Last Chance for Fall Foliage: Arkansas’ Top 5 Scenic Drives & Destinations

Last Chance for Fall Foliage: Arkansas’ Top 5 Scenic Drives & Destinations

Courtesy Photo
Highway 7, pictured here, provides ample opportunity to take in the last of the fall foliage that’s coloring the tree-covered Ozark mountains.

There isn’t much time for autumn left.

Downtown squares are already starting to string up a million lights for the holidays, all of corporate advertising is telling us consumers we’re too stupid to know that the holidays are fast approaching and Starbucks cups are red. Oh yeah — and the “War on Christmas” has ignited once more. It’s that time of year!

As anyone who’s spent a few years in Arkansas can attest, this week is a rare pocket of time where the trees are beautiful and the weather can go from a pleasant upper 60s to the 40s come nightfall. Winter is just about here, and this week will probably be the last chance to take in the beauty of the season in one of the best states to see it.

So, now is the time to bank in on some sightseeing. It may be a good 365 days — give or take — until the opportunity comes again to take in the rolling hills of vivid shades of red, yellow and orange throughout the Ozarks. The Natural State is our namesake, and it’s definitely referring to how gorgeous the scenery of our state is.

So, whether you’re without weekend plans, looking for something inventive for a date idea or just jonesing to get out of town, we’ve compiled a list for you of a few of the best places to experience fall in Arkansas. Bring your dog along, too!

1. Pig Trail Scenic Byway – 19 miles

The Pig Trail is probably one of the most famous scenic drives in Arkansas, and it can easily be accessed right outside of Fayetteville. If you’re coming from Fayetteville, all you have to do is head east out of Fayetteville on Huntsville Road and follow it out of town taking a right at the intersection at Brashears, Ark.

“Arkansas 16 from Clinton all the way to Fayetteville can be spectacular when conditions are just right,” said Joe David Rice, tourism director for the Arkansas department of parks and tourism. “It’s a nice quiet drive through the very heart of the Ozarks, winding through quaint little towns like Crabtree, Ben Hur, Deer, Fallsville, and a dozen or so others.”

The byway travels a twisty, high altitude road along the side of the Boston Mountains and takes you by Mulberry Mountain lodging on the way to Clinton, Ark. The views are breath taking, and the abundance of leafy trees along the road that form overhead tunnels will surely make for a sight worth the trip. About 15 minutes before Mulberry is an amazing overlook that provides a view of several miles of Ozark valleys.

Courtesy Photo Highway 16, a.k.a the Pig Trail, is known as one of the most scenic mountain highways in Arkansas.

Courtesy Photo
Highway 16, a.k.a the Pig Trail, is known as one of the most scenic mountain highways in Arkansas.

2. Boston Mountains Scenic Loop/ U.S. 71 – 42 miles

Just south of Fayetteville, highway 71 (a.k.a. College and School Ave. when goes through Fayetteville) offers some great views of the Boston Mountains as it parallels southbound I-49. Along the way there’s several small communities and shops along the way as well as hiking opportunities.

“I think the Old 71, Boston Mountains Scenic Loop/U.S. 71, and I-49 are beautiful,” said Jill Rohrbach, who does travel writing in Northwest Arkansas. “And, it’s unique because U.S. 71 is less traveled now and gives a more intimate feel while the interstate gives sweeping vistas.”

The road traverses through nearly undeveloped portions of the Ozark Mountains over tree-covered canyons and twisty mountain passes, including Artist Point west of Lake Ft. Smith.

The Scenic Arkansas Mixtape

1. Burden of Tomorrow – The Tallest Man on Earth

2. Mahgeeta – My Morning Jacket

3. Oh I See – Adam Arcuragi

4. Wait for the Moment – Vulfpeck

5. Mt Sequoyah – Benjamin Del Shreve

6. Last Crash Landing – Blank Range

7. That’s Not The Issue – Wilco

8. La Vie En Rose – Louis Armstrong

3. Highway 7 Trail to Jasper, Ark. – 290 miles

Highway 7 is considered one of the most beautiful scenic byways in the country.

This one is a bit further than the previous two highways, but the drive is especially worth it for the trip through the heart of north central Arkansas, which leads to some gorgeous views of the “Grand Canyon of the Ozarks” near Jasper, Ark. Once you arrive in Jasper, be sure to check out the quaint Ozark Cafe on the square for some road trip fuel and some real Americana.

A complete road trip would include going east from Rogers/Bentonville on U.S. 62, cutting through with AR-127 to Eureka Springs for a detour and getting back on U.S. 62 to head to Harrison, Ark. Then from there you can hook up with highway 7 and strap yourself in for the final leg of a beautiful passageway to Jasper.

If you want to leave from Fayetteville, head east on North Street through Goshen on highway 412. Then jump on AR-392 south to eventually link up with highway 7.

Courtesy Photo Highway 7, which leads to Jasper, Ark. and the Ozark Grand Canyon is nationally recognized as one of the most scenic drives in Arkansas.

Courtesy Photo
Highway 7, which leads to Jasper, Ark. and the Ozark Grand Canyon is nationally recognized as one of the most scenic drives in Arkansas.

4. Highway 21 Along Kings River and The Buffalo – 99 miles

Another treat for those looking to drive by a few lovely Arkansas rivers, head east to link up onto highway 21. The highway runs southeast alongside and over the Kings River until meeting up with the the first national river, the Buffalo River.

Head east to U.S. 412 and stay on it until you reach the fork in the road east of Marble, Ark. to head south on Ark. 21. Keep heading south to Clarksville if you’re feeling the long run for a tour of central Arkansas.

“Ark. 21 out of Clarksville to Ponca is often overshadowed by the Pig Trail, and it can be spectacular,” said Richard Davies, executive director for Arkansas department for parks and tourism.

5. Pigeon Roost Trail – 8.4 miles

This time of year the whole region is talking up Devil’s Den, just a half hour south of Fayetteville. While it is indeed a fantastic spot to go hiking and camping, another great hike is east of Rogers at Pigeon Roost Trail in Hobbs State Park.

The trail offers two hiking options that split off in a figure 8, Dry Creek loop and Huckleberry Loop. Dry Creek is easier, and takes about 2 hours to complete and can be combined with Huckleberry for a four to six hour hike. At the northernmost point of the trail sits the Beaver Lake Overlook which provides an awesome panoramic view at a forked branch of Beaver Lake.

If you’re traveling from Fayetteville, take AR-303 north so you get to pass through War Eagle Mill.

For more info about fall-related events and week-to-week fall foliage updates check out

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