Ultimate List Of Place To See The Fall Foliage

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Looking for things to do in the Ozarks?  I suggest visiting the Ozarks during the fall months because Fall in the Ozarks is an amazing experience.  The Ozark Mountains cover much of the southern half of Missouri and Northern Arkansas which makes it one of the Midwest’s most beautiful and overlooked places and the fall foliage in the Ozarks is absolutely stunning!

The city is home to the University of Arkansas, the state’s major higher education institution and proud member of the Southeastern Conference.   If you are looking for what to do in the Ozarks, fall is the perfect time to plan a visit because the leaves have changed to vibrant and stunning beautiful colors.

Every autumn, nature paints the mountains and valleys with gorgeous hues of gold, red and orange. Many of Arkansas’s visitors travel here for special fall vacations to catch a glimpse (and take some incredible instagrammable photos) of the season.

Fall colors begin to appear in the Ozarks and other northern sections of the state by the second week in October and continue slowly southward.  Mid to late October generally provides peak fall color in the northern portions of Arkansas. October and November are two of the most popular months for visitors due to the beautiful fall colors and favorable weather.

Keep reading and I will talk about the following:

  • Where is the fall foliage in Arkansas
  • Where can you see the fall foliage in Arkansas
  • When do the leaves change in the Ozarks
  • Best time to see the fall foliage in the Ozarks

Fall Foliage in Ozarks

BREATHTAKING VIEWS AND STUNNING COLORS

The Ozarks aren’t limited to scenery; fall weather is ideal for enjoying the variety of outdoor activities that the state has to offer. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Arkansas for camping, hiking, biking, and rock climbing.

The weather in Arkansas ranges from the 40’s to the 70’s in the fall months, making it a perfect fall getaway for family-oriented fall festivals or romantic weekend getaways with the hubby.  

Ozarks In The Fall

The peak time for leaf change is generally from late October to around Thanksgiving.  When the leaves are at their most colorful, take a drive down nearby Scenic Highway 7 or the Pig Trail Scenic Byway. 

The Ozarks have over 4,000 acres of parkland, three beautiful lakes, and over 60 miles of trails for those who love fishing, biking, hiking and exploring awe-inspiring caverns.

False Peak Occurs First, Typically Between October 14th through the 20th – give or take 2 to 3 days
True Peak Occurs Next, Typically Between October 26th through November 5 – give or take 2 to 3 days
Arrive between these two peak date ranges and you will not enjoy the best color.
The good news is that you do not have to hit prime peak to enjoy fantastic color. If a perfect peak is a “10” but you arrive when peak is at an “8” you will notice very little difference.

Fall Foliage In The Ozarks

The Ozark fall foliage can be attributed to the leaves of many trees. Determining exactly which trees you’re viewing while overlooking the Ozark Mountain landscape can be tough, as many trees carry dozens of color variations and change color at different intervals.

This guide will highlight some of the Ozarks’ trees and provides you with a good reference for matching the vivid fall colors to the appropriate trees.

Blackgum 

When you see the brilliant scarlet colors of the Blackgum, you’ll know summer has ended. Among the first to change its color, the Blackgum tree has presents some of the most luminous leaves in the forest. Some folks consider the Blackgum’s tint the ultimate autumn display.

Sweetgum

Sweetgums help kick-off the fall season with a variation of fall color in red, yellow, purple and orange. Sweetgum leaves can change colors at different times, leaving the tree with a varying assortment of leave colors.

Hickory 

The Hickory tree projects gorgeous yellow fall foliage. As one of the first trees to peak, Hickories shed their leaves early in the season. But, if you catch it at its peak, the tree is truly a site to see.

Sassafrass

The Sassafrass tree makes up for its lack of size with beautiful fall colors of orange, yellow and deep wine and red colors. You’ll often spot the early season colors of the Sassafrass along fencerows, roadsides, and forest edges.

Maple

Silver, Sugar and Red Maples can be found in plenty across the Ozark Mountain Region. As fall-lover favorites, the maples develop a wide-array of colors. From deep yellow and blazing orange to fiery red and to a dull burgundy, Maples often carry leaves of varying colors on the same tree.

Sycamore 

Maybe more impressive than its beautiful orange and yellow leaves, the Sycamore’s flour-white trunk provides a magnificent contrast to the surrounding fall colors. Its large leaves and lightly colored trunk distinguish the Sycamore tree from all the others.

Flowering Dogwood 

Mostly noted for is beauty in the spring, the modest Flowering Dogwood contributes to the autumn color with deep red to reddish-purple foliage. Its graceful horizontal branching pattern can carry foliage well into December.

Oak

The most abundant Ozark trees, Oak trees change into a variety of colors during the fall. Though the Oak tree has nearly 50 different variations, Red Oaks, White Oaks, and Black Oaks are the most common in the region.

