Illinois Fall Color Report

Enjoy Illinois presents the official Illinois Fall Color Report courtesy of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Discover the best places to see foliage unfolding in every region of the state.

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This is the fourth update to our 2021 fall color report, which means we've entered into prime fall color time in a couple regions of the state, with the best still to come elsewhere. Read on to find out what to look for and where.

The map below shows the estimated peaks to see the autumn hues in each region. Click the links to jump directly to a region and see what colors have sprung up this week — and explore the best places to see the fall colors for yourself.

Updated 10/21/2021

The regions of Illinois
Estimated Peak Times
Chicago & Beyond: Second week of October
Great Rivers Country: Second week of October
Land of Lincoln: Middle of October
Trails to Adventure: Last week of October

AMBER SKYLINES AROUND THE VIBRANT CITY

Chicago & Beyond

At night, the lights of Chicago's skyline make for a dazzling display of its own, but look down and you'll see plenty of fall foliage popping up among the city's verdant parks and public spaces. Be sure to venture outside the city, where some of the best fall colors can be seen, peppering the region known as Chicago & Beyond with all the hues of autumn.

 The Best Places to See Fall Colors:

Estimated Peak Times

Second week of October.

What We're Seeing Now

What's Happening This Week:

  • Northeast Illinois:
    • Urban trees along the streets, parks and subdivisions in northern Illinois are showing signs of red to orange - especially the sunset maples - but colors may not be very bright. 
    • The hickory trees grouped together are showing signs of yellow to golden brown. 
    • While awaiting the first frost, red maples were turning red and orange in parts of northeast Illinois. 
    • Cottonwoods continue to yellow and brown, as do black walnuts. 
    • Sumac is currently deep red. Hickories are yellowing. Overall, there is still a lot of green in the woods. 
    • Fall color progression stalled this week in a number of counties. 
    • Mulberry is yellowing; sassafras remains mottled gold and orange where not defoliated; sugar maples and some red maples are coloring up nicely. 
    • Persimmons are starting to blush apricot and muted yellow; oaks are sliding closer to the full extent of their glory but remain days or even weeks away from peak. 
    • In some areas, color is variable with many cultivars showing very strong color, with Shantung maple, hardy rubber tree, invasive pear, tulip tree, and many others coming into their own this week.

Red Leaves Between the Rivers

Great Rivers Country

Stretching the western edge of Illinois along the bank of the Mississippi River, Great Rivers Country is home to some of autumn's most brilliant landscapes. There you'll find trees such as oak, white ash, red maple, sugar maple, hickories, and burning bushes, which by the end of the season, shine with a brilliant scarlet in the sun.

The Best Places to See Fall Colors:

Estimated Peak Times

Second week of October.

What's Happening This Week:

  • Oaks in northwest Illinois are still not showing much colors. 
  • Peak colors should be arriving over the next week or two in West Central Illinois.
  • In many west-central counties, pecan and some oak species remain predominantly green, while the foliage on most other area tree species continues to turn. 
  • Autumn color can now be found on hickory, walnut, silver maple, cottonwood, pawpaw, Osage orange, mulberry, catalpa, hackberry and buckeye trees. 
  • Sugar maples and ash are starting to show red, gold, purple and orange. 
  • Sumac and individual sassafras and dogwoods continue to redden. 
  • Elsewhere in Western Illinois, there is still a lot of green, but some species saw the leaf color turned up a notch this week. 
  • Sumacs are throwing a lot of reds. Sassafras are starting to show more orange and red. 
  • Some maples are well on their way to turning yellow and orange. 
  • A few oaks have some scattered leaves turning red, yellow and bronze. 
  • Hickories are showing some yellow. Ash trees are showing a lot of purple (white ash) and yellow (green ash). 
  • Sweetgums are turning yellow and a lot of walnut trees are totally yellow or have lost all their leaves.

CENTRAL ILLINOIS' SHIMMERING SUMACS

Land of Lincoln

The central region of Illinois is steeped in history, but the leaves keep turning year after year in the Land of Lincoln. Home to cities such as the capital, Springfield, the Illinois River Valley comes alive with the orange and yellow of maples and oaks, the purple hues of dogwoods and hazelnuts, and the red and orange clusters of rose hips on wild roses.

 The Best Places to See Fall Colors:

Estimated Peak Times

Late October.

What We're Seeing Now

What's Happening This Week:

  • Central Illinois neighborhoods and woodlands are still largely green with some yellow, but the leaves on a lot of trees have turned quickly and dropped due to the drought that extended from mid-summer to September. 
  • In areas of north-central Illinois, woodland edges and roadsides are splashed with great reds, yellows and purples. 
  • Poison ivy, sumacs, dogwood species, Virginia creeper, and sassafras are showing different shades of red. 
  • Some scattered shag bark hickories have turned a bright yellow. 
  • The catalpas are both yellow and a nice light green as they start to turn. 
  • Common milkweed pods are starting to pop open with the light airborne seeds flying on the wind. 
  • The native grasses are changing shades edging toward the yellows and reddish-brown colors from their summer green. 
  • Many of the cottonwoods and black walnuts have lost their leaves. Elms, hackberry, mulberry, and redbuds are all showing various shades of yellow. 
  • In the urban landscape, selected varieties known for showing fall color are starting to pop.
  • Prairie grasses provide a nice contrast to the green leaves nearby. The cooler nights this week may boost the transition.
  • In east-central Illinois, some reporters have seen yellows and orange in the sugar maple and hickory trees come on quickly, turn brown, and the leaves drop. 
  • Some areas still have black walnuts showing yellow, with hints of the oaks starting to show some color. 

Saffron Hues in Southern Illinois

Trails to Adventure

The sprawling canopies of Shawnee National Forest cover the landscape of Southern Illinois, a region known as Trails to Adventure. In the fall, hickories, red oak, and sassafras form a tapestry of yellow and orange, while trees like white oak settle into a deep red. All of it makes for a perfect time to hike among the trails or take a trip through Shawnee Wine Trail.

The Best Places to See Fall Colors:

Estimated Peak Times

Last week of October.

What We're Seeing Now

What's Happening This Week:

  • Like the rest of the state, the switch to fall color is behind the usual schedule, but some color is appearing. 
  • Sweet gum and sassafras are slowly turning yellow and red. White ash trees are slowly showing some purple hues. 
  • Some sumacs are turning red, with yellowing in tulip poplars, and cypress showing some bronzing.
  • Sugar maples have advanced from last week, showing yellow, orange, and red color. 
  • Hickories are a bit more yellow this week. Most oak species are still very green. 
  • Farther south, bottomland trees, understory, and some overstory trees are starting to turn yellow and orange with a few reds and purples mixed in. 
  • Bright yellow colors are appearing in elm, pawpaw, maple, sycamore, basswood, hickory and tulip poplar trees. 
  • Red/purple colors are beginning to show in sassafras, black gum, and Virginia creeper vines. 
  • In many locations, leaves have not changed much this week, with green still the predominant view and color peak likely coming in mid-November.
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