An Arkansas road trip is the perfect way for local families to spend a fall weekend. The “Natural State” is full of stunning bluffs along winding rivers, charming small towns, interesting historic spots, and rolling mountains. Fall is prime time for a leaf-peeping road trip! While the Buffalo River is arguably the most beautiful Arkansas road trip destination, in the autumn, the mountains along the Pigtrail Scenic Byway take center stage!

Fall is fabulous, but truthfully, Arkansas is beautiful year-round. From Hot Springs to Eureka Springs, Petit Jean to Mount Magazine, our state is a gem, and we think you should get out and explore it! Here are our votes for the absolute best road trips in Arkansas for you and your crew!

A Quick Road Trip Through Arkansas

Let’s get a quick rundown of Arkansas, for those not familiar with the territory. The Northwest portion of the state is blanketed by the Ozark National Forest and is the best place for fall foliage. It’s also home to our primary university, some of the best art museums, and the hippest towns in the state. The cities around Fayetteville are famous for great hiking trails, a lively student atmosphere, quirky art colonies, and ale trails.

Central Arkansas revolves around the capital city of Little Rock. It’s the financial and administrative hub of the state. Hot Springs resides nearby and is arguably the most historic city in Arkansas, built around the ancient natural springs. It was the first federally protected area in the United States and is a fantastic spot for a road trip.

Eastern Arkansas is very flat, consisting primarily of farmland in the fertile Mississippi Delta, and houses some of the oldest cities in the state. You enter the Ouachita National Forest as you cross into the Southwest part of the state. This area is home to the second-largest mountain in the state and the largest lake. It’s one of the prime Arkansas road trip destinations for outdoor adventures!

Arkansas isn’t large. You can drive across the entire state from East to West in about four hours. That means you have plenty of time to explore. Enjoy the scenery, and stop in the charming small towns to experience the best of the Natural State. It’s a place where the slow life is valued. The food is hearty and filling, and the people are friendly, so enjoy a sweet tea, and dip your feet in the water for a bit. Arkansas is meant to be savored!

The Best Arkansas Road Trips for Families

In this section, we’ve gathered the best Arkansas road trip destinations for those traveling with kiddos. From fun roadside attractions to the state’s best pumpkin patches, these road trips are the definition of family fun!

1. Historic Arkansas Road Trip: Hope to Fort Smith

For a fun historic tour of Arkansas, set your sites for the birthplace of President Bill Clinton, the small town of Hope, in Southwest Arkansas. Here you can tour the home of the former president and also explore Historic Washington State Park which displays 54 pioneer-era structures. For a fun bonus stop, jump off the interstate and take a detour to Murfreesboro. Here you’ll find Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only public diamond mine in the United States. The kids can pan for diamonds, and you get to keep whatever you find!

After you’ve made your millions, head for Hot Springs National Park. Tour Historic Bathrow, making sure to allow at least an hour for the Fordyce Bathhouse that serves as the visitor center and museum of the park. Hot Springs is a wonderful place to stretch your legs along the trails and soak in the warm waters! From there, pop into Little Rock to visit the iconic Civil Rights site, Little Rock Central High School Historic Site. Then hit McArthur’s Museum of Military History, and learn all there is to know about Arkansas history at the Old State House Museum.

Get on I-40 and head west to Fort Smith. Start with a seasonal guided walking tour of the Belle Grove Historic District, an area of historic Victorian-era homes. Then, visit the Fort Smith National Historic Site where you’ll see Judge Parker’s famous gallows and may experience costumed reenactments. You’ll also get a thorough understanding of Frontier and Native American life in the region.

To do this historic tour justice, you’ll need 3-4 full days.

2. Arkansas Roadside Attractions Trip: Fort Smith to Walnut Ridge

From giant peanuts to massive beer cans, this trip through Northern Arkansas is full of quirky stops. Starting in the historic town of Fort Smith, check out the giant Mr. Peanut statue outside the Planters Factory. Take a detour to Central City to snap a photo of the gigantic Budweiser can (a silo). In Alma, pose with everyone’s favorite sailor in Popeye’s Garden. Marvel at the Deer, Half Deer art installation in Fayetteville.

