“Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism”
By Zoie Clift
Fall is a wonderful time to take a scenic drive as you head out in search of seasonal color. Fall drives are also perfect for social distancing, and Arkansas’s lodging, dining and attractions are following safety protocols so you can make the most of your route as you enjoy the beauty of The Natural State.
From Little Rock, driving toward Lake Maumelle on Arkansas 10 is a pretty drive year round but it can be a really standout experience in the fall months. This area in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains has rolling hills and plenty of trees that make up a good portion of the scenery you’ll find. Arkansas Highway 10 ends at Arkansas Highway 9 and if you head north from here, you’ll come to the town of Perryville, which is home to Lake Sylvia Recreation Area and Flatside Wilderness Area. While in Perryville, stop at Mustang Sally’s and enjoy a burger or one of their many signature dishes. You can visit Petit Jean State Park while you’re in the area too if you want to get more road time in. This state park was Arkansas’s first state park and is around 20 miles from town. The venture there is a scenic drive and a standout spot to view fall colors from vantage points like Stout’s Point.
With plentiful panoramic vistas that overlook the surrounding Ouachita Mountains, the Talimena National Scenic Byway in Mena is one of the most scenic drives around. From U.S. 71 in Mena, the route follows Ark. 88 into Oklahoma. A big chunk of the 54 mile route, 18 miles of which are in Arkansas, travels through the scenic Ouachita National Forest, which is filled with shortleaf pine and hardwood forests. In Mena, the route climbs the 2,681 foot Rich Mountain, Arkansas’s second highest peak, and journeys by Queen Wilhelmina State Park. The drive is beautiful year round and tends to be spectacular during the fall with autumn foliage. The area is home to many beautiful trails you can hike including the Ouachita National Recreation Trail and the Queen Wilhelmina State Park trails. The Earthquake Ridge Trail has 6.8 miles of singletrack you can ride if you are into mountain biking.
The rugged and forested Boston Mountains region of the Ozark Mountains provides the setting for Pig Trail Scenic Byway/Ark. 23, which often runs through a tunnel of foliage during spring, summer and fall. Spring wildflowers and brilliant autumn foliage make the route especially popular during those seasons. The route crosses the Mulberry River and the 165-mile Ozark Highlands Trail. Ark. 23 is 19 miles from the south boundary of the Ozark National Forest to its intersection with Ark. 16 at Brashears. Shopping, lodging and dining are available in Ozark near the southern end of the route and Fayetteville to the northwest. Cabins and camping are available on the byway at Turner Bend and nearby at the White Rock Mountain Recreation Area, which offers dramatic views of the surrounding Ozarks from atop the 2,260-foot peak. Other Ozark National Forest campgrounds in the area are Shores Lake and Redding.
Arkansas is a proud member of the 10-state Great River Road National Scenic Byway. This nearly 3,000-mile National Scenic Byway runs through 10 states, from Minnesota to Louisiana. It is one of the oldest, longest and most unique scenic byways in the nation, offering a gateway to the Mississippi River Valley’s great history and a host of recreational options to all visitors. Arkansas’s 362-mile section of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway winds its way through the state’s eastern Delta region along the mighty stream. The waterway created a scenic and natural border that has beckoned people to its banks for centuries. Visitors can gaze upon acres of cotton, soybeans or rice as they travel through some of the most fertile land in the country. Along the trek, numerous historical and cultural sites preserve the history of Arkansas and its people and welcome visitors to learn more about this remarkable region. And the section that runs through the St. Francis National Forest/Mississippi River State Park between Marianna and Helena-West Helena is beautiful for fall color outings.
About Arkansas Tourism
Arkansas Tourism, a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, strives to expand the economic impact of travel and tourism in the state and enhance the quality of life for all Arkansans. The division manages 14 Arkansas Welcome Centers and employs more than 60 staff members across The Natural State. For more information, visit www.arkansas.com.