When autumn descends on “The Natural State,” the winding backcountry highways of Arkansas are bathed in a kaleidoscope of color. Road trippers and hikers from all over the region flock particularly to Northwest Arkansas to experience this awe-inspiring phenomenon. Exploring the best fall foliage in Arkansas is a favorite fall pastime for visitors and locals alike. In this guide, we’ve gathered all the bests leaf-peeping spots for you and your crew to explore this year!

Arkansas in the Fall is perfect for a day at the Frontier!

Located in heavily forested Quitman, Arkansas Frontier is stunning day trip for anyone looking to experience Arkansas in the Fall! Come October, the growing season is complete, and our pumpkins are ready to pick. Find your favorite in our U-Pick Pumpkin Patch, explore our Enchanted Forest, or take a train ride through our gorgeous grounds. With a Native American Village, a Pioneer Homestead, and a working farm, we have plenty to keep you busy all day long with games and rides that the whole family will love! Be sure to check out the Farm on your Fall Trip through Arkansas!

The Best Time to Experience Fall Foliage in Arkansas

Explore the Best Fall Foliage in Arkansas

Fall foliage can be tricky, especially in Arkansas. The quality and timing of the color change depend heavily on the amount of rainfall throughout the year and the severity of the summer heat. The regions of Arkansas vary slightly in their timing as well. According to the Arkansas State Park authorities, the leaves of Northwest Arkansas begin to change color in September, peaking in late October. Central Arkansas is a bit behind, beginning in mid-October and peaking in early November. Southern Arkansas doesn’t usually see peak color change until mid-November.

The Best Spots to Experience Fall Color in NW Arkansas

From epic hiking trails to enchanting road trips, there’s a fall foliage experience for every type of traveler in our beautiful state. Let’s start with Northwest Arkansas. Located within the Ozark National Forest, NW Arkansas is arguably the most beautiful section of the state any time of year, but especially in the fall! With higher elevations, more rainfall, thicker forests, and cooler temperatures, this region is prime color change territory!

Arkansas Grand Canyon- Jasper

Jasper is located south of Harrison, along scenic Highway 7. It’s a very popular camping and hiking location for Arkansans along the Buffalo River. In late October gorgeous fall colors blanket the region, and crisp air provides some relief from the brutal Arkansas summer. While camping in Jasper, you can explore the Arkansas Grand Canyon. Heading SE on Hwy 7 from Jasper, stop at the Rotary Ann Roadside Park for 180-degree views of the deep valley cutting through the Ozark Mountains. The route is popular with motorcyclists and features tight turns, so drive carefully.

Jasper is also a wonderful hub for exploring the bluffs, waterfalls, and hiking trails surrounding the Buffalo National River. If you’re fit, tackle the steep Hemmed-in-Hollow Falls Trail which treks through dense forest to the tallest waterfall between the Rockies and the Appalachians. You can also access this trail via a pull-off in the river. The trail from the river is short and easy, though it can be slippery. We recommend staying in Steel Creek Campground. The rock walls are lined with fantastic fall foliage, and the fields surrounding the campgrounds are a gathering spot for elks in rut.

Fall Foliage in Arkansas Along the Pig Trail Scenic Byway

“The Pig Trail” or Highway 23, is the old route leading from Central Arkansas to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. Before the interstate was extended, the scenic byway was kept hot with Razorback fans heading for the stadium, and the road trip was a major part of the tailgating process. The winding road through the Ozark Mountains is a beautiful drive any time of year, but during the fall, it’s extraordinary!

We suggest starting in Ozark and traveling up 23 to the junction with Hwy 16. Veer off there and head towards Elkins. Make sure to stop at the Ozark Scenic Overlook in Turner Bend. You’ll also drive through several beautiful small towns that are worth a stop to stretch your legs. On your return south, take the less traveled Hwy 21 for more scenic views!

Ponca- Buffalo National River

Ponca is a popular put-in for kayaking the Buffalo River. It is very close to Jasper mentioned above. We list it separately because Hwy 74 from Jasper to Ponca is another incredible road trip that should be on your list! The short jaunt runs parallel to the river, is insanely curvy, and traverses Mt. Sherman for jaw-dropping views.

Fall Trip to Buffalo River in Arkansas

Devil’s Den State Park

One of Arkansas’ most popular recreational areas, Devil’s Den State Park was once famed for its caves. Unfortunately, they have been closed for many years, but the hiking trails are still a major draw. The most popular is Yellowrock Trail, which ends in two knee-quivering rock outcroppings, jutting out over Lee Creek Valley. During autumn, the viewpoints showcase layers of color, stretching across the hills and valleys, and it’s quite the spectacle!

