The Natural State is the perfect place to see fall foliage in all of its glory. Some say our colors rival the New England States, especially in the Ozarks and Northern Arkansas. We do have a rich variety of trees and a mild climate which makes foliage especially striking. The amount of rainfall we have had in 2016 should make this year’s colors especially vivid. The best foliage is found when you have a moist growing season and a dry, cool autumn with little to no frost.
Arkansas weather often fits that profile.
Trees change color through a very complicated process that involves the green chlorophyll found in their leaves. As the nights get longer, the cells near the stem form a layer that blocks water and chlorophyll from the leaves and allows the yellow and orange pigments to show.
Different species of trees have different amounts of these other pigments (xanthophylls and carotenoids), which is why different species are different colors.
In Arkansas, leaves normally start to change color at the beginning of October when the temperature starts to drop. This can vary but usually occurs by at least mid-October. However, you won’t find the most brilliant fall colors until early to mid-November (see below). If you are planning to specifically look for foliage, be sure to call the Arkansas foliage report at 1-800-628-8725 or visit the weekly updates for more information about foliage viewing. The reports usually run from early October to late November.
The following is a general time frame that various parts of the state change colors.
This is a general guideline and can vary slightly from year to year. Wet, stormy weather in the fall can shorten the season, as can an especially cold weather or dry weather in the summer. Also, the type of tree in a particular area can change the pattern of color formation.
- Early October – Ozarks & Northern Arkansas: October is the perfect time to head to the Ozarks and northern Arkansas. This is the first place in the state to be painted bright red, orange and even a pretty purple color. The Ozarks have many acres of national forests which contain black gums (these turn red early in the season), maples, hickories and oaks. Many of the trees look their most brilliant in late October so be sure to plan to make a trip up north then. Visit the Northwest Arkansas Travel Guide
- Early November – The Ouachitas: In early November, the leaves in the southern part of the state start to change to their vivid fall palette. Ouachita State Park is the best place to be to see the beautiful hues that the many oaks, maples and other hardwood trees take on. The colors you see while driving through the forest or hiking down a nature trail in this part of the state makes hikes and drives more interesting during this time of the year, and the mild climate during this time of the year make our state parks even more appealing.Pinnacle Mountain and Petit Jean are great places to view foliage too. They are very close to Little Rock and they make nice day trips. Any of our local hiking trails should be particularly vivid this time of year too.
- Mid-November – Southern Arkansas: The final place in Arkansas to be painted by Nature’s palette is Southern Arkansas. You should venture down south in mid-November. Many state parks are in the southern portion of the state including Lake Chicot, Moro Bay and Logoly. All of these have many trees that will be showing off their pretty new looks.
In my opinion, autumn in Arkansas is one of the best times to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the Natural State. Even in the city, you can find some great fall colors. Take the time to go visit a state park or even just take a scenic drive. It will leave you relaxed, refreshed and in awe of Arkansas.