With fall beginning in a week, here are the best scenic byways in IllinoisWhile temperatures are still warm throughout the state, changing leaves are a sign that fall is on its way.

Illinois offers numerous ways to get out and enjoy the fall season, from taking in breathtaking views along the Great River Road to enjoying vineyards and river cruises near Galena.

Great River Road

Illinois’ Great River Road runs along the western border of the state, paralleling the banks of the Mississippi River. 

Galena, located in far northwestern Illinois, is an ideal fall getaway spot. The Galena area features a 40-mile self-guided Stagecoach Trail, incredible views of the Mississippi River Valley, vineyards and exciting river cruises, offering both wildlife and stunning nature views.

Farther south on the Great River Road is the Meeting of the Great Rivers area, where the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri Rivers all converge in southwestern Illinois.

Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton(left) offers nearly 8,000 acres of rolling hills near the Illinois River. The park includes a lodge and cabins, as well as numerous outdoor activities.

The National Great Rivers Museum in Alton includes more than twenty interactive displays that focus on the history, use and economic importance of the Mississippi River.

Historic National Road

The Historic National Road runs from East St. Louis to Marshall in Eastern Illinois, running along what is sometimes known as the “Road That Built the Nation”.

The Mersinger Pioneer Cabin, an 1859 replica of a typical log home, is on display in Troy and was built by the Troy Historical Society.

Farther east, the Archer House in Marshall was originally built as a stagecoach stop in 1841. Today, the house is used as a bed and breakfast and is the oldest hotel in Illinois.

Historic Route 66

One of the most well-known corridors in America is Route 66. In Illinois, the roadway runs from Chicago to East St. Louis, before passing into St. Louis and eventually leading all the way to California.

While the Chicago region offers world-class entertainment, dining, shopping and sports events, there is much to do and see along the nearly 300 miles of roadway leading to St. Louis.

The Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in PontiacHistoric diners and gas stations, some still functioning, dot the landscape along Route 66. In Dwight, Ambler’s filling station no longer sells gasoline, but instead is now a visitor’s center and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac (left) contains memorabilia from when Route 66 was an important thoroughfare in Illinois.

Route 66 passes through Springfield, where travelers can explore the city’s numerous Lincoln attractions, including Lincoln’s Tomb, the Lincoln Home and the Old State Capitol.

Illinois River Road

The Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway follows the Illinois River through Central Illinois.

Numerous sightseeing opportunities exist on the route, including bird watching in the Anderson Lake State Conservation Area in Astoria, hiking trails with stunning views of the Illinois River at Buffalo Rock State Park in Ottawa as well as at the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in Havana. 

The Illinois River also runs through Peoria and includes the Peoria RiverFront District, which hosts several popular public festivals and fairs.

Ohio River Scenic Byway

The Ohio River forms the southern border of Illinois, running from Cairo to the Illinois/Indiana border.

Cave-In-Rock State Park is located on the Ohio River in far southeastern Illinois. The park contains scenic sightseeing opportunities, as well as hiking, camping and other outdoor activities.

The Shawnee National Forest, the only national forest in Illinois, offers numerous hiking, fishing, horse riding and even zip-lining opportunities. The fall months offer breathtaking views of changing leaves in the forest. 

Garden of the Gods, located in the Shawnee National ForestLocated in the Shawnee National Forest, the Garden of the Gods (left) contains rock formations that are estimated to be over 300 million years old.




For more information on exploring Illinois, please visit the Illinois Tourism website.