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Arkansas Fall Foliage: Buffalo River Fall Color Guide | Buffalo Outdoor Center

Autumn is here, and soon one of the most beautiful times of the year to be in Buffalo River Country will begin. When the days cool for activities, the elk become more active, and visitors from all across the country come to view the Ozark Mountains transform from deep greens to vibrant shades of red, yellow, and orange.

We want you and your family to get the best experience out of this years Fall color display, so we’ve put together some tips and info to help you be better prepared!

When is Peak?

The number one question people tend to ask is, “when will peak color happen this year?” Although we can’t say an exact date, we can give you some info on when peak has taken place in years past. Historically peak colors are visible between mid-October and early November. Due to the many tree species that call the Ozarks home we are treated to multiple stages of color change as each species can turn at different times. Maple, hickory, beech, ash, hackberry, gum, and many more all are on their own schedules.

Foliage in Buffalo River Valley, Ponca AR

Where are the colors?

Now that you have a better understanding of when the colors will be around Buffalo River Country, lets discuss where to see them! You can take a stroll down any of the multitude of trails in the area and see many beautiful scenes, but if you’re wanting the big views take a look below.

Here are some great scenic locations for iconic vantage points of the Fall colors!

Whitaker Point (Hawksbill Crag)

The most iconic spot in the state and right in our backyard! It’s a great spot to visit any time of the year, but the crags high vantage point is a great location to take in this years fall color display! For more info on Whitaker Point click here!

Spectacular view from the Whitaker Point in Buffalo River country

Sam’s Throne Recreational Area

Sam’s Throne is a little ways down the road from Ponca, but would be a great spot to stop on your scenic drive through the Ozarks. It offers some beautiful views of the Big Creek Valley from a high cliff vantage point. It also features some of the most popular rock climbing in the state and one fantastic primitive campground.

A hiker with a yellow backpack overlooking the foliage of Ozarks

Steel Creek Campground & Buffalo River Access

Buffalo River views don’t get much more iconic than the ones at Steel Creek. It offers easy access to the Buffalo and views of two of the most beautiful bluffs along the river (Roark Bluff and Harvest Bluff)! If your wanting to be adventerous, Steel Creek also has access to the Buffalo River Trail which could be be just a walk in the woods or a 36 mile backpacking trip! Steel Creek also has one of the most popular campgrounds along the Buffalo National River. Spots are on a first come basis, so make sure to have a back up plan.

Buffalo River foliage and the reflection in the water

Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area

Here’s another beautiful spot to visit during a scenic drive around the Ozarks! Pedestal Rocks features two great trails, incredible geologic formations, and one of the tallest waterfalls in the state. The trails cling to the edge of large bluffs overlooking the Illinois Bayou River Drainage and make for some great locations to view the Fall colors.

Pedestal Rocks of Ozark mountains and the magnificent view of Buffalo River Country

Ozark Scenic Byways

There are several scenic roads laid across the mountains around Buffalo River Country, and they offer some great opportunities to take in the Fall color display straight from your vehicle or bike! Here are a few to take note of:

Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway

Arkansas Highway 21 running from the Missouri state line down south to Clarksville. The portion that runs next to the Historic Boxley Valley has been designated as the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway!

Arkansas Scenic 7 Byway

Arkansas Highway 7 runs from the Lousiana State line almost to the Missouri state line, and is the longest state highway in Arkansas! A majority of this highway has been designated an Arkansas Scenic Byway and some of the most beautiful segments are found right next door starting in Jasper.

Fall Color Scenic Loop

One great option for viewing these Scenic Byways is to start in Ponca on Hwy 43 turning on Hwy 74 toward Jasper. Hwy 74 east will take you by both Steel Creek and Kyles Landing accesses! You will then make a right on Hwy 7 south which will take you up to ride the ridges of the Ozark Mountains and treat you to some breathtaking views. If you want to make a stop and get a few miles in on foot,  stop by Roundtop Mountain hiking trail on Hwy 7 south! You’ll stay on Hwy 7 south for 14.7 miles before you come to Hwy 16 west on the right. Take the right and follow Hwy 16 west for 13 miles. You can also make a stop at Alum Cove recreational area right off of Hwy 16 west! Once you have gone the 13 miles on Hwy 16 west you will come to Hwy 21 south on the right. Hwy 21 south will bring you down the mountain and take you by the access to the Smith Creek Preserve! After the Smith Creek Preserve, you’ll come down into Boxely Valley. Along this stretch of road, you’ll go by the Boxley Trailhead for the BRT (Buffalo River Trail) and the road up to Whitaker Point! Eventually, you will come to the intersection of Hwy 43 which will bring you back to Ponca but not before taking you by the road to Lost Valley! After Lost Valley you are just a mile and a half from the BOC Store, making for one epic loop!

Fall view of Ponca road and Ozarks in the background

What to do?

Buffalo River Canopy Tour

Ready for high-flying fun on Arkansas’ only wilderness zip line adventure? Our Buffalo River Canopy Tour is not just a zip line—it’s a 2-hr nature excursion through the treetops of Buffalo River country! Providing one unique and unforgettable Fall color experience!

A group of young people preparing to zip line over Buffalo River wilderness

Boxley Valley Elk & The Fall Rut

Watching and photographing Ponca’s herds of majestic Rocky Mountain Elk is one of the finest wildlife experiences you can have, not just in Arkansas, but anywhere! The elk along the Buffalo River were introduced into the area to replace the now extinct Eastern Elk and have since thrived and roamed wild along the Buffalo National River. Although, they are wild you can usually see them grazing in Boxley Valley during the hours right after sunrise and right before sunset. During the Fal,l elk become even more active in the cool weather and especially during the annual Fall rut! While you are in the area visit the Elk Education Center for more information!

Elk in the Buffalo National River wilderness in the fall

Hit the Trails

The Ponca area is home to Arkansas’ finest trail scenery. You could spend a lifetime exploring the upper Buffalo National River on foot, with something beautiful and inspiring to discover around nearly every bend in the trail and the trails wear autumn well!

A hiker overlooking the upper Buffalo National River covered in foliage

What Now?

If you’re ready to experience Fall in Buffalo River Country, we’d love to help! Give us a call at 1.870.861.5514, send us an email at, or go ahead and start booking right here on our website!

Private wooden cabin for rent in the Ozarks & Buffalo River Country

Kayaker on a river
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