Best Scenic Routes for Chasing Fall Colors in Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois fall colors
Southern Illinois fall colors

As autumn paints the landscapes of Southern Illinois with a vibrant palette of reds, oranges, and yellows, embarking on a scenic drive becomes an enchanting adventure. The region’s rolling hills, charming small towns, and diverse woodlands create the perfect backdrop for a fall foliage road trip. Here are some of the best routes to experience the breathtaking fall colors of Southern Illinois:

Shawnee Hills Scenic Byway: A Journey Through Nature’s Gallery

The Shawnee Hills Scenic Byway is a 109-mile route that winds through the heart of Southern Illinois. This picturesque drive takes you through the Shawnee National Forest, where the lush trees burst into a symphony of colors. As you wind your way through the hilly terrain, you’ll encounter overlooks, forests, and rock formations that provide stunning views of the fall colors in Southern Illinois.

Illinois Route 127: Rolling Hills and Farmland Beauty

Route 127 runs north-south through the region, offering a scenic drive that passes through small towns and picturesque farmland. The gently rolling hills become a canvas of fall colors, making this route a serene and relaxing option for fall color viewing.

Illinois Route 146: River Views and Autumn Hues

Following Route 146 allows you to enjoy the fall colors while glimpsing the beauty of the Ohio River. As you drive along this route, you’ll pass through charming towns like Golconda and admire the colorful leaves against the backdrop of the river.

Garden of the Gods Road: Sandstone and Fall Foliage Fusion

For a shorter yet incredibly scenic drive, Garden of the Gods Road is a must. This road takes you through the Shawnee National Forest, leading to the iconic Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. The sandstone formations provide a stunning contrast to the vibrant leaves, creating a truly unique visual experience.

Illinois Route 13: Urban and Natural Beauty

Route 13 stretches from the Mississippi River to the Wabash River, passing through Carbondale and Marion. This route offers a blend of urban and natural beauty, with opportunities to admire fall foliage both in town and along the way.

Cache River Scenic Drive: Wetlands and Fall Splendor

If you’re looking for a route that takes you through wetlands and forests, the Cache River Scenic Drive is a fantastic choice. As you drive through the Cache River State Natural Area, you’ll witness the unique beauty of cypress swamps adorned with fall colors.

Illinois Route 3: River Bluffs and Autumn Vistas

Route 3 runs parallel to the Mississippi River, offering stunning views of river bluffs and colorful leaves. This route takes you through towns like Cairo and Chester, where you can soak in the beauty of fall in both natural and historical settings.

Embarking on a fall color drive through Southern Illinois is a journey of visual delight. The changing leaves, rolling landscapes, and charming towns create a sensory experience that captures the essence of autumn’s magic. Whether you choose one of these routes or create your own adventure, the fall foliage in Southern Illinois promises a memorable and captivating road trip.

Check out the blog here on Best Places to see Fall colors in the USA.


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