In Eureka Springs, you’ll find plenty of odd creations from Humpty Dumpty statues to the over-the-top weird Quigley’s Castle, the giant statue of Jesus, and the gorgeous Thorncrown Chapel. You can visit a tiny 1920s jail cell in Flippin and see Jesus walking on the water in the Roselawn Memorial Gardens in Batesville. End your trip by pretending to be the 5th Beatle at Beatles Park in Walnut Ridge.

Not only is this a unique trip, but it also traverses some of the most beautiful landscapes in the state and weaves through some of the best small towns. Take your time and stretch it over a weekend!

3. Arkansas Pumpkin Patch Road Trip-Pea Ridge to Black Rock

On this family-friendly Arkansas road trip, you’ll traverse the north-central portion of Arkansas on a hunt for the best pumpkin patches in the state. First on the list, McGarrah Farms in Pea Ridge. This family-owned farm is best suited for children under the age of 10. It features hay rides, a mule train, a corn maze, bounce pads, ziplines, and a wonderful picnic area. It’s also located near Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the state.

Hop on down to Roland and experience the pure joy of Bobrooks Farms. Here, the kiddos can pet the farm animals, climb the hay pyramid, play giant lawn games, and compete in pig races. While the kids are at play, the parents can enjoy the food trucks or a glass of wine! Bobrook is a working winery as well!

The fun just keeps coming!

The third pumpkin patch on this Arkansas road trip is our personal fave (wink, wink). Arkansas Frontier is located in Quitman. We were founded more than 20 years ago by educators, and that’s our passion. We have a Native American Village, a Pick-Your-Own pumpkin patch, a dino dig, gem mining, an enchanted forest, and cuddly farm animals!

Head east to the town of Augusta and spend a day at Peebles Farm. Like all the others, Peebles has a U-Pick pumpkin patch, but they also boast a Sunflower and Zenia field, a playground with pumpkin blasters, a corn maze, and a paintball course. The season will open with a unique butterfly release on September 23, 2023.

Lastly, we end our pumpkin patch road trip in Black Rock at Jackson Farms. Jackson Farms is one of the best in the state for sure! The farm features pony rides, giant slides, an Old West town, zip lines, a massive corn pit, and a themed corn maze. It’s one of the better farms for older kids as the maze is quite difficult, and there’s tons of great carnival food!

With no stops, this road trip would take you around 7 hours, but obviously, you’re going to need a few days to thoroughly explore all these amazing farms!

View of the city of Hot Springs from the road above, showing the green forests of the Ouachita Mountains and the architecture of Hot Springs, one of the best road trips in Arkansas

4. The Most Charming Arkansas Christmas Road Trip: Hot Springs to Blytheville

While our weather here in the South doesn’t usually give us a white Christmas, it doesn’t hamper our holiday spirit! From fancy courthouse lights to the famous Garvan Gardens installations, the towns of Arkansas are full of Christmas cheer! Let’s begin in historic Hot Springs, the home of Garvan Gardens. Stunningly arrayed year-round, Garvan Gardens turns it up a notch (or ten) with their Holiday Lights. The 210-acre enchanted garden is transformed by over 5 million lights! It’s by far the most famous installation in the state and is a must-see!

Capital Exploration

From there, head for the state capital of Little Rock. In early December, The Big Jingle Jubilee Parade kicks off the official holiday season in Arkansas on Capitol Avenue. After the parade, check out the annual Christmas Lighting Ceremony at the Arkansas Capitol Building. The structure is illuminated with over 100,000 lights, and the ceremony is topped off with a fireworks show!

Next, move east just a few miles to Sherwood for the Enchanted Forest Trail of Lights. It’s a one-mile, drive-thru trail that’s free for all! From Sherwood, take a trip up north to take in The Lights of the Delta in Blytheville. It’s noted as the Mid-South’s largest lighting festival, with over 6 million twinkling bulbs! The 1.5-mile drive-thru display consists of dozens of motion displays, a hayride, and Santa photos! There is a small fee of $10 per vehicle.

