The best local spots to view the Fall color

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Get ready! We’re in for quite a show this Fall season. Not only is this due to our geography, but the weather too. Click here to see the peak times for color and a look at why the leaves change color. And we’re lucky to live in a part of the world known for it’s beauty this time of year. As a Northern Illinois native, I am going to list my three top spots for seeing Fall color. It’s up to YOU to help me complete the list. Please share your destinations and pics with me on Facebook, Twitter or E-Mail.

In no particular order:

  • Mississippi Palisades State Park – Savanna, Illinois. A favorite spot for many people in the Fall season thanks to the gigantic bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The park is just an hour north of the Quad Cities along Illinois Route 84.
  • Castle Rock State Park – Oregon, Illinois. A picturesque spot along the Rock, just upriver from John Deere’s home in Grand Detour. The park straddles the Rock River with the most popular spots being west of the river along Illinois Route 2.
  • Lowden State Park – Oregon, Illinois. Home of the famous Chief Blackhawk statue that overlooks the Rock River Valley. The best views are across the river from a landing along Illinois Route 2. Note: The statue is currently undergoing maintenance and is surrounded by scaffolding at last check.
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Beautiful reflection of Chief Blackhawk near Oregon, Illinois. Submitted by Patrick Frisk.

  • Maquoketa Caves State Park – Maquoketa, Iowa. This is a fan favorite, especially for families. While the outside temperatures cool, the caves stay relatively comfortable. The bluffs, trails, and bubbling creek are especially beautiful with falling leaves.
  • Loud Thunder Forest Preserve – Andalusia, Illinois. Thanks to Ashlee and Anthony Wennmacher recommend this picture-perfect spot not far outside of Rock Island. Lake George is a beautiful spot any time of year for kayaking and fishing. Even more so with Fall color.
  • Geode State Park – Danville, Iowa. This state park is only a few minutes drive west of Burlington, Iowa. The lake offers plenty of fishing and great vistas of the hills around Southeastern Iowa. If you’re lucky and know where to look, you might even find a few geodes in the sides of hills.
  • Starved Rock State Park – LaSalle County, Illinois. This park is known for incredible canyons and waterfalls. Located about an hour’s drive due east of the Quad Cities, it is a great place to see some tremendous Fall color. On less-visited weekdays, you will also see plenty of wildlife!
  • Mississippi Rapids Rest Stop- Illinois Welcome Center – Hampton, Illinois. Thousands of people pass by this interstate rest area each day. Personally, I have never thought about stopping. But a quick look at Google Maps shows a unique vista over the Mississippi River. Jeanette Price from Carbon Cliff tells me it’s worth a drive. It’s only on the eastbound side of I-80. So if you’re going west, you have to exit Illinois Route 84 and make two lefts.
  • Blackhawk State Historic Site – Rock Island, Illinois. Tammy Loranger says you don’t have to leave the city of Rock Island to see the best. Blackhawk State Park is one of my favorites in the region. The colors are superb and the walking trails are great for taking the kids and dogs for a walk.
  • Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive – Fulton County, Illinois. Thanks to Carrie Blair for sharing a favorite. Fulton County is a scenic destination the first two weekends of October.
  • Knox County Scenic Drive – Knox County, Illinois.
  • Nauvoo, Illinois. Illinois Route 96 is beautiful every time of the year. Especially so when the hills, valleys, and bluffs along the wide river come alive with Fall color. Also of interest is the Mormon temple, the waterfalls, and small towns of Lomax and Dallas City.
  • Jo Daviess County, Illinois. History is on full display around the town of Galena. The last ice age left Jo Daviess County alone, leaving behind steep hills and valleys. Stagecoach Trail from Galena to Warren is a definite drive, as is Blackjack Road south of Galena.
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A quiet country lane near Scales Mound, Illinois. Submitted by Melisa Pehl.

  • Eagle Point Park – Clinton, Iowa. Thanks to Mary Outzen for adding this beautiful park to our list. She points out that it’s a great place to visit when the leaves are changing and you can even drive through much of it. A quick glance online shows a waterfall and several statues. Great for picture-taking!

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