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Over 200 species of trees in Illinois equals an infinite amount of fall colors. We’re sharing the 12 places with the most scenic views of the changing autumn hues. To plan your fall trip, be sure to also check out our interactive fall colors map.


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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A road and river

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.

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Sunset shining over water and a road beside the river

Meeting of the Great Rivers

Illinois is blessed with majestic riverfront landscapes 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.

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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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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.

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Close to Chicago

You don't have to go far from Chicago to see fantastic fall colors. If you're downtown, take a stroll through Millennium Park or, venture out further to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe or the Morton Arboretum in Lisle. Both are great spots to see changing fall foliage.

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.

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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.

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Two people climbing on rocks in front of a rock waterfall

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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Entry way to Anderson's Japanese Gardens during fall.

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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A garden with a pond, chair and some flowers

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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