The Best Fall Foliage Road Trip in Arkansas
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The mountains of Arkansas have some of the most spectacular fall colors. Take a scenic drive along any of these routes—from the Northeastern part of the state, through the Ozarks, and around Ouachita National Forest—to see the autumn leaves on a peaceful drive.
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Once you and your vehicle are protected, you’re ready to set out!
Key trip details
There are brilliant colors in every corner of Arkansas in the Fall. You can start in the northeast corner in St. Francis and take the Crowley Ridge Scenic Byway south toward Helena, or you can go to the western side of the state for Ozark National Forest and Ouachita National Forest. Whichever destination you choose, you’re sure to see some of the most stunning foliage the country has to offer.
Fall foliage destinations in Arkansas
Crowleys Ridge to Talimena, AR
- Northeast Arkansas
- Northwest Arkansas—Ozark National Forest
- Southwest Arkansas—Ouachita National Forest
You could do any of these drives as a day trip or a long weekend getaway—but if you have longer to travel, you can combine these stops for a week-long road trip.
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Though not as traversed as the western part of the state, the northeast part of Arkansas offers prime locations for fall color-viewing. With both Crowley Ridge and St. Francis National Park in this half of Arkansas, you’re sure to encounter terrific scenery.
Crowley Ridge Scenic Byway
Crowley Ridge, AR
The Crowley Ridge Scenic Byway runs from Missouri to southern Arkansas. The entire 198-mile drive will take you from the Missouri border to Helena, AR along the Mississippi River. Going straight through takes about 3.5 hours.
Where to see the best fall leaves along Crowley Ridge
While you could just drive by the state parks along this route, it’s worth stopping to hike or camp in them if you want a full autumn immersion. Some of the most scenic spots can be found in the following locations:
- Lake Poinsett State Park near Harrisburg, AR—Come for the calm lake and great fishing. There are also guided canoe and kayak tours to peep at leaves from the water.
- St. Francis National Forest near Marianna, AR—Explore the bottomland hardwood forests (river swamps) that come alive with fall foliage.
Pro Tip This drive is easily doable in one day, but you’ll likely want to stay the night before turning around. Consider stopping at one of the many campsites to get the most of your outdoor experience.
Slightly further west than Crowley Ridge is the scenic town of Mountain View. Mountain View was established in 1870 and is known for its long history of folk music. Throughout the summer and into the fall, visitors are treated to musical performances in which local musicians gather on the square to pick a banjo and sing late into the night.
Where to see the best fall leaves in Mountain View
Mountain View may be known for its music, but its natural wonders are just as impressive.
- Ozark Folk Center State Park ($-$$)—Drawing on the area’s rich musical tradition, the Ozark Folk Center State Park combines music and nature. You can learn about folk music and crafts in the Craft Village or satisfy your sense of adventure by traversing the ropes courses at Loco Ropes —which puts you up close and personal with the changing leaves.
- Mirror Lake—Just 14 miles north of Mountain View is Mirror Lake, a man-made lake created in the 1930s. A two-tiered waterfall surrounded by fall foliage makes this lake a sight to behold.
Pro Tip Mountain Lake is home to some of the best regional food in the area. Stop and get some catfish or legendary barbecue while you’re in town.
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Northwest Arkansas—Ozark National Forest
Though technically part of the same national forest as the St. Francis National Forest, the Ozark National Forest spans 1.2 million acres in the northwestern part of the state and features many geographical distinctions from its eastern counterpart.
Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway
The Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway is a 41.9-mile driving trail through Ozark National Forest. The drive runs north-south on Highway 21, beginning at Upper Buffalo Wilderness and ending in Clarksville, and on Highway 16, from Fallsville to Edwards Junction. The entire drive takes about an hour, but there are many points of interest along the way.
Where to see the best leaves on the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway
- Buffalo National River near Jasper, AR—Known as America’s First National River, the Buffalo River begins in the quintessential Ozark town of Jasper. Here, you’ll find some of the best foliage-viewing spots in the region. You can hike along the many paths by the river to see both stunning fall colors and the wildlife native to the region—including the iconic Arkansas Elk.
- Ozone Recreation Area near Clarksville, AR—A small camping spot in the national park, Ozone Recreation Area makes a perfect stopover for your drive, especially if you want to take some time to camp in the crisp fall air.
Pig Trail Scenic Byway
Running parallel to the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway is the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. Cutting through the most rugged part of the national forest, Pig Trail follows Highway 23 from Brashears to White Oak Township.
