Illinois is a Midwestern state in America. The state is famous for being America’s largest pumpkin producer, the home to Chicago, the country’s third-largest city, and arguably the inspiration for Superman’s Metropolis. The Prairie State has access to the Atlantic Ocean, the Mississippi, and Ohio Rivers, among others. However, in autumn, the state has fall foliage views that rival the rivers and lakes in the state.
According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, there are about 250 tree species in the state. You can catch the colors yellow, red, and even purple between September and November. This article dives into some of the most incredible places in Illinois to see fall foliage.
What Parts of Illinois Are Past Their Peak Foliage?
Residents in Lake County might be a little grumpy at this time of the year as they are the only county in Illinois that is past developing any new, beautiful colors. According to news reports, the rest of Illinois can look forward to awesome forest colors in the next couple of days.
What Parts of Illinois Are About To Hit Their Peak?
Fall foliage begins earlier in the northern states and, like a wave, sweeps down to other states. Consequently, counties around the Illinois-Wisconsin border are closer to their peak than counties further south of Illinois.
From October 24th, a number of these northern counties in Illinois will hit their peak. These northern Illinois counties about to hit their peak are bounded by Will, Kendall, DeKalb, Ogle, and Carroll Counties. This peak season will last a week, so you have until the end of October to see good color.
6 Incredible Places to See Fall Foliage in Illinois
According to Illinois State Parks, 69 state parks and six state forests exist in the state. Given this forest abundance, there are a lot of places to catch fall foliage. Some of them are:
1. Starved Rock State Park, LaSalle County
Starved Rock State Park is a wilderness along the Illinois River. The 2,630-acre state park is known for its 18 canyons, waterfalls, and 13 miles of trails through its evergreen and deciduous forests. According to a journal report, common trees in the area are shagbark hickory, sugar maple, and northern red oak.
Trees in Starved Rock State Park will reach peak color on October 31st, as their leaves have already begun losing their usual green hue.
2. Great River Road
The long Great River Road runs for over 2,000 miles along the Mississippi River and from Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico, cutting a long trail along the entire western side of Illinois. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Illinois 556-mile road is referred to as the National Scenic Byway with good reason.
Along the Great River Road, you will hear the whistling birds and take in beautiful forest views, which can almost seem endless at some point. Common trees that can be seen along the road are the white and red oak trees. By November 14, all the deciduous trees along the Great River Road would be past their best colors.
3. Garden of the gods, Shawnee National Forest
Shawnee National Forest is a bed of ecological diversity. The 289,000-acre forest is located between the Mississippi and the Ohio River and touches about nine counties in Southern Illinois. According to Forest Services, almost one million people visit the forest annually for the vibrant fall Oak-hickory forest colors, lush canyons, and ridges.
The Shawnee National Forest, often called the Garden of the gods, will hit its peak in the first week of November. That gives plenty of time to make plans, shift plans, and enjoy the scenery. Common trees that can be found in the forest are the slippery elm, swamp chestnut oak, and sycamore.
4. Chestnut Mountain, Jo Daviess County
The Chestnut Mountain is located in Galena City in Jo Daviess County, Northern Illinois. In the winter, the mountain is filled with skiing enthusiasts. However, in the fall, the mountain and its surrounding forests give a breathtaking fall foliage view. The mountain provides many vantage points to view fall foliage.
The trees in Chestnut Mountain will reach their fall peak by October 24th, giving a week’s window before they are past their peak at the end of the month. Common trees to look out for in the area include the American Chestnut Tree, the American Basswood, and the cottonwood, which look astonishing in the fall.
5. Pere Marquette Park, Jersey County
Pere Marquette Park is the largest state park in Illinois. According to the Illinois State Parks, the park, which spans more than 7,000 miles, is dominated by oak and hickory trees, thus providing amazing fall colors and long stretches of fall sights. The state park is ranked as the eighth-best place in the United States to seek out amazing warm tone leaf colors, according to news reports.
Pere Marquette Park and other forested parts of Jersey County, IL, will hit their fall peak by November 7th. There are roads within the park, as well as a beach. According to the Illinois DNR, common non-oak trees that can be found in the state park are sassafras, white ash, and red elm.
6. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Will County
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is America’s first tallgrass prairie reserve. During the fall, foliage can be viewed in the prairie and the neighboring woodlands. According to Forest Services, the 20,283-acre prairie provides an abundance of colors in the fall, with trees such as the burr oak turning golden brown, plants blooming, and dry grass.
Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and other forested areas in Will County, IL, will peak on October 24th. Some trees you might look for while in the county include Pagoda Dogwood and blue beech. Flowers that could also catch the eye with their lovely fall colors are the black-eyed Susan, goldenrods, and aster flowers.
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- 5 Chicago, Available here: https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/2022-fall-foliage-maps-predict-when-leaves-will-reach-peak-colors-in-illinois/2946253/
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Available here: https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/education/Pages/ILFallColors.aspx
- USDA, Available here: https://www.ers.usda.gov/newsroom/trending-topics/pumpkins-background-statistics/