The green summer leaves of the Red, White, and Black oaks turn to orange and deep red in ideal fall conditions, or reddish-brown during less-than-perfect seasons. Oak trees peak later than any other tree, which allows for a nice extension of the fall color.

Things to do in the fall

Quick Guide To Exploring Ozark In The Fall 

If your goal is to see as many brilliant color as possible in a day or two I suggest stay on the main highways if your time is limited to an hour or two to see the fall foliage in the Ozarks. For the full adventure travel the secondary paved roads and the back country dirt roads, and then spend some time on the water.

Bull Shoals Lake and Norfork Lake both have marinas and small resorts renting lake boats. You can rent a river boat with, or without a guide. If you want to float the rivers for fall color keep in mind the foliage along the rivers turns earlier than any other fall color.

Since most of the trees along the river banks are Sycamores the color will be mostly yellow. Plan your river foliage trip for the second week of October. Peak color up on the ridges happens at the end of October. 

The Smoke Tree Experience
The American Smoke Tree has the most beautiful fall color of all trees. It’s brilliant oranges, pinks, and scarlets are just beautiful.  The smoke trees turn early, much earlier than other trees, typically in the first week of October.

The best place to see smoke trees is along the Glade Top Trail near Ava, Missouri but later in month you can view them in Arkansas along Highway 314.

By Main Paved Highways
State Highway 62/412 is the main highway running east and west through the Arkansas Ozark Mountains.  Several towns along highway 62/412 have restaurants, gas stations, etc. The major north/south highway is State Highway 5 which runs through both the Arkansas and Missouri Ozark Mountains.

I recommend driving highways if you have a limited amount of time. 

By Secondary Paved Paved
Secondary highways are paved roads running out into rural areas. They connect small towns and the farms in between. . The Secondary roads also put you closer to the hills where color is best. Stopping in at the small country stores and restaurants is a true Norman Rockwell Americana experience!

Back Country Dirt Roads
Most county roads that really put you up close and in touch with fall foliage have dirt surfaces. There are hundreds of miles of these county roads running all through the Ozarks. Pack a picnic lunch, make sure you have a good County map or two, and pick a series of roads which roughly form a circle so that you end up back where you started.

While this is a great to see area foliage, it is also a great way to get lost if you are not careful. Cell Phone signal is spotty in these areas so don’t rely on cell phones. Fortunately the locals are friendly and will be glad to help out if you get lost.

Best Places To See The Fall Foliage

The region you live in or travel to will determine the color patterns.  The type of trees in the area will dictate whether you see more reds, yellows, or oranges.

1. Arkansas Scenic Byway 7

October is the perfect time to see the best fall foliage in the Ozarks and northern areas of The Natural State. It’s the first place to begin the transformation. In this area of the state, you will encounter bright red, orange, and even a pretty purple color. If you’re planning a drive through the Ozarks and northern Arkansas to see the best fall foliage, schedule your trip for early October.

Scenic Byway 7 goes through four of the state’s geographic regions: the Western Gulf Coastal Plain, the Ouachita Mountains, the Ozark Mountains, and the Ozark National Forest.  Arkansas Scenic Byway 7 has the most beautiful spots to get some of the the perfect pictures of the foliage.

The Ouachitas

The southern part of Arkansas peaks around mid-November. Ouachita State Park is the best place to see the best fall foliage on the oaks, maples, and other hardwoods. Also, check out Pinnacle Mountain and Petit Jean for some spectacular views in central Arkansas.

Delta and Gulf Coastal Plain

Finally, we reach the southernmost end of Arkansas. It is the final region painted by nature’s brush. Plan this trip for around mid-November. Visit state parks such as Lake Chicot, Moro Bay, and Logoly to see the best fall foliage.

Where To Stay in The Ozarks

1. Big Cedar Lodge

Nestled in its own wooded hollow, on 800 acres of rugged Ozark Mountain preserve, Big Cedar Lodge is the epitome of a luxury wilderness resort. Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, purchased the then-humble property, just 10 minutes south of Branson, envisioning a modest fishing camp for his employees.

The final—and ultimately magnificent project—resulted in a retreat that overlooks the blue-green waters of Table Rock Lake. One would be remiss not to cast a reel here, as there are plenty of professional guides on hand, along with boat rentals for a no-doubt glorious day on the lake. But if gills and rods aren’t your thing, there’s a world-class, full-service spa, too.  Click here to book your reservation now! 

2. The Hive at the 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville

This impossibly hip hotel is one-third of an art-focused mini collection that’s amassed best-of accolades across the U.S. The Hive, the restaurant located on the first floor, is no different—sleek and funky, with modern embellishments like the neon green penguins—yet firmly rooted in Ozark culture.

