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In October, the hills of Northwest Arkansas are alive with fall colors. Arkansas sees the most significant amount of visitors to experience the changing colors of the Ozark, Boston, and Ouachita mountains.
October’s second and third weeks are the prime time to experience peak color. But, Arkansas Parks and Tourism offers weekly updates as fall colors arrive. You can even sign up for emailed updates from the Arkansas Department of Tourism as the scenery changes and the kaleidoscope of fall foliage comes to life.
Some of our favorite spots for finding beauty are the mundane spots driving around town. Maple and sweetgum trees illuminate the sky in financial districts, corporate parking lots, historic cemeteries and nature trails. Of course, every local has their favorite spot and way to celebrate fall in Northwest Arkansas, but this list pulls together an all-inclusive, ULTIMATE look at destinations to experience fall’s changing colors in Northwest Arkansas.
Buffalo National River | Jasper – Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the nation’s first National River might be the perfect outing this fall. The Buffalo Outdoor Center can guide you in finding fall foliage along the rock walls of the Steel Creek Campground, around the open fields home to Arkansas elk, or overhead on a zipline in the tree canopy.
Hawksbill Crag/Whitaker Point | Ponca – this is the most photographed spot in Arkansas in the fall. The optical illusion always makes it seem extra dangerous, and the vantage point from the crag gives an overlay of nature’s natural ombre.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Parks & Tourism.
Devil’s Den State Park | Fayetteville – a perfect spot for a family picnic or afternoon in a hammock; the views from the Yellow Rock trail offer an unobstructed look at the Lee Creek valley with layers of colors exploding all around. Or the Vista Point trail is more strenuous and a full day’s activity, but it offers views of two scenic overlooks.
Pig Trail | Ozark to Brashears – Whether arriving in Fayetteville for a home football game with the Razorbacks or just looking for a Sunday drive, the path up Highway 23 from I-40 and onto Highway 16 into downtown Elkins is a natural experience. First, stop for a sandwich at the Turner Bend deli and safely pull off for pictures at the Ozark Scenic Overlook. Then don’t miss a Hooshburger at the Pig Trail Bypass Country Cafe when you arrive in Elkins. Just make sure to fill up on gas before you leave since there are no stops along the way.
Maplewood Cemetery | Harrison – For more than 110 years, the 20th Century Club has maintained this historic property’s grounds, preserving and restoring over 700 sugar maple trees illuminating the bluff overlooking downtown Harrison.
Elk Watching | Ponca – There are elk in Arkansas, which is a huge surprise for people not familiar with the experience of the Boxley Valley. Think Rocky Mountain wildlife amid the Ozark Mountains, and that’s precisely what happened! But, October is considered “rut season,” a unique mating experience of the species, and the golden hour bugling and bull’s horn war are another way nature explodes.
Hobbs State Park and Van Winkle Hollow | Rogers – Hobbs is the largest Arkansas State Park covering over 12,000 acres of the Ozarks, including dense forest lands, bike trails, walking paths and Beaver Lake frontage. Other areas of interest include the Visitor Center marking conservation efforts in the area and a butterfly garden. The Historic Van Winkle Hollow provides learning experiences and gentle walking paths in addition to 6 nearby primitive campsites accessible only by mountain bike.
Coler Mountain Bike Reserve | Bentonville – Coler provides a place for mountain bikers and nature lovers to interact with the outdoors by foot, bike, or playing in the creek. As they say, nothing is cooler than Coler! Halfway along the path of Coler sits an Airship Coffee shop nestled into the side of a ridge. It is a beautiful spot for kids to experience nature, play in the creek and for the parents to enjoy the perfect cup of coffee.
Ozark Highlands Trail | Pettigrew – hiking trail that crosses the Ozark Highlands National Forest between Lake Fort Smith and the Buffalo River. Several Trailheads along the route offer entry points with varied access to rivers for limited bass fishing, waterfalls, observation areas for timber harvesting and reforestation and cleared walking paths for backpacking and day hiking.
Pea Ridge National Military Park | Pea Ridge – This national military park is perfect during the golden hours before sunset. Drive the self-guided tour to experience the overlook of the battlefield, then come down the mountain for a walk around the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach route and Trail of Tears path around the Elkhorn Tavern.
Tanyard Creek Nature Trail | Bella Vista – This tucked-away short hike is easy for families and pets. The high path takes you to an area that overlooks the waterfall, or a lower path leads you beside rocks with cascading water from the waterfall runoff. This easy walking path is perfect for all skill levels. Pay attention to rainfall on the days leading up to your visit; it might change the types of shoes you wear and if you bring extra clothes.
Arkansas Grand Canyon | Jasper – Offers scenic views of the deep Arkansas valleys along the hidden Highway 21, with winding roads and hairpin curves, perfect for motorcyclists and street bikers.
Wolf Pen Recreation Area | Oark – a scenic campground area along the Mulberry River offers river bluff views while fishing, canoeing, and hunting.
Hike to Glory Hole | Fallsville – Hidden deep in the Ozark National Forest, this waterfall is rainfall driven. So, plan a visit right after a rainy day.
Artist Point Cultural Center | Artist Point – A small community and scenic overlook along the Boston Mountain Scenic Byway. The route on Highway 71 offers up-close views of the changing terrain, fall colors, and historic architecture.
Withrow Springs State Park | Huntsville – a hidden Arkansas State Park that many overlook, the floatable summer rivers turn into astonishing river access-only views, similar to the Buffalo River shores.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Parks and Tourism.
As you seek these ultimate fall foliage experiences in Arkansas, don’t forget about the shopping and dining opportunities that might give you extraordinary views only seen from a back deck or down a long, backroad drive.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas Parks and Tourism.
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