Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Arkansas

Ozarks Rival New England for Color

Coin-operated telescope at a Highway 7 public viewing point in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
Wesley Hitt / Getty Images

Some may not be aware that Arkansas, the Natural State, is the perfect place to see fall foliage in all of its glory. Some say fall colors in Arkansas rival the New England states, especially in the Ozarks and northern Arkansas.

Arkansas' rich variety of trees and mild climate make the changing foliage especially striking. A moist growing season and a dry, cool autumn with little to no frost make for the most vivid leaf colors, and Arkansas weather often fits that profile.

Take the time to go visit a state park or even just take a scenic drive. It will leave you relaxed, refreshed, and in awe of Arkansas.

How Do Leaves Change Color

Trees change color through a very complicated process that involves the green chlorophyll found in their leaves. As the nights get longer, the cells near the stem form a layer that blocks water and chlorophyll from the leaves and allows the yellow and orange pigments to show. Different species of trees have different amounts of these other pigments (xanthophylls and carotenoids), which is why different species are different colors.

Arkansas fall landscape and lake in Petit Jean state park
kanonsky / Getty Images

When the Leaves Change

In Arkansas, leaves normally start to change color at the beginning of October when the temperature starts to drop. This varies somewhat from year to year, but it usually occurs by mid-October. The color change moves from north to south, with brilliant peak color coming by the end of October to mid-November, depending on the region.

If you want to see to see fall foliage at its peak, sign up for emails from the state about weekly updates on foliage viewing. The reports usually run from early October to late November. Wet, stormy weather in the fall can shorten the season, along with especially cold weather or dry weather in the summer. Also, the type of tree in a particular area can change the pattern of color formation.

Where to See the Colors

  • Ozarks and northern Arkansas: The Ozarks and northern Arkansas are the first places in the state to be painted bright red, orange, and even a pretty purple color. The first leaves usually start to change here in early October. The Ozarks have many acres of national forests that contain black gums (these turn red early in the season), maples, hickories, and oaks. Many of the trees look they're most brilliant in late October, so be sure to plan to make a trip through the Ozarks then.
  • The Ouachitas: In mid-October, the leaves in the southern part of the state start to change to their vivid fall palette, and they reach their peak of color in early to mid-November. Ouachita State Park is the best place to see the beautiful hues that the many oaks, maples, and other hardwood trees take on. The colors you see while driving through the forest or hiking down a nature trail in this part of the state make those activities more interesting during this time of the year, and the mild climate makes Arkansas state parks even more appealing. Pinnacle Mountain and Petit Jean are great places to view foliage, too. They are close to Little Rock and make nice day trips. Local hiking trails should be particularly vivid this time of year.
  • Delta and Gulf Coastal Plain: This area is painted by nature's palette last. You should venture down south and east in mid-November. Many state parks are in the southern portion of the state; they include Lake Chicot, Moro Bay, and Logoly. All of these have many trees that will be showing off their pretty new looks in November.
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