, AR and is planted with over 700 sugar maple trees.
The color here is unbelievable. We are talking deep reds, vibrant oranges and bright yellows. It is truly stunning.
And yes, it is ok, even encouraged, to walk or drive through as long as you behave respectfully while doing so.
Check out their facebook page for updates on the leaves.
Hike The Goat Trail to Big Bluff
If you aren’t afraid of heights then this ledge trail might just be the best hike to see the fall color in Arkansas!
Yes, this trail is a little scary but the panoramic views into the rugged Ozark Mountains and the Buffalo River below are astounding!
Visit Lost Valley
Lost Valley is, in my opinion, the most beautiful and interesting spot in the Ozarks. You will definitely be impressed when you visit in the fall, particularly if the state has had recent rains.
The trail into Lost Valley is easy and fascinating. You will walk through beautiful woods, a natural bridge with a small waterfall, a huge bluff overhang, and the gorgeous Eden Falls. You can even climb into a cave if you have a flashlight and don’t mind crawling a little.
Ride the Arkansas and Missouri Railroad
The Arkansas and Missouri Railroad offers several different scenic round trip rides through the mountains of western Arkansas. Rides leave from Springdale, Arkansas and Van Buren, Arkansas.
The passenger cars are from the 1920’s to 1950’s and have been meticulously restored. You will pass through the river valleys and traverse high trestles as you wind along tracks in the mountains.
This ride is one of the most relaxing ways to experience the fall color in Arkansas!
Eureka Springs is gorgeous year round, but it is especially breathtaking in the fall. The historic architecture against the changing leaves on the hills is stunning.
As lovely as it is in town you should also go take a walk or a bike ride at Lake Leatherwood which is a city park with more than 25 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Another fun fall activity in Eureka Springs is to take a ride on the Belle of the Ozarks. This is a guided boat cruise on nearby Beaver Lake.
Pinnacle Mountain State Park
Climbing Pinnacle in the fall is a tradition for many of us who live in Little Rock and consider Pinnacle Mountain State Park to be our own backyard.
It is a great Arkansas park to see the colors of the turning leaves. If you don’t want to make the steep and rocky climb to the top of the mountain I would suggest walking through the Arboretum or hiking the Rocky Valley Trail.
Mirror Lake and Mountain View Arkansas
Photographers might be especially drawn to Mirror Lake! The Lake is fed by the waters flowing from Blanchard Springs Caverns. which makes it a haven for trout…and trout fishermen.
But it is also is a very calm lake that is smooth like a mirror. You can imagine how the reds and golds of the trees look reflected on the lake surface in the fall. The trail to Mirror Lake is fairly short and good for all skill levels.
The nearby town of Mountain View is another Arkansas fall fantasyland. Mountain View is not only adorable but until the end of November you can experience music in the town square.
Float the Buffalo River
Floating the Buffalo River isn’t always possible in the fall so be sure and ALWAYS check the water levels before you go.
However, if there has been enough rainfall a fall float on the Buffalo River will be a memorable experience. Check out the Buffalo Outdoor Center for more information about floating and water levels.
We hope that you enjoy these wonderful ways to enjoy fall color in Arkansas.
Let us know in the comments if you have something that you think we ought to add to the list.
If you are going to be in the Ozark Mountains to enjoy the fall colors then you might want to check out this post about all the great things to do in the town of Bentonville!
If you are planning to visit Arkansas in the summer we also have a post of the best things to do in Arkansas to help beat the summer heat. And one with information about things to do in the spring. Cooler weather more your style? How about things to do in Arkansas in the winter!
Thanks for stopping by!