9 Illinois State Parks Boasting Vibrant Fall Colors

August 25, 2021

red, gold, and yellow fall leaves in the forest with a text overlay saying 9 Illinois state parks with vibrant fall colors

Illinois State Parks offer a wide range of outdoor experiences, but nothing quite compares to waking up on a cool autumn morning and sipping a hot cup of coffee beneath the stunning fall foliage.  

Start making plans now to ensure you don't miss your window of opportunity to view autumn colors in Illinois this year! 

9 Illinois State Parks with Vibrant Fall Colors

The Land of Lincoln might not be your first thought when making plans to enjoy the changing of the seasons. But these 9 Illinois State Parks will certainly change your mind! 

Ferne Clyffe State Park 

This Illinois State Park sits in a rather remote, southern region of the state near the ever-popular Shawnee National Forest. The 2,430-acre park is home to striking limestone bluffs, caves, and dense woodlands, creating the perfect habitat for gorgeous summer ferns. 

Choose an easy half-mile hike or trek to nearly 700 feet above sea level for a bird's eye view of the spectacular autumn foliage. With numerous hiking trails varying in difficulty and length, Ferne Clyffe State Park is an excellent place to view the colors of fall in Illinois!

Franklin Creek State Natural Area

Directly an hour and half west of Chicago sits more than 900 acres of preserved land in north-central Illinois. The area is home to multiple natural springs, several hardwood groves, and a wide variety of wildlife.  

In the fall, Franklin Creek State Natural Area puts on a delightful display of crisp autumn color. Four and a half miles of trails make this the perfect spot to go exploring on a sunny autumn afternoon in Illinois!

Giant City State Park

Tucked away in the sparsely populated area of southern Illinois sits Giant City State Park—consisting of more than 4,000 acres of incredible natural beauty.  

This Illinois State Park is well-known for its enormous sandstone rock formations. However, with more than 75 varieties of trees in the park, fall foliage certainly steals the show come September and October! 

The neat thing about this park is that it has a lodge, restaurant, and cabins, for visitors to enjoy, too.

Kickapoo State Recreation Area 

Toward the Illinois-Indiana border, you'll find this small state park offering river access and more than 20 deep-water ponds where visitors fish, swim, boat, and even scuba dive!  

Although a popular summertime destination, this Illinois State Park is an excellent place to view the warm hues of fall, too. 

Matthiessen State Park

A popular Illinois State Park just 90 minutes southwest of Chicago is another ideal spot for viewing fall foliage in the Land of Lincoln. 

Matthiessen State Park follows the Vermillion River as it cuts into sandstone outcroppings, leaving behind dramatic drops and even a few cascading waterfalls perfectly accentuated by the reds, yellows and oranges of fall! 

Mississippi Palisades State Park

You certainly won't want to pass up the dramatic transformation of summer to fall at Mississippi Palisades State Park in northwest Illinois along the Mighty Mississippi River. 

Climb to the top of the bluffs when the fall colors are at their prime, and you'll be rewarded with incredible views of the river surrounded by golden fall foliage extending for miles against a wide-open sky! 

Pere Marquette State Park 

Pere Marquette State Park is another park located along the Mississippi, just an hour north of St. Louis, Missouri. Beloved by outdoor enthusiasts, this 8,000-acre park offers something for everyone—from horseback riding, hiking and biking trails, birding, rock climbing, and winter sports, just to name a few. 

The densely forested park puts on a fantastic display in autumn for visitors, too! 

Rock Cut State Park

This Illinois State Park is located just outside of the town of Rockford in the state's north-central region. The park is home to two lakes, hiking trails, and a café.  

Camp here in late September to October and enjoy the crisp autumn air as the sun goes down while sitting around a campfire! 

Starved Rock State Park

Perhaps the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' most popular conservation area, Starved Rock State Park, sits right along the Illinois River, just north of Matthiessen State Park.  

With overlook trails leading to dramatic cliffside vistas along the Illinois River, it's no wonder why this park is a popular stop for autumn foliage seekers! 

Adventures You'll Treasure!

Illinois is known for its diverse natural landscapes and ecologically vital niches. What does this mean for your fall foliage hunt? 

Visit a couple or all of these Illinois State Parks this fall and experience something utterly unique at each one! From dramatic vista views to wildlife encounters and more, you're sure to make unforgettable memories wherever you land. 

And that's precisely why you'll want to pack an Illinois State Parks Bucket List. Record those memories (and more) in this easy-to-use journal to treasure for years to come! 

dirt walking path framed with trees decked out with fall colors. text overlay says 9 Illinois State Parks with vibrant falls colors






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