Where to see the best leaves on the Pig Trail Scenic Byway
The Pig Trail Scenic Byway has great leaf-viewing opportunities for any traveler—no matter how many wheels you’re using.
- Pig Trail Falls—The pullout to 15-foot Pig Trail Falls is conveniently right off the byway. You can hike around the area and even walk behind the waterfall.
- Ozark Highlands Trail—This popular trail crosses the major byways in the Ozarks, but it intersects the Pig Trail at a particularly prime point for leaf-peeping. If you’re wanting a rugged adventure, plan a backpacking trip along this trail for a few nights.
Pro Tip While the road can accommodate cars, it is most popular with motorcycle riders who want to rev up their hogs to see the University of Arkansas Razorbacks play.
Boston Mountains Scenic Loop
Another popular driving route is the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop. The loop starts in Alma and follows Highway 71, a former stagecoach route, to Interstate 49 and features some of the highlights of the Boston Mountains.
Where to see the best leaves on the Boston Mountains Scenic Loop
- Artist Point and Artist Point Falls near Mountainburg, AR—This stunning overlook features panoramic views of the Ozarks. Overlooking the distant mountains and the Arkansas River Valley, this is a perfect spot to see vibrant fall colors. Don’t forget to stop at the gift shop!
- Lake Fort Smith State Park near Mountainburg—Another prime spot for fall camping, Lake Fort Smith State Park has numerous recreational activities to entertain the entire family.
Mount Magazine Scenic Byway
Though technically just south of Ozark National Forest, Mount Magazine Scenic Byway is a highlight of the midwestern region of Arkansas. The byway is also known as Ark. 309, and it winds from the town of Havana to the highest point in the region—Mount Magazine.
Where to see the best leaves along Mount Magazine Scenic Byway
- Mount Magazine near Paris, AR—standing at 2,753 feet, Mount Magazine towers over the Arkansas River Valley. Take a drive to the top to see a variety of leaves as you climb in elevation.
- Hang gliding at Mount Magazine ($$$)—For a truly unique leaf-viewing experience, soar above the trees with a hang gliding tour. Mount Magazine State Park is one of only two state parks to offer this experience.
Pro Tip Mount Magazine is known for adventure. If you’re an advanced rock climber, Mount Magazine has several technical climbs.
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Southwest Arkansas—Ouachita Mountain Range
Driving south from Ozark National Forest, you will leave the Boston Mountains and come upon the Ouachita Mountain Range. Like its northern neighbor, the Ouachita Mountain Range has many drives for prime fall foliage viewing.
Talimena Scenic Byway
Ouachita National Forest
Named for its two endpoints—Mena, AR and Talihina, OK—the Talimena Scenic Byway follows Ark. 88 from Mena to the Oklahoma border. The Arkansas portion of the drive is about 18 miles long and passes through some pristine mountain vistas.
Where to see the best leaves along the Talimena Scenic Byway
- Queen Wilhelmina State Park near Mena, AR—Queen Wilhelmina State Park marks the top of Rich Mountain. The lodge was originally built in the 1800s to honor the queen of the Netherlands, and it now serves as a hotel for visitors. From the high vantage point, you can see lush views of the valley’s fall foliage.
- Ouachita National Forest—The Ouachita National Forest is one of the oldest national forests in the country. With over 1.6 million acres, the park features top-notch hiking, mountain biking, and driving trails for optimal leaf hunts.
Arkansas Scenic Highway 7
As the state’s first designated scenic highway, Arkansas Highway 7 stretches 290 miles from the northern to the southern part of the state, traversing both the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests. The northern route is beautiful, but the southern half of the road is one of the most scenic drives in the country.
Where to see the best leaves along Scenic Highway 7
- Hot Springs National Park, Hot Springs, AR—The town of Hot Springs is home to the oldest and smallest national park in the country. Featuring a natural thermal spring, Hot Springs provides a chance for visitors to soak and enjoy the fall foliage.
- DeGray Lake near Arkadelphia, AR—This man-made lake is a prime spot for fall fishing, swimming, and exploring. It has over 700 campsites, making it an ideal location to take a break from driving.
Pro Tip About 40 miles from Arkadelphia is Crater of Diamonds State Park, where the public can search for rocks, minerals, and gems (including diamonds!) at their natural volcanic source.
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Why you need roadside assistance
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