On Fall's Trail in Arkansas

What to Do and Where to Do it
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Autumn along Highway 7

Paddle Buffalo River Whitewater
The whitewater keeps raging into October on the Buffalo National River. With more than 100 miles of protected paddling, the Buffalo is a true wilderness waterway, wending past towering limestone bluffs and dense hardwood forest as it travels to the White River. The National Park Service manages the river and maintains numerous convenient put-ins along its length, many of which include campsites.
Peak color: Late September to mid-October

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Hot Springs National Park
With milder temperatures returning, autumn is a great time to take the waters at one of the more unusual national parks in the U.S. As the hillsides here begin to glow red and gold, hike the Sunset Trail, which loops around the park's ridgeline well above the city. For a great view of Hot Springs, visit the 216-foot Hot Springs Mountain Tower atop Hot Springs Mountain. Don't forget to soothe your bones after a long day of hiking at one of the many bathhouses in town.
Access: To reach Hot Springs National Park, take I-30 west from Little Rock to U.S. 70. The overall trip is about 65 miles.
Peak color: Late October to early November

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Drive the Scenic 7 Byway
Starting at the edge of Bull Shoals Lake not far from the Missouri border, Arkansas' Route 7 is a veritable highlights tour of the best the Arkansas outdoors has to offer. Heading south, the road crosses the Buffalo National River before traversing the Ozark National Forest. Next it crosses the expansive Arkansas River, then ventures into the hills of the Ouachita National Forest before heading into Hot Springs. If you're an avid leaf peeper, this 153-mile National Scenic Byway has what you're looking for.
Access: Start in Hot Springs, about 65 miles west of Little Rock, and travel north, or start in Harrison, about 136 miles north of Little Rock, and travel south.
Peak color: Late September to mid-October

Bike the Womble Trail
The Ouachita National Forest says it's trying to expand opportunities for off-road bikers; if the Womble Trail is any evidence, it looks like they're not kidding. With 37 miles of single track and great views from Mount Ida, the Womble is a difficult multi-day ride, but an exhilarating one. Don't miss the chance to experience autumn in one of the richest wildernesses in the southeast.
Access: There are four trailhead parking areas: Round Top Trail on Forest Road D75A, Highway 27 south of the bridge crossing Lake Ouachita, North Fork Lake, and the Highway 298 trail intersection.
Peak color: Late October to early November

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Drive the Talimena Scenic Highway
For 55 miles, this highway curves, dips, and rises over the crests of Rich and Winding Stair Mountains from Mena, Arkansas, to U.S. 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma. Fall along the Talimena means wide valleys of maples, hickory, and other colorful leaf-droppers stretching out to the horizon. Along the way, roadside overlooks (there are 22 spaced along the drive) let you stop to take pictures or just enjoy the mountain scenery.
Access: To reach the Talimena Scenic Drive, take Arkansas 88 north from Mena to the entrance at the outskirts of town.
Peak color: Late October to early November

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Fish for Trout in the White River
Word has it that the fall spawning season is the best time to fish the always fruitful White River. Though the White is most famous for its trophy brown trout, rainbow are actually its staple species, with stocks in the millions. Fall is also a good time for angling on this popular river because the summer crowds have dispersed. If you wake up early enough, you may be the only one watching as the fog starts to lift over the forested hillsides sloping down to river's edge.
Access: The White River runs across the north central part of the state, with 95 miles of good fishing from the Bull Shoals dam to Guion. There are easy access points along the entire length of this section.
Peak color: Late September to mid-October

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Hike the Ozarks Highland Trail
The Ozarks Highland Trail passes through some of the most remote areas of the Ozark National Forest. Its mountainous terrain, scenic views, lush upland hardwood forests, unique rock outcroppings, and clear mountain streams make for a full-on backcountry boot-burner. Huge boulders form great swimming holes along Hurricane Creek, and a short trail spur visits one of the largest natural bridges in Arkansas. White Rock Mountain, a remote mountaintop campground, provides some of the trail's finest views and is about the best place in Arkansas to watch a sunset.
Access: This 165-mile-long trail begins at Lake Fort Smith State Park in northwest Arkansas and travels east through the Ozark National Forest. Take I-540 to U.S. 71 just north of Mountainburg.
Peak color: Late September to mid-October

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Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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