The Fall Foliage...
In southwest Arkansas can be tremendous!
The diverse flora of the region includes several species of maples, cottonwoods, birch, beech, sycamores, black gum, sweet gum, dogwoods and numerous oaks, including the always spectacular white and red!
All of which throw countless splashes of color all over the mountain sides, stream valleys and hollows. The various pines and cedars balance the bright autumn colors with their solid evergreen backgrounds.
And the wild flowers of late summer and autumn spread even more colors and textures throughout the undergrowth of the forests. Countless species dot the road sides and stream banks.
The trees begin to show some changes throughout September and really begin to display in mid October. The peak of the autumn spectacular usually comes to southwest Arkansas the first two weeks of November. The days, typically, are cool and dry with only the occasional storm front blowing through. But even the damp days offer some nice effects as mist shrouds the mountainsides and drifts through the hollows!
There are several ways to enjoy the fall colors, not the least of which is just driving about the various roads of the area. I suggest three loops and side trips tacked on!
The "Short Loop" will take you through the town of Delight (indeed, the home of Glenn Campbell), twist and turn along the edge of the Little Missouri River bottom and past the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Take AR 26 East out of Murfreesboro to Delight, then AR 195 South to its junction with AR 301 North which will take you to the Crater and back into Murfreesboro. The 301 leg is a winding, up and down stretch you'll want to take your time with just to enjoy. Approximate length - 31 miles.
The "Medium Loop" heads north on AR 27, over Kirby Mountain, where you will get a nice view of the front ridge of the Ouachita Mountains to the north. At the small crossroads of Salem take AR 84 West through Langley and Athens. AR 84 parallels the front ridge of the Ouachita's giving you spectacular views around Lodi and Langley. The six mile diversion on AR 369 North to the Albert Pike Recreation Area is worth the turn! It takes you right into the heart of some of the most rugged mountains in all of Arkansas and down to the beautiful Upper Little Missouri River. You'll swear you were in Colorado! From Langley head west through Athens to Umpire and US 278 East. Follow 278 through Dierks towards Nashville. At the tiny hamlet of Center Point take AR 26 East through Highland (once the site of huge apple orchards at the turn of the century) back to AR 27 North to Murfreesboro. Approximate length - 88 miles.
The "Big Loop" duplicates the first and last legs of the "Medium Loop" but takes you a bit further into the Ouachita Mountains and back a hundred years!
Take AR 27 North (US 70 East) to Glenwood, then AR 8-27 to the historic town of Norman. AR 8 carries you all the way up the wonderful Caddo River Valley. This strecth skirts the high ridges of the Little Missouri Mountains, part of the Ouachita Range. You will get lots of good looks at them to the south and southwest. The farther up the valley you head the more interesting AR 8 becomes, winding around mountain bases and knobs, a great road for motorcycle cruising!
AR 8 takes you all the way to Mena where you can head up the Talimena Scenic Drive to Queen Wilhemena State Park. That could be a whole 'nother trip though! Out of Mena head south on US 71-59 to the town of Vandervoort and take AR 246 East. This will take you through the Cossatot Mountains and over the Cossatot River where it cuts a deep narrow valley through the mountains. The Cossatot is one of the wildest whitewater rivers in the state, very popular with kayakers and canoers in the spring!
AR 246 brings you back to Athens and the last leg of the "Medium Loop" through Dierks and eventually back to Murfreesboro! Approximate length - 183 miles but pretty spectacular!
Whichever direction you take, autumn around Murfreesboro is hard to beat!