Best Places to See Fall Colors in Illinois

As the leaves turn from green to the vibrant hues of fall, Illinois transforms into a canvas of red, orange, and gold, providing a stunning backdrop for outdoor activities and leisurely exploration. This article will guide you through the beauty of Illinois fall with a list of the best places to see fall colors in the state and nearby. No matter where you are located, there may be fantastic displays of fall foliage just a stone’s throw away.

a collage of best places to see fall colors in Illinois.

Leaf peeping is more than just a visual experience. It is also a time to slow down, reconnect with nature, and soak up the tranquility that these vibrant landscapes offer.

Here are our favorite places to embrace the splendor of fall in Illinois and nearby. Some places are perfect for a short visit while some can be an entire weekend trip.

Best Fall Colors in Chicago Area


Many parks in Chicago come alive with shades of red, orange, and gold in fall. Lincoln Park is a prime spot for fall colors in the city. Spread across 1,200 acres, this is the largest public park in Chicago. Other parks, such as Millennium Park or Grant Park, are also beautiful places for leaf peeping.

Lincoln Park

  • Address: 500-5700 N. Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60614
  • Hours: 6 am – 11 pm daily

Millennium Park

  • Address: 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601
  • Hours: 6 am – 11 pm daily

Grant Park

  • Address: 331 E. Randolph St. (Columbus Drive), Chicago, IL 60601
  • Hours: 6 am – 11 pm daily
Fall foliage at Grant Park in Chicago Illinois.

Morton Arboretum

  • Address: 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle, IL 60532
  • Hours: 9 am – sunset daily

The Morton Arboretum in Lisle houses a wide range of trees with leaves turning vibrant in fall, such as ginkgo, hickory, magnolia, oak, beech, and sugar maple trees. Its 16 miles of hiking trails and 9 miles of paved roads allow visitors to immerse themselves in the stunning display. The iconic Lake Marmo, surrounded by a grove of sugar maples, is a must-visit spot at the arboretum.

Best Fall Colors in Northern Illinois

Starved Rock State Park

  • Address: Oglesby, IL 61348
  • Hours: 7 am – sunset (trail hours)

Starved Rock State Park is known as one of the best places to see fall colors in Illinois. It is a sight to behold in fall, with a stunning backdrop of sandstone canyons, waterfalls, and vibrant fall foliage. The park provides many outdoor experiences, such as hiking, camping, and fishing. You can visit Starved Rock as a day trip or stay overnight at the Starved Rock Lodge.

The park annually organizes a “Fall Color Weekend,” during which visitors can accompany Starved Rock guides on hikes to canyons and overlooks. While exploring and taking in the fall foliage, attendees will also gain insights into the area’s history and geology.

view of trees and rock formations at Starved Rock State Park, a road trip destination in Illinois.
a trail at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois, one of the best places for fall colors in Illinois


The charming town of Galena, known for its well-preserved 19th-century architecture, is surrounded by the rolling hills of Jo Daviess County. When fall comes, the county’s dense foliage displays striking shades of orange, red, and gold. Here is the list of places to stop by for fall colors in and around Galena.

Anderson Japanese Gardens

  • Address: 318 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, IL 61107
  • Hours: 9 am – 5 pm (weekend) or 6 pm (weekdays)

Located in Rockford, the Anderson Japanese Gardens offer 12 acres of tranquil landscapes designed in a traditional Japanese garden style. The place features koi ponds, peaceful streams, and meticulously manicured gardens. When fall comes, the fiery red leaves of Japanese maples contrast beautifully with the serene green moss, creating an enchanting ambiance.

fall foliage at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford Illinois.
Photo credit: Ronincmc / CC BY-SA 4.0

Lake Geneva, WI

Just a short drive north of Illinois, Lake Geneva in Wisconsin serves up breathtaking fall colors. Depending on where you live in Illinois, for those based in Chicago or Champaign-Urbana like us, driving to Lake Geneva may even take less time than to Galena.

