Oct 15, 2023 - Things to Do

Best places to see fall foliage around Chicago

Photo of trees

Lincoln Park is a great place to see the colors turn. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

It's prime time for vibrant foliage in metro Chicago.

  • Use our cheat sheet to peep the best leaves.

Hyde Park

South Side, Chicago

Photo of fall foliage in front of a house
The University of Chicago. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The home of the University of Chicago, Promontory Point and nearby Jackson Park give you all the fall feelings, transporting you to New England without having to leave the city. Even the ivy on the sides of the buildings burns red and orange. It's breathtaking.

Graceland Cemetery

North Side, Chicago

Photo of a tomb surrounded by trees
Potter Palmer's monument at the cemetery. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The final resting place for some of Chicago's most famous residents is also an awesome, if lesser-known, spot for taking in the changing colors.

  • Recommended by Dana T., Graceland is a trove of Chicago history and beauty, nestled between Lakeview and Uptown.
  • Make a day of it by heading over to Uncommon Ground across the street.

Starved Rock State Park

Oglesby, Illinois

Photo of trees along a river
Starved Rock State Park. Photo courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism

The sprawling, 700-acre nature preserve, hiking trail and campground is a state gem. There are dozens of tree varieties (hence dozens of leaf types) to take in, plus the local charm of Ottawa, across the river to the north.

  • Mark P. has been leaf-peeping in Starved Rock for 20 years and recommends going early in the day.

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

Willow Springs, Illinois

Photo of a man standing on the porch of an old house
Justin in front of the schoolhouse. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios

The nature center is a great place for kids to learn about our area's environment and habitat, but don't sleep on the trails behind the center. The expansive preserve gives you changing leaves for days, just off the hustle and bustle of I-55.

  • Patricia M. says she heads out of Chicago in all directions and likes to look for rivers and waterfalls when peeping leaves. LaGrange and Orland Park aren't far, offering lots of exploring opportunities.

Red Arrow Highway

Southwestern Michigan

Photo of a a walking path in nature
Galien County Park in Southwestern Michigan. Photo courtesy of the Southwest Michigan Tourist Council

The winding roads of Southwest Michigan are wonderful anytime of the year (OK, maybe not during a snowstorm). From New Buffalo to Kalamazoo, the Red Arrow Highway serves up unbelievable fall foliage and views.

  • Most people bypass this road because it stops, starts and changes names as visitors make their way to their Michigan coastline destinations, but don't make that mistake. It's a wonderful Sunday drive just a mere hour or so outside of downtown Chicago with several great pit stops nearby.

Honorable mentions: Lincoln Park, Morton Arboretum (Lisle), Swallow Cliff Woods (Palos Township), Chicago Botanic Garden and Sheridan Road (Glencoe), The Indiana Dunes, and Prairie Springs Park (Wisconsin).


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more