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The Hidden Wonders of Arkansas Fall Foliage

There’s something so delightful about the onset of autumn each year – with the temperatures dropping, the leaves changing, and favorite fall festivities and foods returning, you can’t help but want to lean into the coziness and comfort of the season.

While people may initially think of the northern parts of the country as the prime destinations for soaking in the natural beauty of fall, there are plenty of great places further south to see the sights as well. Arkansas, for one, has an abundance of amazing outdoor destinations that can provide the perfect autumnal adventure. Keep reading to learn more about some of the best ways to enjoy the wonders of Arkansas fall foliage.

arkansas fall foliage

Enjoying Fall Foliage in Arkansas’ Parks

Hot Springs National Park

With a variety of enchanting parks and forests to explore, there’s so much natural beauty to be found in the Natural State! Here are some of our favorite outdoor destinations for experiencing the beauty of Arkansas fall foliage on full display.

Hot Springs National Park

Nestled in the wild Ouachita Mountains, you’ll find Arkansas’ only national park. Hot Springs National Park is a breathtakingly beautiful area that looks even more perfect in the fall. With 26 miles of trails to explore, this large forest filled with natural wonders is an ideal destination for an Arkansas foliage adventure. You’ll even have an opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the colorful leaves from the top of the park’s majestic Mountain Tower.

While visiting, you may also want to tour the historic Bathhouse Row to learn more about the park’s namesake thermal springs – and perhaps even indulge in a relaxing soak yourself! For a longer trip, you might consider staying at the park’s scenic Gulpha Gorge Campground.

If camping’s not really your thing, no worries. The nearby town of Hot Springs has plenty of places to stay, whether it’s at a popular hotel or a historic bed & breakfast. While you’re in the area, you might also consider checking out one of the five stunning Diamond Lakes nearby – they’re truly hidden gems!

Petit Jean State Park

Petit Jean State Park is by far one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas in central Arkansas. This gorgeous forested area is filled with incredible bluffs to explore amid the colorful foliage. You’ll find plenty of hiking options here; the Cedar Falls and Seven Hollows trails are both favorites among guests. There are also two large lakes to visit if you want to enjoy the foliage while spending time on the water.

The park’s iconic Mather Lodge has nice large windows that are perfect for viewing the trees from the indoors. Visitors staying for a few days can choose to lodge here or at various campgrounds, cabins, and even a few yurts in the park.

Mount Magazine State Park

About two hours away from the major cities of Little Rock and Fayetteville, you’ll find Mount Magazine State Park. As the highest elevation point in the state, this is definitely a picturesque spot that would be ideal for experiencing fall in Arkansas in all of its glory.

With plenty of opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and even hang gliding, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at Mount Magazine. The park features several scenic overlooks perfect for viewing foliage, such as Cameron Bluff on the Signal Hill trail.

There are a variety of cabins and campsites available to accommodate guests looking to extend their stay, as well as a lovely lodge known for its incredible views. No matter how you choose to spend your time, you’re sure to enjoy your visit here.

Queen Wilhelmina State Park

Queen Wilhelmina State Park might be the second-highest point in the state, but be assured that it’s no less beautiful than the first! This park is another popular autumnal destination, partly because it’s the end point of the Talimena National Scenic Byway, which runs through the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

There are a variety of great options for hiking in the park, especially along the 225-mile-long Ouachita National Hiking Trail. You’ll also want to check out the many scenic overlook areas within the park to see Arkansas’ fall beauty on full display. Guests at the park’s lodge will be able to enjoy the sights from the comfort of their rooms as well, as the building’s windows are specifically oriented to provide the best mountain views.

If you’re traveling with family, there are plenty of fun activities to do with the kids as well; little ones may enjoy the park’s scenic train ride, mini golf course, and fun-filled Wonder House. There’s something for everyone to enjoy at this royal retreat of a park!