Since Christmas lights are best at night, you’ll probably want to make this a 3 to 4-night tour!

The Best Arkansas Road Trips for Couples

Quapaw Bathhouse, a Spanish-Colonial structure in Downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas with lamp posts

Alright, drop the kids off at grandma’s, these trips are adults-only! Pack your date night clothes, pick up some corn nuts (corn nuts are the only acceptable road trip food), and tackle one of these romantic Arkansas road trips for couples.

5. Arkansas Small-Town Road Trip: Eureka Springs to Wilson

Being a fairly rural state, the bulk of Arkansans are dispersed in a plethora of adorable small towns. While there are cute towns all over the state, in lieu of keeping a manageable road trip, we’re going to travel from west to east across the north of the state. We’ve mentioned quirky Eureka Springs earlier, and you’ll see it pop up again later, but that just gives more credence to its awesomeness.

Eureka Springs is a strange mix of haunted hotels, Victorian architecture, a cornucopia of sparkly rock shops, and the picturesque Thornecrown Chapel. It’s a popular weekend getaway for Arkansas lovers. The streets are perfect for strolling, and there are tons of great restaurants and adorable bed and breakfasts. Plus, you’re in the center of the Ozark National Forest, and the surroundings are stunning!

The Epic Hwy 7

From Eureka, head southeast down Arkansas scenic byway, Hwy 7, to the mountain town of Jasper. Jasper is in the heart of the Ozarks and is a popular camping spot near the Buffalo National River. It also boasts some of the most epic views in the state and access to a variety of the most popular hiking trails in the state. It’s the ideal spot for an adventurous couple.

Next on the list, the charming little town of Mountain View. Mountain View is home to Ozark Folk Center State Park. It’s known as the Folk Music Capital of the World! Join one of the weekly music gatherings on the courthouse steps, or come in April for their annual folk festival. Last, but not least, finish your romantic Arkansas road trip in the eastern town of Wilson. Featuring a picturesque community garden, unique shops, a charming town square, and fine wine tasting, the delights of Wilson are so abundant that it has even been featured in Southern Living!

6. Haunted Arkansas Road Trip: Crossett to Eureka Springs

If you and your BOO (Pun emphatically intended!) get your kicks from spine-tingling adventures, then take this Arkansas fall road trip to the most haunted spots in the state. Start in the very south of Arkansas with the eery Crossett Lights. Local lore states that two employees from the Missouri Pacific Railroad got in a little tiff, and one of them lopped off the other’s head. In the dead of night, locals often see floating lights that appear like old lanterns. It is thought that the employee is looking for his lost noggin’.

Next, move to Monticello and take a tour of the haunted mansion, Allen House. This elegant Queen Anne hails from 1906, but in 1949, the daughter of the original builder committed suicide by cyanide. Her room was sealed off for decades until the death of her mother. The mansion was then turned into student apartments, but residents kept contacting police about intruders on the upper level. When it was investigated, no one was there. Residents report objects moving on their own, disembodied footsteps, and shady figures in photos.

From Ghosts to Gangsters

Next, head for Hot Springs and stay a night in the Arlington Hotel & Spa. This grand old lady transports you back to the roaring twenties, to the days of cocktails, flappers, and gangsters. One of the specters is infatuated with the chandelier in the Venetian Dining Room. Another loves to turn the lights and the water on and off in room 824, and the guests routinely report a strong smell of cigar smoke in room 443-the Al Capone Suite.

Move on to Pea Ridge and join the spirit soldiers for a fight on the Civil War Battlefield. Then visit what is often labeled as “The Most Haunted Hotel in America,” the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa. This Eureka Springs hotel has too many specters to list and has been studied by every major paranormal investigator. They offer nightly guided ghost tours, and the hotel occupies a romantic spot overlooking the Victorian village of Eureka. It’s a beautiful spot to relax after a weekend of thrills!