This small town has numerous outdoor activities. Some of the best things to do while enjoying fall foliage are taking the Lake Geneva ziplines and boat rides. Snake Road is a fabulous fall scenic drive you must experience in this town.

view of fall colors on Lake Geneva Cruise Line boat tour.
view of fall colors on Lake Geneva Cruise Line boat tour.

Holy Hill, WI

  • Address: 1525 Carmel Road, Hubertus, WI 53033
  • Hours: scenic tower opens from May – October (check their website for more details)

Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wisconsin, sets atop one of the highest points in the region, and provides panoramic views of the Kettle Moraine area and its magnificent fall foliage. It is just an hour away from Lake Geneva, so we strongly recommend adding this destination if you plan to visit Lake Geneva for fall colors.

The site itself is home to a beautiful church and a 192-foot scenic tower. Open daily during fall, visitors can access the grounds and the tower for free. The climb to the top of the tower may not be suitable for those with a fear of heights, however, the view is breathtaking.

Fall foliage viewed from Holy Hill in Hubertus Wisconsin.

Best Fall Colors in Central Illinois

Central Illinois may not be the most popular travel destination in the state, but it doesn’t lack places to see amazing fall colors.

Allerton Park & Retreat Center

  • Address: 515 Old Timber Road, Monticello, IL 61856
  • Hours: 8 am – sunset

Tucked away in Monticello, Allerton Park & Retreat Center spans 1,500 acres of woodland, prairie, and gardens. In fall, the park transforms into an explosion of colors, with shades of gold, red, and orange. We will let these beautiful photos of the fall foliage at Allerton Park speak for itself.

Entrance of Allerton Park & Retreat in Monticello IL.
Fall foliage at Allerton Park & Retreat in Monticello Illinois

Homer Lake

  • Address: South Homer Township, IL 61859
  • Hours: opening time is 7 am

Homer Lake Forest Preserve is our favorite place to immerse ourselves in fall’s vivid spectacle. In our opinion, Homer Lake and Allerton Park are the best places to see fall colors for those living in Champaign County who don’t want to travel far for leaf peeping.

The park offers a 3-mile trail that encircles the lake, leading visitors through an array of lively colors. You will take photos non-stop when visiting Homer Lake in fall.

fall foliage along the lake at Homer Lake Forest Preserve in Illinois
fall foliage at Homer Lake - one of the best fall colors in Champaign County, Illinois.

Lake of the Woods

  • Address: 109 S Lake of the Woods Rd, Mahomet, IL 61853
  • Hours: opening time is 7 am

Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is a beloved destination for outdoor enthusiasts in Champaign County. Spanning 900 acres, the park features a picturesque lake, a variety of trails that wind through the colorful fall foliage, and a covered bridge.

the covered bridge at Lake of the Woods in Mahomet, Illinois.

Best Fall Colors in Southern Illinois

Effingham TREC Trail

  • Address: Outer Belt W, Effingham, IL 62401
  • Hours: 24 hours

Effingham TREC trail is a lesser-known spot for fall colors in Illinois, but we strongly recommend a visit if you don’t live too far from it. The trail is a great place for a scenic bike ride or leisurely walk to enjoy the seasonal spectacle. You will also find a lot of photo opportunities.

Foliage at Effingham TREC trail - one of the best fall colors in Southern Illinois.
beautiful fall foliage at Effingham TREC trail in Illinois

Shawnee National Forest

  • Address: Herod, IL 62946

Shawnee National Forest in Herod is home to a variety of trees that create a beautiful fall mosaic. The forest offers miles of hiking trails and numerous campgrounds, all under the colorful canopy of the fall foliage. The Garden of the Gods area is particularly stunning, where the colorful foliage creates a dramatic contrast against the sandstone formations.

Best Time to See Fall Colors in Illinois

The timing for leaf peeping can be affected by several factors, including temperature, rainfall, and daylight. Cooler temperatures and shorter days signal the trees to halt chlorophyll production, allowing other pigments to show through.

While the exact timing can vary slightly each year depending on weather conditions and other environmental factors mentioned above, fall foliage often peaks in mid to late October in Illinois. To make sure you don’t miss the best of fall colors, it’s a good idea to check local foliage reports and forecasts, which will provide up-to-date information on the state of the leaves in different regions.

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