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18 Best Places To See Fall Colors in Illinois (2022 guide)

Fall colors in Illinois are reminiscent of Monet’s paintings, having an extraordinary poetic essence. It’s the most picturesque greeting in autumn to Illinois lovers.

What’s more? The days are short and cool – perfect setting for a brisk, breezy evening walk under the gamboge leaves.

If you’re a dark academic finding a nice spot to read your copy of Wuthering Heights, a romantic out on a date, a writer with a quill, or someone out to admire autumn, this guide will help you find the perfect spot for your autumn retreat.

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Best Fall Color in Illinois

Illinois teems with places that beautifully define the ephemeral nature of fall foliage.

This guide presents you with a selection of the best fall foliage in Illinois.

Best Fall Colors in Chicago Area

As the Windy City’s temperature drops in October, the trees start shedding leaves. Autumn hues paint a tapestry of yellows and orange across state parks, scenic drives, and national forests.

Chicago fall foliage is best to witness in the second week of Halloween month.

Here are some places in Chicago to enjoy the autumn:

Lincoln Park is an amazing place to see fall colors in Illinois.
Lincoln Park in Autumn

Lincoln Park and Lincoln Park Zoo

One of the most iconic locations on the Chicago fall foliage map, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a not-to-profit landmark that was set up in 1868.

The zoo is inspired by the theme of secluded natural space in urban sprawl.

It is also built on a cemetery and is therefore seen as a major destination on the list of haunted locations in Illinois.

Highlights

A stroll on the Nature Boardwalk is the best to enjoy yellow foliage while capturing the city skyline through the viewfinder.

Address

2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

Opening Hours

8:00 AM – 5:00 PM weekdays, 8:00 AM – 7:00 PM weekends/holidays

Entrance Fee

Free

The Chicago Botanic Garden in autumn
Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden

Featuring native trees and the Botanic Garden’s collections, around 40,000 trees at this Chicago fall foliage destination show a splendid blend of fall colors.

A mix of gold, red and orange hues in foliage from ginkgoes, lindens, and maples evoke a fairytale-like mood.

Highlights

A tree walk from the Visitor Center along the Garden’s East Road and towards the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center is best to view the colorful foliage of the garden.

Address

1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, IL 60022

Opening Hours

10:00 AM – 8:00 PM (Know More)

Beautiful fall foliage in Millenium Park in downtown Chicago
Meadow Lake in Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum

One of the best places to see fall colors near Chicago, you’ll see a kaleidoscope of orange, red, and yellow from maple, East Wood, and Ginkgo trees and rich burgundy from more than 250 varieties of oaks.

A stroll along the Meadow Lake Trail will give you a magnificent view of the native grasses and visions of yellow, orange, and burgundy foliage.

Highlight

At the top of Frost Hill, you’ll get sweeping views of the Midwest Collection and Meadow Lake in their entire seasonal splendor.

Address

4100 IL-53, Lisle, IL 60532

Opening Hours

7:00 AM – 7:00 PM (know more)

Entry Fee

$10 for adults and $8 for children between 2-17 years

Millenium Park is a great place to see fall colors in downtown Chicago
Beautiful fall colors in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago

Millennium Park and Lurie Garden

Located in downtown Chicago, Millennium Park and Lurie Garden are the best places to see fall colors near Chicago.

The park burns with the color of changing leaves near the Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”).

The two courtyards at the Art Institute of Chicago feature sculptures and fountains that are a perfect setting for a romantic autumn date.

Highlights

The secluded Lurie Garden is full of native flora and fauna.

A wide variety of native flowering plants and different butterfly, insect, and bird species can be seen there. The 15-foot-high “shoulder” hedge is the definite highlight of this garden.

Address
  • Millennium Park, 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602
  • Lurie Garden, 220 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60601
Opening Hours

6:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Entry Fee

Free

Best Fall Colors in Northern Illinois

In Northern Illinois, the leaves change color in late September while the gamboge bursts can be seen by mid-October.

To admire the best fall colors in Illinois, head to:

Best Galena Fall Colors

Fall foliage in Galena is nothing short of a spectacle.

