When the sky bursts into the colors of fire, it’s time to get outside.
Whether you are looking to just stare at the magnificent display or feel the leaves crunch beneath your feet, Illinois has several stops that won’t disappoint.
With fields to the north, south, east and west, some of East Central Illinois’ best fall foliage viewing is provided by the vast forests of the Champaign County Forest Preserve.
Lake of the Woods
Want to see the fall colors from above the treeline? Climb the six-story bell tower at the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve. You’ll get a 360-degree view of the one of earth’s greatest shows.
Hiking and Biking Trails
There’s so much to see in the fall. And the Champaign County Forest Preserve’s paved trails allow persons of all ages and abilities access to nature’s glory. For those who are more adventurous, offshoots of the paved paths will take hikers along the Sangamon River and through the tall prairie grass.
Sangamon River Forest Preserve and Riverbend Forest Preserve
Watching the fall sunset dance across the water at the Riverbend Forest Preserve is a favorite pastime of those looking for a relaxing evening in the Mahomet area. Hikers also enjoy the sound of leaves under their feet as they journey down paths near the Sangamon River at the Sangamon River Forest Preserve and the Riverbend Forest Preserve. But don’t forget to venture outside the forest into the fall prairie grass. You may hear a pheasant or a wild turkey nearby!
An East Central Illinois favorite any time of the year, Allerton Park offers over 1,500 acres of forest, statues and gardens that will make you feel like you’re in a different land. With the Allerton Mansion and over 14-miles of hiking trails along the Sangamon River, every visitor is certain to find their perfect fall experience.
You’d miss it if you didn’t know it’s there, but Sangamon Park, located on N 1450 East Road near Mansfield, is the perfect spot to escape the world, if only for a few minutes, to hike amongst the trees and take in the Sangamon River from above.
Meadowbrook Park and Busey Woods
Want to stay in Champaign-Urbana? Meadowbrook Park and Busey Woods will provide that fall nature experience you’re looking for without the drive.
Kickapoo State Park
Once stark surface mined banks are now covered with a forest of cottonwood, haw, ash and wild cherry trees. A bottomland forest of sycamores and silver maples and upland timbers of stately oaks, hickories, beeches, sugar maples and dogwoods are an endless source of fascination for nature lovers and habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. The variety, number and mix of hardwood species present in Kickapoo’s upland and bottomland forests translate into a firestorm of fall color each autumn.
Homer Lake Forest Preserve
Getting up early in the morning to see the fall foliage and watch the steam rise off of Homer Lake will put anyone in the mood for the change of the seasons. With 892 acres for hiking, picnicking, boating and fishing, Homer Lake Forest Preserve is the perfect spot to lay summer to rest.
And being a dark sky destination, viewing the fall sky has never looked better in East Central Illinois.
1,700 acres filled with hundreds of thousands of trees from 40 countries makes the Morton Arboretum a must-stop family destination each fall.
With activities like the Troll Hunt, Glass Pumpkin Patch, Tram Rides, Walking Plays, Family Jack O’ Lantern Hikes, the Scarecrow Trail and a Fall Color Festival, the Morton Arboretum provides weekend fun for every visitor.
Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Park
Canyons, streams and prairie with access to lookout points over the Illinois River, Starved Rock and its sister park, Matthiessen State Park is a hidden gem amongst the corn and soybean fields in Central Illinois.
On October 20, visitors can join others who want to learn about tree identification, how the leaves change colors and the history and geology of Starved Rock during a free guided hike to see the spectacular colors of Fall. Hikes leave the State Park’s Visitor Center at 10 am.
Shawnee National Forest
An abundance of trees between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers draws visitors to Shawnee National Forest year-after-year to view the display of orange, yellow, red and brown from underneath and above the treeline.
As if that’s not enough to see, the park also contains bald eagles, waterfalls, a sand cave, Little Grand Canyon, Heron Pond and breathtaking rock formations in the Garden of the Gods.
Great River Road
As the warm summer months turn cool, and the fields lose their moisture, the Mississippi River calls to visitors with a brilliant display of fall colors.
Whether you’re looking to take a cruise down the Mississippi River to experience the grand display, to hop from town to town, sampling quaint restaurants and antique shops or to hike through sacred Native American spaces, a trip down the Great River Road will leave you wanting to return for more.
Not too far away in Indiana….
Just to the east of the flat fields on Illinois lies Indiana, with plenty of corn and soybean fields, but also blessed with hills.
Just over the Illinois/Indiana border, it’s not difficult to find a spot where you can view the canopy for fall foliage.
Battle Ground, Indiana
One of the best-kept secrets of the Lafayette area is Battle Ground Indiana, where you can not only learn about American history, but you can also watch the soft afternoon light shimmer through the yellow Poplar trees. Whether you climb Prophets Rock, located on Prophets Rock Road, visit Prophetstown State Park or walk through the Tippecanoe Battlefield Memorial (which is actually the best place to go for fall foliage), Battle Ground, Indiana will provide you with an experience you won’t forget.
Eagle Creek State Park
Located on the east side of Indianapolis, Eagle Creek State Park is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle. Whether you’re looking for a stroll around the lake, to sit and watch the birds from the Bird Sanctuary or are interested in climbing among the leaves through a zip line experience, there’s something for everyone to do during the day at Eagle Creek State Park.
Turkey Run State Park
A hiker’s paradise, Turkey Run State Park does not disappoint. Especially in the fall. Spend hours with your friends and family on trails that take you through sandstone cliffs and creeks as you look up at the warm colors above.
And while you’re in Parke County, take a gander through the country roads to view one of the 31 covered bridges throughout the county!
Brown County State Park
Everything about Brown County says fall. From antique shops, to 16,000 acres that includes hiking trails, lookout points, scenic drives and horseback riding tours, Brown County is where visitors go to get up close and personal with fall.