Yellowrock is a 2.7-mile loop trail that is rated moderate by All Trails. It involves a 300-foot elevation gain and a couple of trickling creek crossings (your shoes might get wet). The trail is well-maintained and dog friendly. Beware: There are no guard rails or barriers on the Yellowrock overlooks. Keep a safe distance and monitor children and pets stringently.

Fall Foliage in Arkansas at Whitaker Point

The most famous viewpoint in Arkansas is Whitaker Point, known to locals as Hawksbill Crag. Located in the Upper Buffalo Wilderness, along Hwy 21, South of Ponca, Whitaker Point boasts phenomenal views. Similar in nature to Yellowrock Trail, Whitaker is a 2.7-mile out-and-back hike with 344 feet of elevation gain and is rated moderate. Again, approach with caution, as there are no rails or barriers at the overlook. The trail is not as well-marked as the former, but it’s heavily trafficked. Just follow the crowd. It traverses along the bluffs and is heavily shaded. You will approach the trailhead via a dirt and gravel road. You do not need a 4-wheel drive but proceed with caution, watching out for ruts and potholes.

Tanyard Creek Loop-Bella Vista

Tanyard Creek is a simple hike lined with waterfalls. If you want to get out in Arkansas nature, but you’re not secure in your hiking ability, this trail is a great option. The upper trail overlooks the waterfall, and the lower trail runs along the creek. Both are well-marked and maintained. The look takes approximately 45 minutes to complete and includes some gorgeous forest scenery.

Glory Hole Hike- Fallsville

The Glory Hole Waterfall Trail is located near Deer, Arkansas in the Ozark St. Francis National Forest. The hike is unfortunately named, but it’s truly stunning. Slightly more challenging than the hikes we’ve mentioned so far, Glory Hole requires some rock scrambling and one steep descent. When you arrive, you’ll find an interesting rock shelter with an oculus, through which the above creek plummets, to create a unique waterfall. The waterfall can dry up in the summer months, but in the fall it is usually at least trickling. The area also features several natural bridges from fallen oaks and absolutely massive rock formations. It feels like a natural amusement park, and the kids will have a blast exploring all the nooks and crannies. The park is heavily forested, and it’s a perfect spot to view fall colors!

Boston Mountains Scenic Loop- Highway 71

The Boston Mountains Scenic Byway is another amazing foliage road trip. Highway 71 is no longer heavily trafficked, as I-49 has taken its place. Today, it’s mostly populated by fall foliage seekers and motorcyclists. The route is dotted with artistic communities, specializing in local handicrafts, and ridge-spanning bridges that offer breathtaking views.

Thorn crown Chapel-Eureka Springs

Fall Foliage Thorn Crown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The quirky town of Eureka Springs is a fun stop on your Arkansas road trip. Great eateries, funky boutiques, and haunted hotels allure travelers, but Thorncrown Chapel takes the cake as the top tourist attraction. Thorncrown is a woodland chapel, designed by architect E. Fay Jones, that features more than 6,000 square feet of glass. It has won numerous architectural awards for its innovative incorporation of nature. The chapel is the most enchanting destination to sit for a while and enjoy the changing colors of the Arkansas deciduous forest.

The Best Fall Foliage in Central Arkansas

Moving outside the Ozark Mountains and into the Arkansas River Valley, the color change lessens by a degree, but there are still some stunning spots to leaf-peep!

Mount Magazine State Park – Paris

Mount Magazine is Arkansas’ highest peak, and the state park is full of lovely hikes where you can view the annual fall colors. Signal Hill marks the highest peak, at 2,753 feet above sea level. It’s the most popular trail in the park and offers excellent viewpoints. The trail is a 1.8-mile loop that is considered moderately challenging. After you conquer Signal Hill, head for a lakeside picnic under the giant oaks at Cove Lake.

Petit Jean State Park- Conway County

Explore Fall Foliage in Arkansas at Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean is by far the most popular park in Central Arkansas. Most locals would say a visit to Arkansas in the Fall would not be complete without a trip to Petit Jean State Park. Located just outside of Morrilton, the park is home to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Arkansas, an elegant mountain lodge, wonderful hiking trails, and an amazing sunset overlook. In the fall, that blazing sunset is elevated by the fiery reds and oranges of the surrounding forest. Take the Cedar Falls Trail through the forest, or find a spot on the bluff-side benches and enjoy the sunset show from the lodge overlook. Finish off your evening with a luxury meal in the lodge!

