Enjoy the Ozarks in the Fall at These Top 3 Destinations

Arguably the most frequently visited tourism spot in Missouri and Northwest Arkansas, visitors flock to the Ozarks primarily for water recreation and to be immersed in the beauty of the region. The summer months prove to be the most popular as boaters, anglers and families aim to take advantage of the waters when the Midwest heat becomes unbearable. 

As a frequent visitor I can assure you, the Ozark mountains are actually the most special in the fall. Brilliant foliage, decreased traffic and a temperate climate make it ideal for a an outdoor getaway.

Ozarks in the Fall: Top Destinations


No longer considered a small town, the city of Bentonville and the neighboring Rogers and Fayetteville are bustling cultural hotspots for Northwest Arkansas. Home of the Walmart headquarters, the area attracts high end businesses to appeal to their globally recruited employees. The growth, however, has expanded the area in only the best kind of ways. It has meant the addition of a world-renowned art museum, the building of first class hiking and biking trails, craveable restaurants, charming places to stay and a downtown worth visiting over and over again. 

What to Do

  • Rent bikes and enjoy Coler Mountain Preserve in Bentonville. The short, paved trails allow parents and small children to stroll along, while older kids can enjoy the parallel mountain bike hills. A stop at Airshop Coffee halfway through the preserve is a must!
  • Reserve a spot in a mountain biking class to learn the basics and how to stay safe. 
  • Walk along the trails at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art for the ultimate leaf peeping and art viewing. The scenery, interesting exhibits and changing terrain will keep everyone entertained. Do not skip the inside of the museum as well!
  • Visit Lake Atalanta in Rogers to paddleboard, fish, walk the tree-lined paths and play at the park. 
  • Watch a BMX competition at Railyard Bike Park or try the pump track for yourself. 
  • Attend a Razorbacks football game in Fayetteville. The experience is like no other!
  • Take an eagle watch cruise on Beaver Lake in Hobbs State Park
  • Tour the stroller and pet-friendly War Eagle Tavern

White River/Buffalo River

Our family’s Fall break tradition always includes a long weekend on the White River, in Cotter or Flippin, Arkansas. The White River is a true gem, packed with breathtaking beauty. It is remote, and the main attraction is the landscape begging to be traversed. For a getaway free from commercialization and big on peace and quiet, choose the five hour drive to the White or Buffalo rivers. 

What to Do

  • Hire a guide from Dally’s Fly Shop to learn the basics of fly fishing on this world famous river. They will teach techniques and safety all while catching loads of fish either on foot or in a river specific boat, and provide all equipment needed.
  • Visit the hatchery and kid-only fishing preserve Dry Run Creek. Explore the shaded stream, traverse rocks and feed the fish. 
  • Hiking near the Buffalo River is a must. Find some great trails here! Take your time to splash in creeks and ponder animal tracks, view double and triple waterfalls and be mesmerized by massive look out points. 
  • Go elk watching in the Ponca area. The cooler temperatures trigger mating season. Be prepared to hear bugling and view a few males battling for herd domination!
  • Take a fall ziplining tour for a full immersion in the changing of the leaves from the Buffalo Outdoor Center
  • Eat at the Low Gap Cafe, a hole in the wall, but oh so good! Spot elk along the road on your way. 

Branson/Big Cedar Lodge/Table Rock Lake

The belle of Branson, Big Cedar Lodge, offers a luxurious getaway packed full of family-friendly attractions. With its steep price tag comes a litany of amenities set within the scenic area of Table Rock Lake and Branson. The activities and options are endless, making for a getaway everyone will rave about. 

Golfing at Top of the Rock

What to do

Pro Tips for Enjoying the Ozarks in the Fall

  • If you want to catch prime fall color, keep an eye on Missouri Department of Conservation’s Fall Color Reports.
  • As the crow flies, many of the destinations within the Ozarks are close in proximity. In the car, however, that may not be the case. Be strategic when planning a day’s activities. 
  • Book river and lakefront accommodations early. Sipping coffee and enjoy the relaxing view of the water will be worth it.
  • Take advantage of the countless trails to truly enjoy the beauty of the area. 
  • Fall is a prime time for scoping out native animals. Bring binoculars!
Kristin Ruthstrom
Kristin is a Lee’s Summit suburb transplant, after living in the Brookside and Plaza areas for over eight years. Raising three young boys with her husband, Jake, has helped her to embrace the messy, wild side of life where love is expressed in bear hugs and body slams. Professionally, she can be found teaching classes as an adjunct professor in the areas of Business, Marketing and PR. She is able to provide her students with applicable, real-life knowledge as she draws from several years working in the corporate sector. “Free time” (ha!, what's that again?) is spent on an occasional date night to favorite local restaurants, reading blogs on everything from home design to politics, riding her sweet beach cruiser bike and thinking of ways to convince her husband to do yet another home improvement project.