Fall is my favorite time to hike, as well as many others people’s. I love living in the Arkansas because in autumn the trees turn so many colors. I believe Arkansas fall hikes are some of the best in the country.
One year I traveled to the Southwest in late October. I was there a little past peak for the bright yellows of the cottonwoods and aspens. When I returned to Arkansas and drove through the Ozarks on my way home to Hot Springs, the leaves were at peak. Then I remembered the advantage the East has over the West.
The following are my three favorite trails to hike in Arkansas during the fall.
Falls Branch Trail
Lake Catherine State Park, in southwest Arkansas, is my all-round favorite state park for the fall. So many trees decorate the park in yellows and reds.
The state park offers three hiking trails and a nature walk. All four of these will give you superior opportunities to see the foliage. The Falls Branch Trail is the shortest and easiest of the hiking trials. It also highlights the best of the park.
You begin by walking under a wonderful canopy of changing trees. And then you follow the lake into a cove toward a waterfall. As you walk alongside the lake, the reflected fall foliage on the water is like a watercolor painting.
The Falls Branch Trail is roughly a two-mile loop. After you see the lake and waterfall the trail takes you near a few beautiful streams and some beautiful cascades.
This trail is one to consider when looking for Arkansas fall hikes that the whole family can enjoy.
Buffalo River Trail
The Buffalo River Trail in north central Arkansas is one of my favorite Arkansas fall hikes. The trail is roughly 40 miles end to end and follows the Buffalo National River. It takes you through some of the prettiest country for observing the fall foliage.
The trail begins at Boxley and ends at Pruitt and is listed as moderate to strenuous. Don’t have time or energy for a 40-mile trail? There are several places along the hike to access sections of it.
What makes it a great fall hike is it has scenic overlooks – overlooks where you can take in the masses of fall foliage along the hillsides as well as intertwining under the canopy which glows in yellows and reds in the sunlight. And there are also amazing views of the Buffalo River and bluffs around it. I also like hiking through the old homesites and viewing the farms below.
If you are lucky, you can even spot an elk.
For information on the trail or directions to get there visit the Buffalo National River’s website here, or a pamphlet on the trail here.
Another great trail to hike in the fall is the Athens Big-Fork Trail in the Ouachita National Forest in southwest Arkansas. If you are looking for Arkansas fall hikes that give you a little bit of a challenge, this is the trail for you.
Some consider the Athens Big-Fork Trail to be the hardest trail in Arkansas. It is about 10 miles one way. It also climbs up and over eight mountains and has hardly any switchbacks. But all that work pays off with the views it shows you.
Like the Buffalo River Trail it also can be accessed in many spots so you don’t have to hike the entire trail.
A couple of great vistas to see colorful foliage are Brush Heap Mountain and Eagle Rock Vista. However, there are a lot evergreens so you are not going to have sweeping mountains full of fall colors. Instead you have pockets of trees that show their colors.
This trail is great for fall hiking. Here you hike in, around, and through the pockets and are immersed in the colors. You’ll find them mostly in the valleys.
For the forest service’s information on the trail, click here.
Arkansas Fall Hikes
These three trails are my favorite to hike in the fall. However Arkansas has so many other great hikes. You would be reading for a long time if. It wrote about them all.
But in case you want to check some others out, here are some great areas to look into.