Fall Foliage Vacations

Find incredible colors on Arkansas fall foliage tours

Arkansas fall foliage

Embark on fall foliage tours in The Natural State and enjoy breathtaking views of stunningly vibrant landscapes in one of America's most picturesque autumn destinations. Many of Arkansas's visitors come during the autumn season for fall vacations that involve a mix of grand outdoor adventure, relaxation and self-guided fall color tours along scenic byways.

Keep up with our peak color updates here to plan fall foliage tours in The Natural State and discover why Arkansas is a prime spot for fall foliage vacations.  Reports will be posted  here every Thursday by 5 p.m. during the season so you can fine-tune your itinerary. Start making plans to travel through Arkansas this fall! You’ll find scenic beauty in every region of the state, from the forested hills to the wide open delta.

Fall in Arkansas means cooler weather, hiking, biking, cabining, camping and fairs and festivals. It also means that the fall foliage is quickly approaching. Information on how to plan your fall adventure in Arkansas can be accessed from Fall Foliage Vacations - Fall Colors Tour - Arkansas Fall Foliage. Below are some typically asked questions to get you started.

How can I find out about Arkansas Foliage?

The Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism has a network of fall color spotters in every region who send updates throughout the week. This information is reported, and available by 5:00 p.m. Central Time each Thursday for 9 weeks starting September 25th. Arkansas provides travelers this information so they can make their weekend travel plans with the fall colors in mind. Reports are available online, at any of the 13 Arkansas State Welcome Centers or by calling 1-800-NATURAL (answered live 24 hours a day) or (501) 682-7777 (normal business hours only). Check www.Arkansas.com for updates, travel information, or your own Arkansas Vacation Planning Kit.

What are the Fall Foliage Regions?

We report specific areas and highways during peak color times. Foliage changes in these three regions are described:

  1. Northwest/North Central Arkansas (Ozarks)
  2. Central Arkansas/Ouachita Mountains
  3. Southern/eastern Arkansas.


Reasons Leaves Change Color

There are three primary factors responsible for the color changing process in the fall.

  1. Everyone knows that leaves use sunlight via photosynthesis, carbon dioxide, water and other nutrients from the soil to provide the tree with food. But different trees react differently and have different amounts of the pigments called carotenoids (yellows and oranges), anthocyanin (deep reds to purples to blues) and chlorophyll (greens). This causes the variety of color from species to species in the fall.
  2. The shortened amount of sunlight in the days slows down the chemical change in the production of chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color during spring and summer. When the days grow shorter, the chlorophyll lacks the sunlight needed, so it breaks down into sugars allowing the red, yellow and orange hues to show through.
  3. Weather has a dramatic effect on foliage.


How Does Weather Affect Fall Foliage?

Weather patterns during September and October (in Arkansas) are very important for fall foliage. Leaves produce sugars for food during the day but cooler temperatures at night keep these sugars from moving out of the leaves and into the tree, meaning warm days and cool nights at the beginning of fall are very good for production of red, yellow and orange colors.

When everything comes together at the same time, we enjoy a statewide outbreak of vibrant colors that are present in one area or another. Most years, great color appears in different regions at various times in October and November, and knowing when makes the weekly updates valuable.

Does Rain Affect Fall Foliage?

Rainfall affects fall foliage because it provides us with healthy trees. A drier autumn helps keep the leaves intact on the trees. Sunny days and cool, crisp nights are the best weather conditions to produce fall colors. Frost and freezing conditions can destroy the colorful foliage.

When Do the Leaves Change?

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. But most people are more interested in the "peak" of color, the period of a week or so when the foliage in a particular area is at its best. Historically, the peak occurs during late October or early November in the Ozarks, early November in central and western Arkansas and early to mid-November in the southern and eastern regions. This is an average and varies from year-to-year.

What Trees Will I See?

Here’s a short list of foliage that changes early in Arkansas and the color(s) they are likely to display:

  • Blackgum (red)
  • Hickory (yellow)
  • Sassafras (red, orange or yellow)
  • Sweetgum (red, yellow or purple)
  • Red Maple (red, yellow or orange)
  • Dogwood (brownish red)
  • Poison Ivy and Poison Oak (red)
  • Sumac (red)
  • Buckeye (red)

When Should I Go?

Foliage looks great shortly before peak, too. Never wait until the last minute to visit an area of outstanding color. Only fragile stems hold the colorful leaves onto the trees and wind, rain, hail or frost can bring an end to color in an area in a matter of hours. Plan to stay a few days and let the foliage serve as a backdrop for camping, hiking, canoeing, photography, scenic highway tours, craft fairs, fishing or your other favorite autumn activities.

Fall color updates will be posted starting September 29, 2016 and will be posted weekly until the season is over.