The best way to get a panoramic fall view is to take a hike to the following destinations:

Chestnut Mountain Resort

Enjoy the breathtaking view of trees at the Horseshoe Mound, Chestnut Mountain, along with the area between Elizabeth and Highway 20.

The live camera at the Chestnut mountain top is the best way to take a look at the magnificent view of the fall at this place.

Highlights

Take the ski lift ride atop the Chestnut Mount Resort to witness a panoramic view of the Galena Fall colors and the magnificent Mississippi River.

Address

8700 W Chestnut Mountain Rd, Galena, IL 61036

Opening Hours

6:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Mississippi Palisades State Park
Mississippi Palisades State Park (photo credits: Parker Hayes)
Mississippi Palisades State Park

The Mississippi Palisades State Park takes you back in time through its trails dotted with rich Native American history and native flora.

Each trail, especially the southern routes are full of rock palisades and colorful fall foliage.

Camp there or plan a picnic on your weekend getaway at the 2,500-acre site.

Detailed camping and trail maps can be found in the Mississippi Palisades brochure.

Highlights

The Indian Head and the Twin Sisters tower along with rock climbing activities will be the highlights of this park.

Address

16327A IL-84, Savanna, IL 61074

Opening Hours

7:30 AM – 10:00 PM

Entry Fee

Check the camping fee here

Galen in autumn
Galena in autumn
Galena River Trail

Be it the scenic fall bike ride along the 8.8-mile Galena River trail or kayaking through the Galena River, the breathtaking views are bursting with hues of fall.

Here is a list of more great places for kayaking in Illinois.

A must-visit destination on your Illinois peak fall color tour, the trail has the stunning Buehler Preserve where you can take in the fall colors from a different POV.

Highlights

A beautiful 90-minute ride on the Mississippi River Explorer Cruise will take you through the breathtaking forested bluffs.

Address

2200 Park Ave, Galena, IL 61036

Where to stay in the Galena area

There is so much to see and to do in the Galena area that you can easily spend a weekend there.

Stroll around Galena’s historic district or visit one of these amazing Galena wineries.

Wondering where to stay?

Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa and the Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel are 2 great resorts to stay at while you are in Galena.

The forested trails in Starved Rock State Park are great to see fall colors
Fall colors in Starved Rock State Park (Bluff trail)

Starved Rock State Park

With over 13 miles of trails, the Starved Rock State Park is one of the top Illinois peak fall color locations.

These trails are nestled amid majestic waterfalls, countless varieties of trees, and magnificent sandstone bluffs.

Take a guided tour or a boat trip through the river to witness nature on fire with colors during fall.

Highlights

A visit to the scenic Ottawa Canyon and Council Overhang will be the perfect climatic end to your trip.

Address

2678 E 875th Rd,

Oglesby, IL 61348

Opening Hours

8:30 AM – 10:00 PM

Entry Fee

Free

Cascade Falls in Matthiessen State Park
The Cascade Falls in Matthiessen State Park

Matthiessen State Park

Spread across 1,900 acres, the Matthiessen State Park features lush forests, canyons, prairie, and streams lined with black and white oaks and red cedars that paint the landscape with rusty reds and oranges.

To witness the Illinois peak fall color, you can come here in late October.

The hiking trails stretch 5 miles with bluff tops in the upper area ideal for viewing the foliage and autumn hues.

Highlights

Take a mountain bike or horse to explore the 9-mile trail to explore the fall foliage in absolute wilderness.

Address

2500 IL-178, Oglesby, IL 61348

Opening Hours

7:00 AM – Sunset

Entry Fee

Free

Anderson Japanese Garden is an excellent spot to witness fall foliage in Illinois
Fall foliage in the Anderson Japanese Garden (photo credits: gabe popa)

Anderson Japanese Gardens

An iconic Illinois peak fall color destination, the Anderson Japanese Gardens is among the highest quality Japanese gardens in North America.

The landscape of this 12-acre property evokes calmness and tranquility.

