With nearly 19 million forested acres, over half of the Natural State is covered in trees. In a few weeks, all those trees are going to transform into a technicolor dreamscape, and there’s no better place to see that transformation than from the inside of all that forested land. On this list you’ll find 12 spots that are perfect ways to enjoy the spectacular fall colors, but I’ve got some extra advice for you on this point: drive, walk, or bike to the nearest publicly accessible forest. You won’t regret exploring all those wonderful autumn trees from under the patchwork canopy they make.
1. The Ozark National Forest near Mountain Home
The area you’re looking for is called Buzzard Roost Trail, and it’s an area you really can’t miss. The 4.6 mile trail will take you past a natural stone arch, which beautifully frames the gorgeous leaves you’ll see along the way.
2. The Ouachita forest on Mount Magazine
The best way to see the forested land in the Ouachitas is probably from the top of Arkansas’s highest point, Mount Magazine. While you’re there, though, drive around and find yourself a trailhead. You’ll be amazed by how beautiful the leaves look from the ground.
3. The forest around Big Piney Creek
The only thing better than an Arkansas fall forest is an Arkansas fall forest that you can see twice—once through your own eyes and once as it appears in the reflection of a still body of water. The backwater of Big Piney Creek is just such a place. You can access this creek anywhere from Clarksville to Russellville.
4. The forest surrounding the Buffalo National River
The upper Buffalo National River is characterized by big, white bluffs that line the nation’s first federally protected river. There’s no better backdrop for autumn color than those beautiful bluffs.
5. The forest in Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area
Hurricane Creek Wilderness Area comes in at just over 15,000 acres, and all of those acres are magical in the fall. Part of the Ozark Highlands Trail cuts through the wilderness, and even if you aren’t up for that enormous hike, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the part that takes you through Hurricane Creek.
6. The forest around Lake Catherine
Located near Hot Springs, Lake Catherine is the perfect mix of country experience right next to city livin’. Though the lake is popular during the summer, you’d be making a mistake if you discounted its beauty in the fall. There are many gorgeous trails there, and you definitely need to take the one that leads to Falls Creek Falls.
7. The woods on Pinnacle Mountain
There’s no mountain in the world quite like central Arkansas’s Pinnacle Mountain. The best news is you don’t just have to enjoy the lovely trees from afar—you can actually hike through it and find yourself under the beautiful canopy that looks so gorgeous from a distance.
8. The forest along the Ozark Highlands Trail
I certainly don’t expect you to take on the Ozark Highlands Trail. It’s a 218 mile beast of a trail that’s only for the truly devoted hiker, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy part of it. You can pick any one of the many trailheads and spend as long as you want exploring the forest. When you feel you’ve gone far enough, simply turn around and go back to your car. You won’t regret a minute spent enjoying even a small section of that trail.
9. The Ouachita National Forest near Forked Mountain
Forked Mountain is part of the Flatside Wilderness. You can hike to the top of its 1350 foot elevation, but it’s pretty strenuous. There’s a beautiful star-crossed lover legend about a Quapaw princess and an Osage warrior that finds its home on the two peaks of Forked Mountain, and no matter if you believe some great spirit split the mountain in two for the sake of their great love, it’s not hard to imagine falling in love in that stretch of forest.
10. The forest around Siloam Springs
Siloam Springs is located in Northwest Arkansas, near the Oklahoma border, and it’s surrounded by glorious trees. You’ll love how close to nature you can get there without ever leaving the city limits.
11. The forest along the upper White River
The White River has an expansive course through the Natural State, and its upper region is a great way to see the glory of autumn. Running from Northwest Arkansas, up into Missouri, and through the lowlands of the delta before it joins the Mississippi. Those initial miles of White River are home to some of the most spectacular fall foliage anywhere. As in, look out northeastern U.S., those yankee states ain’t got nothin’ on the upper White River region.
12. Really, just any part of Arkansas’s National Forests
There’s simply nowhere better than a National Forest. This picture was taken near Fort Douglas, in the Ozark National Forest, but it could have been taken in the Ouachita National Forest too. These forests were preserved partially so that we could enjoy them, and you should do just that.