Over 200 species of trees in Illinois equals an infinite amount of fall colors. We’re sharing the 11 places with the most scenic views of the changing autumn hues.

Galena

Though better known for its antique architecture, Galena is set against a backdrop of amazing fall colors. For the best scenery, stroll through the hills near the historic district. From there, you’ll get a panoramic view of the vintage buildings as they peek between the most picturesque autumn leaves you’ve ever seen. You’ll swear you’re living in a storybook.

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For generations, the Galena getaway has been an iconic Illinois experience. Here’s your getaway guide to staying at this quaint river town.

 

Great River Road

Stretching for over 550 miles along the length of the state, from Galena to the Cahokia Mounds, the Great River Road spans a diverse range of topography. This makes it the ideal route for viewing Illinois’ full spectrum of autumn colors. Ash, hickory, maple, and oak trees line the bluffs overlooking the river adding resplendent shades of red, orange, and yellow that reflect beautifully over the water.

Great River Road IMG

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Meeting of the Great Rivers

Illinois is blessed with majestic riverfront landscape to view the autumn colors. Nowhere is that more evident than at the Meeting of the Great Rivers. This scenic roadway nestled by the rolling waters of the mighty Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers puts on a dazzling natural display of colorful trees plants, and birds that’ll leave you in awe of the season.

Meeting River IMG

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It’s impossible to see everything there is to see on the Great River Road in a single day. Check out our six-day guide to this scenic byway. 

Ohio River Scenic Byway

The Ohio River Scenic Byway weaves through Ohio River Valley in Illinois, a land of scenic hills and dramatic sandstone cliffs. Its eastern end borders the Shawnee National Forest where you can get your fill of fall leaves. But it’s the wildflowers that steal the spotlight. Asters, goldenrods, and butterfly milkweed dot the roadside with charming pops of color.

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Illinois is the land of picturesque roads and magnificent landscapes. See the views along Illinois’ seven scenic byways.

 

Route 66

It’s not the drive that makes Route 66 amazing, it’s what you see along the way. And in autumn, that includes gorgeous fall colors. From Chicago to the Mississippi River, this legendary road takes you through beautiful boulevards, picturesque prairies, and breathtaking bluffs in full autumn mode. Sprinkled throughout are some of the most colorful roadside attractions (literally and metaphorically) you’ll ever see.

Route 66 IMG

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All that road tripping and fall color viewing can make you hungry. Grab a bite at the best places to eat on Route 66.

Garden of the Gods

Everything about autumn at Garden of the Gods is epic—especially the colors. High atop the towering rock formations you’ll see stunning views of the changing leaves across Shawnee National Forest. Visit early in the morning or after a light rain to see the mist roll over the horizon and add a moody, autumnal filter to the pristine wilderness.

Garden Gods IMG

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Explore five of Illinois lesser-known state parks where you can stay the night surrounded by natural wonders.

Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park’s spectacular canyons make it the perfect Illinois state park to surround yourself with amazing fall colors. At the signature waterfalls, summer greens have given way to autumn yellows to create a backdrop of warm, earthy tones. Oaks, hickories, and other native trees line the bluffs creating a striking palette that complements the views of the namesake rock formation.

Starved Rock IMG

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Every Illinois state park has some hidden gems. Here’s your guide to finding that diamond in the rough (or the rock formation) and quirky places to stay (no sleeping bag required).

Matthiessen State Park

Located a few miles from Starved Rock, Matthiessen State Park offers fall color views just as amazing as its neighbor. The park is home to black and white oak and red cedar trees that coat the rugged terrain in rusty reds and oranges. The Vermilion River and its magnificent bluffs running along the edge add another dimension of picturesque vistas.

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Follow a local expert as she goes on a road trip along the Illinois and Michigan Canal and to explore all the shopping, hiking, and good food in this fabulous region.

 

Anderson Japanese Gardens

At Anderson Japanese Gardens, you’ll find a meticulously landscaped, colorful environment that’ll invigorate your soul. Take a stroll through the grounds to view some of the most scenic foliage in Illinois, like the alluring Japanese maples with their crimson-colored leaves. And don’t forget to peer into the waters or you might miss the radiant golden orange scales of the garden’s resident koi.

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Read about some of Illinois’ marvelous gardens and the beautiful colors that pop up with the new seasons.

 

Quad City Botanical Center

The Quad City Botanical Center has every kind of fall color you could think of. There are the yellows and oranges of the changing leaves and fall blooms in the Perennial Gardens. There are the blues and pinks of the Tropical Sun Garden’s exotic flowers. And of course, there are the golds and blacks of the monarchs at the Butterfly Pergola Garden.

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Rim Rock's Dogwood Cabins

At Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins you can see fall colors to your eyes’ content. Whether it’s the treelined campgrounds, or their private hiking trails, every part of the 77-acre site is abound with color. A stone’s throw away, you’ll find Rim Rock. Its leafy bluffs look incredible in fall, but it’s the rock formations that’ll literally take your breath away.  

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Cabins have come a long way since Abe Lincoln’s day. Find the most amazing cabins in Illinois.


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