Its winding paths, cascading waterfalls, koi-filled ponds, gentle streams, and raked gravel gardens, are manicured with stunning pines, and various other varieties of trees that create a soothing blend of red, yellow, gold, orange, and burgundy during fall.

Highlights

Master craftsmanship of Japanese origin featuring 16th-century traditional architecture is sure to make you spend the day here.

Address

318 Spring Creek Rd,

Rockford, IL 61107

Opening Hours

9:00 AM – 6:00 PM

Bison in the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
With some luck, you can also spot buffalo in the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Take a self-guided tour of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie to enjoy fall colors in Illinois.

This restored prairie showcases pre-industrial age prairie culture and has 275 native plant species.

Hues of purple, yellow, white, and pink paint the landscape during autumn. Enjoy the colors of New England aster, the Tall goldenrod, or the heath aster plants from the Henslow Trail and the Iron Bridge Trailhead.

Highlight

A hike on the Twin Oaks Trail and a stroll on the Iron Bridge Trailhead will give you a glimpse of tranquil beauty.

Address

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, IL-53, Wilmington, IL 60481

Opening Hours

4:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Grandview Drive
Fall foliage at Grandview Drive (photo credits: Randy von Liski)

Fall Colors in Central Illinois

The peak foliage season in Central Illinois typically stretches from mid-September through late October.

Here are some places to explore the fall colors in Central Illinois:

Grandview Drive

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 2.52 miles of Grandview Drive was dubbed the “world’s most beautiful drive” by Theodore Roosevelt on his 1910 visit to Peoria.

Offering stunning panoramic views of historical houses and the tree-lined Illinois River, this is the ideal Illinois peak fall color route to witness the autumn hues.

Highlights

Get on board the Spirit of Peoria for a tour on the Illinois River to watch the beautiful autumn colors on the banks of the shoreline.

Address

3210 N Grandview Dr, Peoria, IL 61614

Opening Hours

5:00 AM – 11:00 PM

Lake Decatur is one of the best places in Illinois to see fall foliage.
A morning walk around Lake Decatur in autumn

Around Lake Decatur

One of the most unique Illinois peak fall color locations, the area around Lake Decatur is dotted with beautiful sites for you to enjoy the autumn beauty.

Take a walk through the historical Nelson Park, admire sculptures at the Scovill Sculpture Gardens, or visit the most famous tree in Decatur at Fairview Park, each location is Instagram-worthy. It is also a great place for kayaking in central Illinois.

Surroundings are lined with lush trees that shed leaves that paint the landscape in yellow, red, and gold.

Highlights

Visit the Rock Springs Conservation Area featuring acres and acres of deciduous trees, a pine forest, and stunning autumn prairie grass fields.

Address
  • Nelson Park, 2475 Pavilion Drive, Decatur, IL 62521
  • Fairview Park, 2095 W Eldorado St, Decatur, IL 62522
  • Scovill Sculpture Park, 495-1325 S Country Club Rd, Decatur, IL 62521
  • Rock Springs Conservation Area, 3939 Nearing Ln, Decatur, IL 62521
Opening Hours
  • Nelson Park: 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Fairview Park: 6:00 AM – 10:00 PM
  • Scovill Sculpture Park: 8:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Rock Springs Conservation Area: Visit the website

Lincoln Memorial Garden & Nature Center
Lincoln Memorial Garden & Nature Center (photo credits: I Bird 2)

Lincoln Memorial Garden & Nature Center

This 100-acre site features six miles of trails, eight stone council rings, dozens of wooden benches, a pond, and footbridges with Lincoln quotes inscribed on them.

The woodlands, wetlands, cross streams, and restored prairie garden burn with fall colors during mid-October.

The Nature Center and Memorial Garden are part of the larger property that is given a National Historic Landmark status. Here you can find more info about the Lincoln Home National Historic Site.

Highlights

Explore Abraham Lincoln’s twelve-room house from the pre-presidential period to perfectly end your Illinois peak fall color exploration.

