Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Arkansas

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.

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 in by the end of October to mid-November, depending on the region.

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. To see the fall colors in Arkansas, take the time to visit a state park or take a scenic drive to one of the state's nature-rich regions.

Arkansas fall landscape and lake in Petit Jean state park
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The Ozarks

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 gum trees, which will turn red early on in the season, plus maples, hickories, and oaks. Many of the trees look their most brilliant in late October, so be sure to plan to make a trip through the Ozarks then.

There are several parks and roads in the Ozarks that make for great leaf peeping. The Boston mountains loop is a 42-mile road that follows a former stagecoach route. It passes through the Ozarks and offers some great scenic vistas where you can pull off and view the scenery. The loop goes through Fayetteville, Fort Smith Forest, and Devil's Den State Park, and you'll also drive through Arkansas wine country along the way. Visit in mid-October to see the full spectrum of color. This is especially true for black gum trees, which turn a bright red earlier in the season than other species in the area.

If you'd like to hear a rushing spring with your fall foliage, head over to Blanchard Springs caverns in October for full foliage. The springs themselves and mirror lake make for a nice backdrop for the colors, and Mountain View is a great town to visit for the most of fall colors.

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 especially if you are a fan of hiking. Mount Magazine is close enough to Petit Jean that you should add it to your trip so you can see some of the stunning vistas from the highest peak in Arkansas. Both of the mountains have some great hikes, as well as some nice views from the road and turnouts, so you don't have to hike if you don't want to.

They are close to Little Rock and make nice day trips. A drive down Scenic Byway 7 will take you through the Ozarks and Ouachitas, as well as the Western Gulf Coastal Plain and Ozark National Forest. The byway also goes through the historic downtown area of Hot Springs before hitting the Ouachita National Forest

Delta and Gulf Coastal Plain

In Arkansas, this is one of the last areas to be painted by nature's palette. 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 leaves in November.

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