Scenic Drives Information for Fall in Arkansas
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.
To keep visitors in formed regarding the progress of fall color, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism has a network of color spotters in every region of the state each fall who have volunteered to supply weekly updates. This information is combined into one report, available by 5 p.m. Central Time each Thursday throughout the fall, so that everyone can make plans for the weekend. The reports describe foliage changes in these three regions: northwest/north central Arkansas (Ozarks), central Arkansas/Ouachita Mountains, and southern/eastern Arkansas. Specific areas and highways are identified when possible.
Traditional Peak Color Times in Arkansas
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. The peak may be for a large area of the forest, or different areas may peak at different times, even though they are close to each other. 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.
What signals can we watch for to indicate the beginning of the fall color season?
Look for splashes of red in your favorite area of green hardwoods. 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), and buckeye (red).
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.
Arkansas Parks & Tourism