This Southern US Road Trip Route Is A Must-Do In The Fall

As the first chills settle over the land and leaves display the warm color palettes of fall, the harvest months provide the perfect opportunity for a back-country road trip. While the Northeast is home to some of America's most beautiful fall displays, this scenic route through the Ozarks, a destination that's full of adventure, is an essential on any road-tripper's bucket list. Spanning across the foothills of Arkansas to the backcountry of Missouri, get lost in the serenity of the Mark Twain and Ozark National Forests — 1.2 million acres draped in red and gold-dappled leaves. The Ozarks are known for their rugged terrain, abundant reservoirs, stunning mountainsides, and complex underground cave systems.

Travelers can begin their journey on the Ozark Scenic Byway, an idyllic stretch of road winding through the foothills of the Ozark National Forest. Stop and admire breathtaking state parks, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque hiking trails. On the back half of the trip, wander through some of Missouri's premier state parks, framed by an explosion of fall colors.

Discover the Ozarks of Arkansas

Set out on this epic road trip from Clarkesville, Arkansas, along the Ozarks Scenic Byway that stretches 35 miles on Highway 21. Travelers will enjoy stunning views of densely forested regions while getting lost in a haze of orange, red, and gold foliage. The back-country road intersects with the Ozarks Highland Trail, a 320-mile trail that cuts through the heart of the Ozarks. Running west to east from Lake Fort Smith to Norfork Lake, explore Arkansas' wilderness splendor, including the Boston Mountains and Buffalo River.

What's a road trip without a few detours? Devil's Den State Park, located off Highway 74, is one of Arkansas' most iconic gems. Explore ancient caverns, endless backpacking excursions, and the famous Lake Devil. Experience Arkansas' southern hospitality at Eureka Springs, a small Victorian-style town with an artistic community. Follow the I-49 just an hour east from Devil's Den, and you'll arrive at White Rock Mountain. Nestled in the Ozark National Forest with glimmering fall foliage, it's a worthwhile stop to tack onto your trip.

Explore the back country of Missouri

After crossing Missouri's state line, set out from Eminence to Cuba along Highway 19. This winding road is lined with birch and maple trees, clothed in amber leaves during the harvest season. Highway 19 navigates road trippers through the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a sight to behold when fall is at its peak. With 80,000 acres of untouched wilderness, the park is home to two of Missouri's primary rivers: the Current and Jacks Forth.

Alternatively, travel from Van Buren to Caldenia via Highway 21, a route just as breathtaking with spectacular glimpses of the autumn foliage. Stop at nearby gems, including Big Spring, situated just outside of Van Buren. With flourishing canopies, the forested area houses America's largest freshwater hot spring. Stop over in Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, and hike to Mina Sauk Falls. The cascading waterfall is not only the tallest in Missouri at 132 feet but is also the highest peak within the state.   

For those who prefer to experience nature's glory on foot, the Ozark Trail is a must. Beginning near Tecumseh and weaving through the Mark Twain National Forest, travelers are guaranteed a spectacular showcase of vibrant fall colors.