Address

2301 E Lake Shore Dr, Springfield, IL 62712

Opening Hours

9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Entry Fee

Free

The Sun Singer in Allerton Park (photo credits: Ashley Crum)

Allerton Park & Retreat Center

Built in 1900, Allerton Park and Retreat Center feature historical properties like The Mansion and The Evergreen Lodge along with statuary, forests, formal gardens, walking trails, and natural prairie.

Hundreds of oaks and evergreen trees line the properties and gardens that burn in yellows and oranges during autumn.

Highlights

Walk through the historic bridge entrance that is lined with huge trees to feel the foliage crunching under your feet.

Address

515 Old Timber Rd,

Monticello, IL 61856

Opening Hours

8:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Entry Fee

Free

Beautiful fall colors and the Original Office building in the Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois
Beautiful fall foliage adorns Pere Marquette’s original office building

Fall Colors in Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois is the last to see the change in colors with foliage getting the autumn hues by late October or early November.

Below are places to explore fall colors in Southern Illinois:

Pere Marquette State Park

One of the most popular Illinois peak fall color destinations, the Pere Marquette State Park, offers 8,050 acres of area to soak in the autumn beauty.

Shimmering with the vibrant fall foliage on one side and the magnificent Illinois River on the other, the Pere Marquette State Park trails will not let you leave. Indulge in various recreational activities like horse riding, hiking, boating, hunting, and fishing, for an added thrill.

Highlights

The confluence of the Mississippi River and the Illinois River near the park will outdo any other scenic view on your fall color trip.

Address

13112 Visitor Center Lane, Grafton IL 62037

Opening Hours

8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Entry Fee

Free

Trees with fall colors
Fall colors in Giant City State Park (photo credits: nathanmac87)

Giant City State Park

Explore the 12,000-year-old bluff formations while ruffling through fall foliage to fully experience the changing of seasons.

One of the best places to enjoy fall colors in Illinois, the Giant City State Park, also offers recreational activities like rock climbing, rappelling, fishing, hiking, and camping.

You can take the popular Giant City Nature Trail to soak in the picturesque surrounding that is brimming with autumn hues.

Highlights

Take the 12-mile Red Cedar Hiking Trail for an overnight camping experience that will be the best culmination of your visit to the park.

Address

235 Giant City Rd,

Makanda, IL 62958

Opening Hours

6:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Entry Fee

No entry fee is charged but online bookings should be made in advance at ExploreMoreIL™ to reserve the campsite.

Where to stay

Check out this list of Giant City State Park cabins.

Fall colors seen from the Garden of the gods in Shawnee National Forest in Illinois
Fall colors seen from the Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest in Illinois

Garden of the Gods and Shawnee National Forest

Spread across 289,000 acres, the Shawnee National Forest features lush canyons, flourishing wetlands, razorback ridges, and strikingly beautiful oak-hickory forest that become part of a kaleidoscopic event in late October when autumn arrives.

A wave of yellows, reds, and oranges covers the entire landscape, making it the ideal Illinois peak fall color spot.

Also, a part of the Shawnee National Forest is the Garden of the Gods which has majestic sandstone formations with short, steep steps and grades.

Highlights

Climb atop the sandstone formations in the early morning to see the changing leaves across the landscape.

Address
  • Garden of the Gods, Herod, IL 62947
  • Shawnee National Forest, Herod, IL 62946
Opening Hours

Open 24 hours

Entry Fee

Free

Where to stay

Here is a list of great cabins in Shawnee National Forest.

Here is an overview of more amzing State Parks in southern Illinois. For an overview of the best hiking trails in southern Illinois, click here.

In What Month Does it Start looking Like Fall in Illinois?

The Illinois fall color report indicates that autumn starts arriving by the third or fourth week of September in northern Illinois while Central and Southern Illinois witness changes in the second and last two weeks of October respectively.

During this cycle, leaves change their color and are shed by the trees.

Northern country reaches fall peak by mid-October while the central and southern country witnesses peak by late October and early November respectively.

Conclusion

Illinois is teeming with places colored yellow, purple, orange, and brown during the months of October and September.

This guide to all those places will have you witness the fall colors in Illinois in their full glory.