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 third update to our 2021 fall color report, which means we're getting into prime fall color time in a couple regions of the state. 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 10/9/2021

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:
    • Tree watchers report some maples are starting to show their colors of red and orange. 
    • Warmer-than-usual early October weather may slow the transition. It may be another week or two before oak tree colors begin to peak. 
    • Walnuts are beginning to turn yellow, with some white oaks beginning to brown amid the mostly green view in the woodlands. 
    • Sassafras is starting to turn up the color, and black oaks are starting to blush a bit where found in sand.
    • Vines are turning quickly, with poison ivy and Virginia creeper turning brilliant shades of red and purple, while grape is beginning to yellow in places.

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:

  • West Central Illinois
    • Some leaf color change has been reported in the region. 
    • Cottonwoods, silver maples, walnuts, pawpaw, Osage oranges, mulberries, catalpas, and buckeyes are starting to yellow. 
    • Sugar maples and ash are starting to show yellow, red, gold, purple and orange. 
    • Patches of sumac and individual sassafras and dogwoods are steadily reddening. 
    • Oak leaves are still stubbornly holding green. 
    • Elsewhere in the region, ginkgo is starting to turn gold, hackberry is showing a lot of yellow, and some maples are getting colorful. 
    • Virginia creeper is dropping its bright crimson leaves. Understory trees in the woodlands are showing yellows and browns. 
    • Some ornamental black gums are throwing a lot of brilliant red 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:

  • Yellow seems to be the predominant fall shade in much of central Illinois this week, especially in areas where drought conditions persist. 
  • Familiar views of reds and purples on the trees may be lacking due to the stress of dry weather, with a lot of trees already dropping their leaves. 
  • Leaf reporters tell of some oranges in sugar maples and sassafras and a few reds in sumacs, poison ivy, and burgundy in the dogwoods. 
  • Many of the roadside wildflowers are in good color, including goldenrod, wild sunflowers, and the purple New England asters. 
  • Osage orange trees are hanging heavy softball size light green to yellow fruits. Oaks are starting to drop acorns and buckeyes are dropping, as well.
  • In east central Illinois, black walnuts are showing yellow, as are some persimmons, with sassafras showing orange and red is some areas. 
  • The upland forest in mid Illinois is beginning to show light yellows and reds with some hues of red/orange. Cooler nights and warm sunny days ahead should bring the best fall color. 
  • In the lowland/bottomland/riverine forest area across central Illinois, more yellows are expected due to lack of oak and hickory on those sites. 
  • Numerous species turning yellow on low forests include walnut, cottonwood, elm, hackberry, hedge, and ash trees. 
  • Where there are sugar maples in town and on uplands, the maples are turning orange and red on about a third to a half of their leaves. 
  • Central region trees are probably another 10 days to two weeks from hitting peak 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:

  • In Southern Illinois, a few sweet gums are starting to show yellow and red leaves, with sassafras starting to show yellow and red and some white ash trees showing purple hues. 
  • In the south, some black and sour gum trees have red color among about a third of their leaves, with about half the leaves in red on sumac. 
  • Green ash trees are showing some yellow leaves that are dropping fast. 
  • Tulip poplar and sycamore trees have yellowing on leaves on about a third of their branches. 
  • Bald cypress at Cache River State Natural Area are beginning to show orange, red, brown and copper shades, while black walnuts have lost most their leaves. Oaks are still mainly green. 
  • Some spotters have observed yellow colors in elm, pawpaw, maple, sycamore, basswood, and tulip poplar trees. 
  • In southeastern Illinois, hilltop or drought-dry areas have seen a bit of leaf color change – and leaf fall. 
  • Ashes everywhere are dropping their yellow leaves early due to emerald ash borer. 
  • In swamps, bald cypress needles have started to turn yellow and orange. 
  • Some black cherry, tulip poplar, and sweet gum have a couple scattered red, yellow, and purple leaves among their green leaves.
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