Items on the menu are upscale but unfussy. There’s a tangy pimento cheese crowned with sweet bacon jam, or pickled shrimp with salt-cured country ham and mustard greens. The cocktail list is inventive, the wine superb, and it’s not uncommon to ask for a PBR in an ice-cold glass.  Click here to book your reservation now!

3. Tan-Tar-A Resort 

A $10 million renovation is turning the 420-acre Osage Beach property, opened in 1960, into a Margaritaville resort, with refreshed rooms and new restaurants. Located just minutes from Margaritaville Lake Resort Lake of the Ozarks, Tan-Tar-A Estates offers over 100 beautiful residential-style units in a neighborhood setting surrounded by all the fun and relaxation that Margaritaville Lake Resort has to offer.

A welcoming check-in experience at the resort’s front desk, staffed 24 hours a day, greets you with directions to your unit, information on current resort activities, answers to all of your questions, and of course, a friendly smile. Click here to book your reservation now!

4. Graduate Hotel

For a long weekend in Fayetteville, stay at the modern boutique The Graduate Hotel.  The Graduate Hotel is just off the square in downtown Fayetteville its Ideal location for walking to shops, restaurants, and nightlife (and the farmer’s market on the weekends).

Spacious rooms with really great design feature. My favorite is the entire wall across from the bed is one long countertop so it is perfect for laying out your things and easy for a group of friends to get ready to go out! Click here to book your reservation now!

Things To Do In The Ozarks

1. Dickson Street in Fayetteville

Fall and Winter in the Ozarks  historic Downtown Fayetteville Square is known for its beautiful gardens and award-winning Farmer’s Market that run three days a week beginning in April and ending in November.  The square is transformed on the first Thursday each month starting in April featuring local artist, live music, beer garden, and last but not least children’s entertainment.

The culinary scene in Fayetteville is just as spectacular as the entertainment and outdoor scene.  your first stop should be the French Bouchee Bistro on the Downtown Square and sample their handmade chocolates and macarons, or if you are into street food try Shulertown food truck court on Dickson Street.

Eureka Springs in the hills of northern Arkansas has been called the “place where misfits fit” and “the hole in the Bible Belt.” It’s here that bikers, artists, accountants, lawyers, and a large gay community happily thrive. Lively restaurants, and seemingly haunted hotels, all with rambling vintage Victorian architecture, pepper the downright charming streets of the downtown area.

Naturally, there’s plenty of art to peruse at the local galleries and shops, perhaps a tarot reading to be had, and spas boasting the healing waters of the town’s natural springs.

Moonshine has certainly become a hot commodity at bars these days, but in the Ozarks, the history of bootlegged liquor runs deep. Because of the low hollows and caves, this nook of America became a favored location for making white lightning. Jim Blansit, master distiller, started Copper Run in 2008, along with his co-owner Aris Aristidou, who joined the small staff in 2012.

Both have been distilling long before they were legally allowed to swill the stuff, and view the operation as more artistry than manufacturing. It’s apparent when guests visit the small-batch distillery: More cozy cabin than factory, the wraparound porch welcomes with live music—where you’ll often find one of the distillers picking a guitar or playing the bass

The Swinging Bridges of Brumley

Located within the southeast boundary of Lake of the Ozarks State Park, near the small village of Brumley, two steel-suspension bridges have stood the test of time to remain a tourist attraction today. Both bridges, the 414-foot Grand Auglaize and the 134-foot Miller Creek Bridge were built in the 1930s by Joseph A. Dice, a prominent swinging bridge builder from Missouri historically noted for “eyeballing” his bridge designs.

Regardless of his methods, visitors can still drive over the loose-planks of the Auglaize Bridge today. The entire area surrounding the two bridges is a dense woodland ripe for activity, including swimming in the shallows of Auglaize Creek or using the primitive camping sites found ashore.

Fall in the Ozark Mountains is a compelling scenic destination that is not to be missed.

fall bucket list in the ozarks

CONCLUSION UNIQUE GIFTS FOR TRAVELERS

The sheer beauty of autumn is a standout all on its own, which is why people travel far and wide to explore fall in the Ozarks.  You can go for a long drive, or even just a stroll down the street when you’re ready to take it all in.  Take my word for it there are so many things to do in the Ozarks and especially fall in the Ozarks.

Ready to plan your trip, grab my FREE  Vacation Planner to help you plan your trip in the time it takes to watch your favorite TV show!

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Travel Guide

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES FOR TRAVELING

11 Fall Getaways You Must Visit This Year

Ultimate Guide To Memphis Fall Festivals

30 Things To Do In Gatlinburg

Is the Fall foliage in the Ozarks on your bucket list? would love to hear your feedback on Fall in the Ozarks.  Drop a comment below or head on over to FacebookInstagram, or Twitter!

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