Fall colors in southern Missouri, where most of 1.5 million acres of Mark Twain National Forest is located, usually peak mid to late October. Fall colors start in northern Missouri and move south starting mid-September through early November, depending on weather.
For visitors who want to check for fall colors, there is a free motor vehicle use map that shows all authorized Forest Service roads.
Following are several favorite drives in each of Mark Twain National Forest’s ranger districts:
Travel along the Missouri River bluffs from Jefferson City, north on Highway 63 toward Ashland. At Ashland, travel east on Highway Y across the Cedar Creek to Highway J. Turn south on Highway J towards New Bloomfield and to Highway 54 south back to Jefferson City.
Fredericktown Highway E
From Fredericktown, travel south on Business Route 67. It turns into Highway E after crossing Highway 67. Follow Highway E west through Madison and Iron counties to Highway 21/72, just south of Ironton. Highway 21/72 splits in Ironton; Highway 21 will take you to Potosi and Highway 72 will take you back to Fredericktown.
From Potosi, travel south on Highway 21 through the scenic Bellevue Valley to Highway 32 West, located about 3 miles south of Caledonia. Travel west on Highway 32 to Highway A in Iron County. Take Highway A through the scenic, wooded knobs of the St. Francis Mountains and along the western slopes of Bell Mountain Wilderness to Highway 49 south and the clear waters of the Black River region. Highway 49 will connect with Highway 21/72 just south of Ironton near the Fredericktown scenic route.
Travel south 8 miles on Highway 63 to Lane Spring Recreation Area.
The area on Highway A between Highway 19 and Bunker.
From Houston, travel north on Highway 63 to Licking. Travel west on Highway 32 and cross the Big Piney River heading towards Success and then south on Highway 17 back to Houston. Or travel North from Houston on Highway 63 and head west on Highway 32 to Highway N and then AF Highway towards the Big Piney River. Enjoy the river bluffs along the Big Piney River at the Slabtown Access.
- Glade Top National Forest Scenic Byway, including Forest Roads 150 and Highways 125 and H Highway. Nearby Chadwick Motorized ATV and Motorcycle Area, Swan Creek Non- Motorized Area and Hercules Glade Wilderness.
- Sugar Camp National Forest Scenic Byway has vistas that overlook the Cassville area.
- Blue Buck National Forest Scenic Byway has scenic vistas overlooking river corridors in some portions of the byway. Colorful highways include 181 and AP. Forest System Road 108 is also a beautiful road to travel during fall color and passes by the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp known as Camp Willow.
- From Poplar Bluff, head north on Highway 67 heading towards Greenville, about a 25-mile drive. Colors are magnificent along both sides of Highway 67. Near Greenville, get on D Highway heading east towards Wappapello, drive time about 20-25 minutes. It’s on D Hwy where a person can truly appreciate the changing of the seasons. Once you reach Wappapello Lake, cross the dam, which now becomes T Highway. Drive T Highway for about 13 miles until you reach Highway 60; merge onto 60 heading back towards Poplar Bluff.
- From Poplar Bluff, take Highway 67 north. Turn left and cross over Highway 67 to the service road by JR’s Antiques. Turn right on the service road, then left on Butler County Road 402, which leads to Forest Road 3110. Follow this road to Forest Road 3112. This road goes through scenic forested areas that are part of a restoration project being done in partnership with National Wild Turkey Federation. Side roads take the visitor into several areas that are undergoing restoration work. Continue on Forest Road 3112 past Upalika Pond on the right. At the intersection take a right, then a quick left onto Forest Road 3551. This road travels through more areas that are in various stages of restoration and takes the traveler through a recently-salvage harvest area affected by a 2011 tornado. In the future, this area will be managed as a savanna. Continue on Forest Road 3551 until the junction with Highway A. Take a right on Highway A and follow this road back to Highway 49. Go straight on Highway 49 and stop at Markham Springs Recreation Area on the Black River, which is open for day use. Follow Highway 49 back to Highway 67. A right turn takes you back to Poplar Bluff.
Doniphan driving loop
From Doniphan take 160 West to C Highway, go North on C Highway past Eastwood, turn right on FR 3280 -- Skyline Drive -- continue on FR 3280 until Junction 103, turn left to Van Buren. From Van Buren take Highway 60 West 10 miles, make a left on Highway J, go South on Highway J about 8 miles, make a right on FR 3152, continue on FR 3152 to Highway 19. Then go South on Highway 19 to Alton, then take Highway 160 West back to Doniphan.
The free maps are available at all Mark Twain National Forest offices and can be downloaded from Mark Twain National Forest’s website at www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mtnf/maps-pubs/?cid=fsm8_045644.
For more areas to enjoy scenery on Mark Twain National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/activity/mtnf/recreation/natureviewing/?recid=21644&actid=64.
For information on tracking fall colors nationwide, call (800) 354-4595.
Mark Twain National Forest is the largest public land manager in Missouri with 1.5 million acres in 29 counties in southern and central Missouri. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/mtnf for more information.