|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.