7. Arkansas Foodie Road Trip: Conway to Hot Springs

If your idea of a perfect date weekend includes nonstop eating and drinking, then this Arkansas road trip is right up your alley. We’ll start in the Central Arkansas City of Conway for two local favorites. Stoby’s is a Conway staple serving up their signature yellow cheese dip that is to die for! After a fire a few years ago, Stoby’s has a new look, but the food is still the same old fabulous. Dinner should be spent at one of the best Italian restaurants in the state, Pasta Grill. This is a small restaurant that usually has a long wait time, so call ahead. Wander around the cute downtown area after dinner to work off those carbs.

Move east to Little Rock the next morning and join all the night shift workers for breakfast at The Root Cafe before heading down to Hot Springs. In our humble opinion, Hot Springs is the culinary capital of Arkansas. There are so many fabulous food options! You can literally walk, eat, and repeat all weekend long.

Time to Eat!

Breakfast must be spent consuming a blueberry, buckwheat pancake from the Pancake shop. You need an award-winning cupcake from Fat Bottom Girls. The Ohio Club on Bathhouse Row serves up the best hamburger you’ve ever tasted. Steinhaus Keller is hands down the best German restaurant in the state with authentic food and atmosphere and a huge list of internationally imported beer. Finish your evening at The Copper Penny Irish Pub for some live music and strong drinks!

If you have more days, you’ll want to have a pizza at Rocky’s Corner, an upscale meal from a Michelin chef at VAULT, barbecue at McClard’s, and some fantastic seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf. We told you— Hot Springs is for foodies!

8. Road Trip Through Arkansas Wine Country: Altus to Paris

Western Arkansas is wine country, and there are a few great vineyards that oenophiles need to experience. Most of these family-owned wineries are in and around the small town of Altus, just outside Ozark. Start your journey there, touring old favorites like Mount Bethel Winery and Post Wineries, along with the first female-owned winery in the area, Chateau Aux Arc.

Move along to Weiderkehr Village for more fine wines. Weiderkehr Wine Cellars is one of the oldest and largest wineries in Middle America. It overlooks the Arkansas River Valley and is surrounded by the beauty of the Ozark Mountains. Your last stop will be in Paris at Cowie Wine Cellars. Not only will you love these wine-tasting experiences, but the area is lovely to drive through, especially in the fall.

9. Arkansas Foliage Road Trip: Boston Mountains Scenic Loop

Starting in the Western town of Alma, this loop through the highest points of the Ozark National Forest utilizes two very different stretches of highway. You’ll start on Hwy 71, a winding trail through some of the cutest towns in the state with the best landscapes. You’ll go through Mountainburg, Winslow, West Fork, and Greenland, before landing in the fun city of Fayetteville. Once you’ve checked out Crystal Bridges, eaten some barbecue, and wandered the bars of Dixon Street, head back south on I-40.

If you want to stay away from the interstate, you can head east from Fayetteville instead, taking Hwy 16/295 to Hwy 23. It’s better known as “The Pig Trail.” It’s the old highway that loyal Razorback fans utilized to reach the stadium from Central Arkansas for years until the tunnel and interstate were constructed. Hwy 23 is another NW Arkansas snaking road. It’s lovely, but drive carefully!

Check out the rest of the best autumn road trips in the state in our new article, “Exploring the Best Fall Foliage in Arkansas.” (Editor, I would like to insert the recent fall foliage article here. It hasn’t been published yet, so I don’t have the URL link. Thanks!)

The Best Arkansas Road Trips for Outdoor Adventures

Pack the hiking boots, poles, and picnic supplies for these road trips. We’re getting out into Arkansas’s great outdoors!

10. The Best Arkansas Waterfall Road Trip: Natural Dam to Blanchard Springs

Arkansas is home to several small waterfalls, but the big boys can be tackled in a long day trip across the northern portion of the state. Start in the far west in Natural Dam. This series of low falls is so picturesque that it appears to be manmade, but it’s not! Next, head north for Hemmed-in-Hollow Falls in Compton. It’s the tallest waterfall between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains.

