Here Are the Best Fall Road Trips Across Illinois to Capture Autumn Foliage

Chicagoans and those in the surrounding area will likely see peak autumn colors the second week of October

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As Illinois moves into October and foliage starts to appear, state officials released the best road trips to spot the changing fall colors.

According to the 2021 Fall Color Report from the Illinois Office of Tourism, Chicagoans and those in the surrounding area will likely see peak autumn colors the second week of October.

For those able to venture around Illinois to experience the foliage, IOT released a list of road trip itineraries. Here are some highlights:

  • Frights & Delights in Illinois: Featuring local haunts in the southwest region of the state like the McPike Mansion and Alton Hauntings Tours.
  • Tour of Spookiness and Charm from Rockford to Galena: Highlighting scenic fall sights like the changing leaves at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, sliding into the season on the Alpine Slide at Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena and taking a ghost tour through Historic Main Street in Galena.  
  • Great Pumpkin Country: Showcasing some of Central Illinois’ fun-filled agritourism destinations for families to enjoy like the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, meeting reindeer at Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch in Rantoul and tasting homemade fudge at Flesor’s Candy Kitchen in Tuscola. 
  • Haunted Chicago: Highlighting some spooky stops, stays and views around the city like Historic Water Tower, kayaking along the Chicago River, strolling through Lincoln Park Zoo and a stay at The Drake Hotel.

Visit here for all fall itineraries.

According to a map from Smoky Mountains National Park, the Chicago area has already begun to see patches of fall colors, and will have partial foliage coverage by next week.

The week of Oct. 11 trees around Chicago will likely be nearing their peak of foliage, the map shows, while the fall colors hit their height the week of Oct. 18.

By Oct. 25 into November, most of the foliage will be past its peak throughout Illinois, according to the map.

Here's where IOT said Illinois outside of Chicago will see peak foliage:

  • Great Rivers Country or western border of Illinois: Second week of October
  • Land of Lincoln or central Illinois: Middle of October
  • Trails to Adventure or southeast Illinois: Last week of October

Though temperatures are beginning to drop around Chicago, the leaves changing colors is caused by the decreased levels of sunlight during the day, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The spring and summer sunlight fills the leaves with chlorophyll, which gives them the green appearance, IDNR says. As hours of sunlight drop, the plants receive less chlorophyll, causing them to appear tones of orange, red and yellow.

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