For Planning A Trip To See Ozarks Fall Foliage
When To Visit - Following The Color Change
Foliage color in our reporting area lasts about three weeks. The peak
lasts about 4 to 5 days and occurs in the last week of October and the first few days of
November. Area foliage turns in several stages. Color first appears along rivers and low
valleys, then works it way up the hillsides. When flying over the color turn we see bare
trees along the rivers which have dropped their leaves, and a few hundred feet above them
is peak color.The best color during peak is almost always found at the highest elevations.
You don't have to hit the peak to enjoy area foliage. Follow our
report and we'll share where the color is as the turn progresses. Color first appears in
early October on dogwoods and sumac, which both turn red. However they are the only trees
which turn in early October. Then, as cold fronts move in, the turn begins on almost all
trees. How fast the color turns, and how much color develops, is dependent on cool sunny
days, and cooler nights. Summer rainfall helps, but in the end the best color develops in
cool, but not cold weather.
Always keep in mind that the color turn, and the peak, occurs at
different times in different spots only 30 or 40 miles north and south of each other. The
further north you go, the sooner the peak occurs. Thus if you watch what we say in our
reports about the northern part of our reporting area, you'll know what will happen in the
southern part in a few days. To see foliage in different stages just pick a destination,
then drive north and south of it by 30 to 40 miles. For more detail on the peak see When Is Peak?
What People Do
Just getting away from the office and out into Mother Nature is the main draw. You will
not find the heavy leaf-peeping crowds here common to northern foliage peaks. Some folks
prefer fishing on lakes and rivers as they enjoy the foliage. Others prefer to rent a
cabin in the woods and just hang out doing little or nothing. Many just drive around
leaf-peeping and stopping for meals at small local restaurants or small county stores.
They shop in small antique shops. They prefer a self-guided independent "no
schedule" experience to a scheduled tour bus experience. Others come for birding and
watchable wildlife photography. There are no crowds, traffic is light, and there are
hundreds of square miles to explore. For complete details of attractions, stops, and
printable maps visit our Sylamore Tour.
In our reporting area there are very few scheduled fall events. The most famous is the
Bean Fest held every year on the last Saturday in October in Mountain View, Arkansas. This
fun event attracts upwards of 30,000 people. Mountain View is also a great place to shop
for honest-to-God local art. Paintings, wrought iron, jewelry, pottery, soaps, candles,
wood works, and a long list of other items created by members of the local art guild.
There are many small events held at local churches, schools, and
firehouses. Most of these are fundraiser suppers for various local causes. Many of these
are open to the public and make a great way to say hello to the locals. When driving
around keep an eye out for signs announcing these events. Local store and restaurant
bulletin boards may also have announcements.
Getting Out Into
Fall Foliage Color
By Water Or Land, Public Or Remote
Take your choice. You can leaf-peep by either land or boat, or both. If your goal is just
seeing as much brilliant color as possible in a day or two, stick to the secondary paved
roads. Stay on the main highways if your time is limited to an hour or two. 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. On the North Fork and White rivers, you can rent river John
boats at resorts and trout docks. 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 almost all yellow. Plan your river foliage trip for the second
week of October. Peak color up on the ridges happens at the end of October. Lake fall
color appears in spots as the lakes are lined with large evergreen cedar glades which do
not change color.
You can stay on main paved highways, explore paved secondary roads,
or if you want that Outback Adventure, follow the many back country dirt roads.
The Smoke Tree Experience
The American Smoke Tree has, what is in our opinion, the most beautiful fall color of all
trees. It's brilliant oranges, pinks, and scarlets are just beautiful. Though only little
more than 20 feet high, you can see a smoke tree in peak color a mile away. However, 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 you'll need to be there in early October. You can see a few smoke trees later
in the month near Mountain View, Arkansas along Highway 314 on our Sylamore Tour.
By Main Paved Highways
State Highway 62/412 is the main highway running east and west through the Arkansas Ozark
Mountains. If you want to stay in your vehicle and drive at highway speeds, this is a good
highway to run. 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. We recommend driving highways only if you have a limited amount
of time. You'll enjoy Ozarks foliage so much more if you take the secondary and back
By Secondary Paved Paved
Secondary highways are paved roads running out into rural areas. They connect small towns
and the farms in between. Traffic is much lighter on these roads, speed limits are lower,
and there are more safe spots to pull off the road. 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. While well maintained they are dusty. 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. And if you don't want your car getting
dusty, don't run these roads! The dust is light and cleans off easily in any car wash.
Cellphone 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. For Back County drives
visit our Sylamore
Back Country where you'll find printable maps and Point-By-Point Directions.