Mount Nebo State Park – Dardanelle

Mount Nebo is one of the best viewpoints in the Arkansas River Valley. From the Rim Trail, you’ll get several opportunities to look out over the forest and Lake Dardanelle. The trail is a 3.6-mile loop with a 344-foot elevation gain and is considered moderately challenging. It is mostly exposed, above the treeline, which only enhances the fall color views!

Pinnacle Mountain State Park- Maumelle

Pinnacle is one of the most popular hikes in Central Arkansas and offers two distinctly different trails. The West Summit is a 1/2 mile out-and-back trail to the peak. It’s well-marked and maintained. The views from the peak offer 360 degrees of amazing! You can see the winding Arkansas River, the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, and part of West Little Rock. The mountain is a rarity in Arkansas that doesn’t have many trees at the peak, resulting in a completely unobstructed view of some of the best fall foliage in Arkansas. The East Summit is a rock scramble from top to bottom and one of the most fun hikes in Arkansas!

Arkansas and Missouri Railroad

If you want to experience this region without all that strenuous hiking, take the unique opportunity to ride the Arkansas and Missouri passenger train. Departing from Van Buren and Springdale, the train offers several routes through Central and NW Arkansas. The refurbished 1920s Vintage Pullman coaches have a fairly large window to maximize views and a charming atmosphere. For the best fall foliage, take the route from the historic town of Van Buren to Winslow. This 3-hour journey will entreat you to some of the best landscapes in Arkansas, the Winslow Tunnel, and three iron trestle bridges.

Fall Foliage Stops in Southern Arkansas

Out of the River Valley and into the Ouachita Mountains, the Southwest portion of Arkansas has its own set of beautiful fall hot spots!

Talimena National Scenic Byway

Arkansas Highway 88 winds for 50+ miles through the Ouachita National Forest. The route passes over Rich Mountain and Winding Star Mountain through some of the best fall foliage in Arkansas. Just shy of Mount Magazine, Rich Mountain is the second-highest peak in Arkansas at 2,681 feet above sea level, making it the perfect spot to watch the forest change color in early November and is must for anyone visiting Arkansas in the Fall!

Queen Wilhelmina State Park- Mena

Queen Wilhelmina State Park encompasses Rich Mountain. Perched atop the peak, Queen Wilhelmina Lodge is a stunner. Enjoy the fall color extravaganza on a short hike in the park, then stop in the lodge for a dinner with a view or an overnight stay. The restaurant serves up hearty country cooking in a beautiful setting.

Lake Ouachita State Park

Explore the Best Fall Foliage in Arkansas at Ouachita State Park

Last, but definitely not least, Lake Ouachita State Park is a playground for outdoor adventurers and displays Arkansas in the Fall at its very best. Surrounded by the towering oaks and colorful maples of the Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas’ largest lake covers 40,000 acres. This mammoth, clear lake provides the chance to see the vibrant hues of the trees reflected on the waters, creating a mirror image that doubles the beauty! There are 90 campsites in the park of varying styles, or you could make the nearby historic city of Hot Springs your hub.

Fall Color Map Arkansas

Planning your stroll through the Natural State to see the leaves change colors this year would certainly be a lot easier if you had a Fall color map of the entire state of Arkansas. Well you’re in luck because we’ve included one below. As you can see the colors begin to change in the top part of the state first and slowly make it’s way toward the bottom of the state throughout the month. So if you’re heading out for your fall adventure in late September or early October maybe pay special attention to some of the spots mentioned close to Northwest Arkansas. Either way, Arkansas is always so beautiful in the Fall, so you’ll be in for a treat!

Fall Color Map Arkansas

Hit the Road and Explore the Best Fall Foliage in Arkansas!

The scenic byways and secluded hiking trails of Arkansas are calling! If you want to experience dynamic autumn colors, Arkansas is a premier destination. With adorable mountain towns, serpentine highways, and stunning state parks, “The Natural State” is an underrated gem, and the vibrant fall foliage only adds to the charm. Do yourself a favor this fall. Plot a few of these destinations on your road trip map, and get out there and explore Arkansas!

For more fun fall ideas, check out our “Ultimate Guide to Finding The Perfect Pumpkin Patch Farm.”

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Get our Monthly Educational Activity Guides to Traveling Arkansas