Changing seasons, changing leaves: Explore the beauty of autumn with a trip through Arkansas

contributed by Caroline Ezell

Fall is the season where God’s handiwork is uniquely alive. Leaves emerge in yellow and golden hues and begin to float around your feet. Temperatures settle into lower registers, giving the wind an exciting chill to carry and reminding you to unpack your favorite sweater. The air turns crisp and you find yourself on the porch wrapped in a quilt and sipping tea, hot with cinnamon. Foliage can vary from tree to tree, luscious reds from Black Gums, Sassafras adopts oranges and yellows, and Sweetgum can offer a brilliant purple. You are unwittingly lulled into a gratitude and kinship with nature’s bounty.

My grandparents, James and Allamae Ezell, started their lives together as farmers in a yellow fieldstone farmhouse in a grove of old oak trees surrounded by rice fields in Weiner, Arkansas. Fall is my grandmother’s favorite season and although the expansive land they lived on was beautiful, it was relatively flat and did not host the autumnal splendor she adored. While the farm was always busy during autumn’s harvest season, James always made time to take Allamae on an annual tour of Arkansas’ finest foliage. They would travel into the Ozarks and stay in Eureka Springs, down into Petit Jean State Park, and through Harrison and Russellville, admiring trees from the car and on foot. When it comes to fall, Arkansas is something special.

In Buffalo River country, expect nothing short of breathtaking. Hawksbill Crag, also known as Whitaker Point, is home to one of the most sought after views in Arkansas. At sunrise, you are guaranteed an awe-inspiring expanse of wilderness and watercolor skies. It’s a place for people seeking an experience off the grid requiring certain precautions and a sizable hike. The trail might be long, but there are many stopping places to rest, one featuring a waterfall. Trust me, this one is worth the effort.

For those who prefer scenic drives to hiking endeavors, the stretch of US 62 from Rogers to Harrison is dense with changing trees lining the road, perfect for complete immersion. Highway 7 is another course bursting with picturesque displays of autumn, Arkansas’ first state-designated scenic route. It winds through four separate regions from El Dorado to north of Harrison.

At its highest point, Mount Magazine State Park in Paris, Arkansas reaches 2,753 feet. For sweeping views of the Arkansas River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake in the crisp October air, this is the place. This park welcomes mountain bikers, rock climbers, hang gliders, horseback riders, and hikers of all skill sets. Whether you desire a grand adventure or a simple walk to ground yourself in nature, this state park will sate you.

Hot Springs is a haven for all things natural, including Garvan Woodland Gardens. The botanical gardens belong to the Faye Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas and boast a number of trails and attractions suitable for anyone wishing to rejoice in this season’s opulence. Accessibility is a priority making wheelchairs and strollers functional on the trails and offering golf cart tours. Their mission statement establishes their goal of “preserving and enhancing a unique part of the Ouachita Mountain environment” and “providing people with a place of learning, research, cultural enrichment, and serenity.” Their manicured gardens are in harmony with native growth, a graceful balance affirming their tranquil ambition.

For our Southwestern denizens, Logoly State Park is a great retreat for relishing in this season’s offering. Six miles south of Magnolia, this park has stunning mineral springs, campgrounds, and walking trails, but Logoly doesn’t stop there. This park considers itself a resource for environmental education. At the heart of their 368 acres of coastal plain, the visitor center offers several interactive exhibits to educate visitors about conservation. The park encourages visitors to learn about the dangers of pollution and the energy crisis so that, in return, Logoly can stay the beautiful destination it is for years to come.

Autumn in Arkansas is a spectacle to say the least. In every corner of the state, we are greeted with spectacular feats of nature only enhanced by fall colors. Get out there and enjoy it while the season is right.

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