When to Go, What Roads to Take, Where to Find Information
Shady Lake near Mena
Each year, we look forward to the coming of fall. Even the most avid sun worshipers are now ready to dig out their long-sleeved shirts and begin planning driving tours and favorite outdoor activities around the changing of the leaves. But predicting fall color is no easier than forecasting the weather. Below are details of what is considered the norm for fall color in Arkansas - these are not predictions. Since the fall color season in Arkansas is an extremely popular travel month, we strongly suggest you make your reservations as soon as possible, especially if you are coming on a weekend.
What Roads to Take
Crowley's Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway – was the first National Scenic Byway in the state and roughly runs the length of its namesake– Crowley’s Ridge. It begins in the northeast corner at St. Francis, winding its way alongside the ridge through some of the most fertile areas of Arkansas,to its southern-most terminus at West Helena.
Great River Road National Scenic Byway – the Arkansas portion of this national thoroughfare recently became the state’s second National Scenic Byway. The Great River Road winds through the eastern portion of the state, roughly paralleling the Mississippi River. The route runs from Blytheville in northeast Arkansas to Eudora in southeast Arkansas.
Interstate 540 – Runs northward from Alma in the Arkansas River Valley to just south of the Missouri border. It traverses through nearly undeveloped portions of Ozark Mountains and affords views of unequaled beauty. The gorgeous scenery includes driving over tree-covered canyons and through mountain passes.
Talimena National Scenic Byway – winds for 54miles along the crest of the highest points between the Appalachians and the Rockies, Rich Mountain and Winding Stair Mountain in the Ouachita National Forest. Spanning the highest east-west mountain range in America, one breathtaking panorama follows another as this national scenic byway winds along forested mountain tops between Mena and Talihina, Oklahoma.
Scenic 7 Bridge at Pruitt
Scenic 7 Byway – The state designated route is from the Arkansas/Missouri state line, south through Harrison, Russellville, Hot Springs and Arkadelphia,on through El Dorado to the border with Louisiana. Along the way you’ll pass through the Grand Canyon of the Ozarks at Jasper, cross over the Buffalo National River, cruise through Hot Springs National Park, drive across DeGray Lake, and visit one of the most charming downtown squares in the state at E lDorado.
Pig Trail Scenic Byway – A U.S. Forest Service-selected drive with a name as colorful as the scenery. It’s not for the faint of heart but if you like getting close to nature, enjoying brilliant fall foliage and visiting small communities, then Ark. 16 and 23 are a perfect choice for you. You head north through the Ozark Mountains at Ozark, ending up in Fayetteville.
Interstate 530 – This southbound route between Little Rock and Pine Bluff goes through the rich timberlands of South Arkansas. Bottomland hardwoods provide brilliant colorin spring and fall and bright greens in summer, with towering pines being showcased during the winter months.
Traditional Peak Color Times in Arkansas
St. Francis National Forest
Arkansas fall foliage tours should be planned around the peak color times of each region of the state. Generally, significant color change begins in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas in late September or early October. The trees in central Arkansas and the Ouachita mountain range of west central Arkansas are changing noticeably by early to mid-October. Southern and eastern Arkansas foliage usually begins changing during mid-October. Most people, however, are more interested in the "peak" of color. There is usually a period of a week or so when the fall foliage in a particular area is at its best. Normally, the peak of color occurs around two or three weeks after color changes begin, meaning late October for the Ozarks, late October or early November for central and western Arkansas, and early to mid-November for the southern and eastern sections.
When To Go
Autumn in Arkansas is anything but one-dimensional with a bumper crop of fall festivals and special events, the flamboyant fall foliage
, the harvest season, and the crisper, downward turn of temperatures. The most popular way to enjoy the splashy color of autumn in Arkansas is just to get out and do it. The color change begins in early October in the Ozarks of northern Arkansas...moves slowly to the south...until it reaches the peak of color in late October and early November. Yellows, reds, oranges, golds- even deep purple-overtake the maples, sumac, sweet gum, oak, sassafras, and hickory. The state has two-and-a-half million acres of national forests... the Ozark
, the Ouachita (Wash-i-taw)
and the St. Francis
...where the beauty of the season shines.
AREA ONE: The Ozark Mountain region begins its color change at the end of September and early October, with the black gums taking on brilliant red tones. The peak usually occurs in late October.
AREA TWO: The Ouachitas and Arkansas River Valley take on color within a week or so following the Ozarks, beginning in early to mid October. Early November is normally the peak time for this area.
AREA THREE: The Delta (east) and Gulf Coastal Plain (south) are usually transformed by early to mid-November.