With September turning into October and the temperatures starting to dip, beautiful fall colors are not far away. While the best place to see fall colors in the Midwest are found in northern Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota, fall foliage can be found closer to home without the three to four hour drive. A Chicago fall colors guide can help pinpoint the best places to visit.
The destinations are divided into forest preserves, city parks, and river areas. Here are some options within an hour’s drive of your Bush Temple Chicago apartment. For more information and peak times, check out Enjoy Illinois’ guide.
Chicago Fall Colors Guide
Chicago Fall Colors – Forest preserves:
Deer Grove Forest Preserve
Deer Grove Forest Preserve in suburban Palatine and Barrington has a nice network of trails through hardwood forest. You can drive through the forest preserves and hang out in one of the several groves or hike up to six miles on the perimeter trail.
Busse Woods in Schaumburg is another suburban forest preserve with great fall colors. They also have kayaking on some of the small ponds and lakes. Seeing fall colors from the water is a great way to enjoy and see from a different perspective.
Swallow Cliff Forest Preserve – Waterfall Glenn
There are some great forest preserves in the western and southern suburbs as well. Swallow Cliff and Waterfall Glen surround the Des Plaines River near Orland Park and Lemont. Waterfall Glen has a 9.5 mile trail that circles the forest preserve and many more trails are found in Swallow Cliff Woods.
Chicago Fall Colors – Chicago city parks
Green space is hard to come by in the city of Chicago; however, there are a few parks that have hardwood trees that provide nice views of fall foliage. Just pull up a map and look for a green space. Here are a few recommendations.
Hands down the best birding spot in Chicago, Montrose Point is also a nice spot to catch a little fall color. The birding area and trails are nice and compact and can be covered in 15 minutes, but there is plenty to see in the area with a walk along the harbor and a great spot to see the Chicago Skyline.
Humboldt Park in the west Chicago neighborhood of the same name is scenic little park with a lagoon. The only concentrated area of trees is a copse on the island in the lagoon. Other than that, the trees are more spread out, but it is still a scenic area for the city.
Related: Fall colors along the Flambeau River
Washington and Jackson Park
Washington and Jackson Parks create a green ring around Hyde Park and the University of Chicago. Besides the two parks, fall colors can be gorgeous throughout the university area and the lakeshore. This spring the cherry blossoms in Jackson Park were outstanding, so perhaps the fall colors will be equally impressive.
Chicago Fall Colors – River areas
Several rivers flow through the Chicagoland area. Forest preserves are often situated along rivers, so if you target the Chicago River, the Des Plaines River, or the Calumet River, you are sure to find a place to peep some foliage.
North Branch of the Chicago River
The most outstanding section of the Chicago River is the section between Skokie Lagoons and Morton Grove. The river winds through one forest preserve section after another with not much development along the river. There is also a nearby bike trail, so it is easy to access.
Ryerson Woods in Lake County is a beautiful forest preserve along the Des Plaines River tucked in between Riverwoods and Lincolnshire. I enjoyed hiking a loop earlier this spring that ran along the river for a stretch. Besides seeing fall colors, you will most likely see some deer, many birds, and perhaps even a beaver.
Kickapoo Woods situated between Harvey and Riverdale in the south suburbs along the Little Calumet River is another spot for fall color viewing. As you travel up the Little Calumet, you enter Calumet Woods and then Whistler Woods where the Little Calumet enters the main branch.
Chicago Fall Colors Guide – Other areas
Besides forest preserves, city parks, and river areas, a few other places to enjoy fall colors in Chicago include cemeteries and certain neighborhoods. Rosehill and Bohemian Cemetery up north and Oak Woods Cemetery down south feature stands of trees that mixes the macabre with the foliage, which are the two most prominent features of October.
While Chicago is not the greenest city in the world, there are several neighborhoods that feature old hardwood trees providing a green canopy over the street and orange and yellow during the fall. Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, and Logan Square have some beautiful streets.
Chicago features many boulevards that have a green beltway through the middle of the road. These can be found all around the city including Logan Square, Englewood, and Garfield Park.