The hike in and back is fairly strenuous, but you can shorten the torture by taking the quick access path from the river. While floating the Buffalo National River, pull over at the marked beach and stretch your legs on a short walk to the falls. This is one of the most scenic areas of the Ozark Mountains and offers great campsites if you want to spend the night.

Waterfall Time!

Not far from Compton, you’ll find the tragically named, but gorgeous, Glory Hole Trail. This waterfall is unique because it’s formed by water from a nearby creek falling through a perfectly round hole in an overhanging bluff. The hike is stunning as well. You’ll need to go in the rainy season to see this one in its full “glory!” Turn south for a long drive to Petit Jean State Park. Here you’ll find Cedar Falls, arguably the most popular falls in the state. Petit Jean is a fun hangout with beautiful hikes, epic overlooks, and family fun adventures like paddle boats!

Lastly, head back north to Blanchard Springs Recreational Area for Mirror Lake Falls. This elegant cascade is possibly the most picturesque in Arkansas and is the most photographed. This scenic road trip can be achieved in a long day trip, but we’d suggest making it a weekend adventure so you have plenty of time to enjoy the trails!

11. The Ultimate State Park Road Trip: Morrilton to Paris

On this short road trip, we’ll explore three of the best Arkansas state parks. Unlike our waterfall adventure, you’ll spend very little time in the car for this one. These scenic beauties are within an hour of each other. Start outside the Central Arkansas city of Morrilton at Petit Jean State Park. Take in the overlook. Hike down to Cedar Falls. Enjoy a nice lunch in the cliffside lodge, and then head for Mt. Nebo, just outside of Dardanelle.

Mount Nebo offers incredible views for almost the whole hike to the summit. It’s a great spot for an afternoon snack or a picnic lunch, depending on your timing. Lastly, visit the tallest mountain in the state at Mount Magazine State Park!

12. The Best Arkansas Road Trip for Hikers: Maumelle to Mena

On our last Arkansas road trip, we tackled three of the most popular hikes in the state. Starting in Maumelle, take on the short, steep hike up Pinnacle Mountain. Pinnacle offers some of the best views of the Arkansas River Valley in the state and has something for every kind of hiker. The West Summit Trail is the most popular. It’s a marked trail with stairs, a clean path, and minimal scrambling. The East Summit Trail is a boulder scramble from start to finish. Pick your poison, but save some time to eat at the summit. It really is an incredible view!

Just keep hiking!

The second hike on your list is at Mount Magazine State Park. Take Signal Hill Trail to the highest point in Arkansas. Mount Magazine doesn’t boast the views of Pinnacle, but it’s still a beautiful forested hike. If you want a break from hiking, enjoy the views from your car on the Magazine Scenic Byway from Paris to Havanna, which crosses the mountain.

Lastly, set the GPS for Queen Wilhemina State Park. Surrounded by the density of the Ouachita National Forest, Queen Wilhemina’s Rich Mountain is the second-highest point in the state and boasts better views than Mount Magazine. You’ll arrive by the Talimina National Scenic Byway, and you can drive to the peak if you wish. There’s a luxury lodge at the top, which is great for a sunset dinner. Queen Wilhemina offers easy access to Lake Ouachita, which is the largest in the state and boasts excellent boating, fishing, multiple campsites, and much more!

Wrapping up the Best Road Trips in Arkansas

We hope you find this Arkansas road trip planner useful. It’s a truly beautiful state and there are innumerable scenic drives to enjoy. If you call this great state home, or you’ll be passing through soon, add a few of these Arkansas road trips to your plans!

School is back in session, but that doesn’t mean you have to stifle your travel plans. Turn adventure into an educational outgoing with a trip or two from “45 Educational Field Trips Ideas for Homeschoolers.” We’ve hashed out tons of great activities for homeschoolers (or weekend adventurers) that are not only fun but informative. We’ve even included an Arkansas option for each trip!

Happy Exploring Y’all!

Get Our Monthly Educational Activity Guides to Traveling Arkansas
Get our Monthly Educational Activity Guides to Traveling Arkansas