Pinnacle Mountain State Park

At the opposite end of the Ouachita National Hiking Trail, you’ll find beautiful Pinnacle Mountain State Park. This charming destination just outside Little Rock features several rivers and streams to enjoy, not to mention the hike up the namesake mountain.

There are two trail options for this famous ascent, both of which are relatively short but nonetheless rigorous – but the vista at the summit provides a great view of Arkansas’ fall colors. A gorgeous vista can be enjoyed at the Arkansas River Overlook, too.

Aside from the classic mountain hike, visitors can enjoy other trails as well; several of these are paved and accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. Guests may also choose to visit the park’s Arboretum for another way to learn about the area’s natural history.

Whitaker Point Trail to Hawksbill Crag

In the Ozark’s Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area, you’ll find a dramatic jutting cliff, known interchangeably as Whitaker Point and Hawksbill Crag. This unique natural formation is perhaps one of the most photographed destinations in all of Arkansas, and it’s not hard to see why. This picturesque quality is also what makes it a must-see location in the fall.

A relatively easy hike along the Whitaker Point trail leads you to this iconic vantage point. The crag overlooks a large forest, making it ideal for viewing Arkansas’ colorful foliage – and for taking that perfect fall picture for Instagram!

Unique Ways to View the Fall Foliage in Arkansas

View along the railway of the Arkansas Missouri Railroad, Arkansas

The destinations we’ve covered so far offer plenty of opportunities for enjoying the sights of autumn while hiking, biking, and driving. But there are so many other exciting ways to see the beautiful fall colors! Let’s take a look at some fun, unique opportunities to view the fall foliage in Arkansas in an entirely new way.

Ride the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad

There’s just something so classic and charming about a railway journey – and perhaps even more so in the fall! The Arkansas & Missouri Railroad is a popular local company with beautiful train routes through the Arkansas’ western mountains, providing a variety of day-long round trips for the perfect fall excursion.

The restored vintage railroad cars are stylish and, of course, feature big windows that are practically made for leaf-peeping. The trains serve snacks and meals during the trips, and some routes also have stops along the way that allow for fun excursions in local towns.

Go on a Zipline Canopy Tour

For the more adventurous folks, consider checking out a whole new way to see Arkansas’ fall foliage: from above. The Buffalo Outdoor Center, a well-known tour company near the Buffalo River in the town of Ponca, will allow you to do just that.

This company offers a popular zipline canopy tour for guests, consisting of a 2-hour journey that immerses you in the trees. You’ll travel an incredible zipline cable course over the Ozark Mountains, stopping at platforms built around live trees – giving you the perfect opportunity to see Arkansas’ fall colors up close and personal.

The tours run Wednesday through Sunday, rain or shine, through the middle of November. All guests age seven and older, weighing between 70 and 250 pounds, are welcome – and don’t worry, you’ll be accompanied by an experienced guide who will show you the ropes.

Take a Guided Boat Tour on the White River

If you’re looking for another unique (but slightly less daring!) vantage point for viewing the fall colors, why not spend some time on the water? In northwest Arkansas, you can take a guided boat ride on the White River with Beyond the Ozarks tour company.

The boat tours run on a daily basis with three different time slots available, departing from the War Eagle Marina in Springdale. Each tour has a maximum capacity of 10 guests, so you’ll have an intimate and personable experience; there’s also a sizable price discount on tickets for children under 12.

As you sail down this scenic river, you can enjoy the Arkansas foliage and learn about the area’s natural history as the guides point out wildlife and other points of interest. Along the way, you may see turtles, ducks, beavers, and perhaps even a bald eagle among the trees.

Start Planning Your Fall Foliage Adventure in Arkansas

Whether you choose to go for a hike or bike ride, take a railway journey or boat tour, or even go ziplining, you’re sure to enjoy the beauty of the autumn season. With so many parks and places to explore, Arkansas truly has something for everyone. So why wait? Start planning your Arkansas fall foliage adventure today!

If you’re interested in checking out autumnal activities in other states, feel free to browse our other fall foliage guides.