Finding Southern Illinois Fall Colors without the Crowds
Finding southern Illinois fall colors is a popular activity at this very moment. Each transition of summer into fall into winter, southern Illinois fall colors really pop. It is one of those activities many people living in and around southern Illinois really look forward to. Photographers of all levels come out for this relatively short event. However, due to COVID-19 and the push for avoiding larger crowds, finding southern Illinois fall colors can seem almost impossible when attempting to recreate responsibly about it. But never fear, there are plenty of places to see southern Illinois fall colors without having to deal with large crowds and this article will show you a few of those places!
Southern Illinois Fall Colors on Upper Pine Hills Road
Recently, the US Forest Service repaired some washouts on upper Pine Hills Road on the west side of the forest in the LaRue Pine Hills area. With the repairs being completed, the road was reopened after a few years of being closed. There are numerous spots along this road to pull over at and see a beautiful overlook of the west side of southern Illinois. You’ll find that even when a lot of people are out, they’re at the Inspiration Point site of the area and that other numerous overlooks along the road will be empty for your enjoyment. The road is gravel and very easy to drive with practically any type of vehicle including gravel bikes for you hill crushing gravel cyclists!
Click here to get directions to the Upper Pine Hills Road.
Southern Illinois Fall Colors on Fountain Bluff
Fountain Bluff also has some stunning overlooks of the west side of the region that are worth mentioning. This “Big Hill” as it was once called used to be home to a fire watch tower because of it being so high. Now it is widely used for recreation and mostly managed by the US Forest Service (but please pay mind to private property that is in the area). Taking Happy Hollow Road up to the top of the bluff is ideal. Up there, you will easily be able to pull off the road and view the magic of the Mississippi and southern Illinois fall colors. Another great opportunity for the cyclist as well, that is, if you dig hills!
Click here to get directions to Fountain Bluff.
Southern Illinois Fall Colors on Owl Bluff
Over on the east side of southern Illinois, in the Lusk Creek Wilderness of the Shawnee National Forest is an overlook known as Owl Bluff. It views a wide area of the Lusk Creek and is an excellent choice for seeing southern Illinois fall colors for those who want a rugged hike along with their adventure. This is not a drive to and see type of place like the two areas above are. This is about an 8-10-mile rugged hike out and back. While this area is popular by horseback riders and hikers, chances are, the area will have very light visitation like other popular spots will see. If you do decide to hike to Owl Bluff, be sure that you bring plenty of water, snacks and navigational equipment that you know how to use in case you get turned around.
Click here to get directions to Owl Bluff Overlook.
Southern Illinois Fall Colors on Christmas Star Overlook
A few miles along the River to River Trail into the Garden of the Gods Wilderness area from Herod is the Christmas Star Overlook. It is named this because of a decorative Christmas star attached to a tree at the top of the bluff. This part of Garden of the Gods is relatively lightly trafficked aside from dedicated hikers and horseback riders. While everyone is crowding up at the Observation Trail, the Christmas Star Overlook will give you a vast view of the Shawnee National Forest with the likely chance that you will be the only one there. This is a rugged hike and will be about 6 miles in total out and back. Prepare for hills and make sure you bring plenty of snack on and hydrate with. The view is spectacular, though!
There are many different places through out the Shawnee National Forest and even the state parks that offer scenic views of southern Illinois fall colors without the large crowds that often go with it. You just have to get out and explore. But always make sure you are putting safety first and strongly taking into consideration you ability to hike these often, more rugged areas with less people. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and I hope it helps you find a great place to check out southern Illinois fall colors around the forest that I call home! Please feel free to comment, share and like this article!
Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.
Request General Info on Time of Year (range for typical Fall Colors –
Obviously no certainty, but need your best shot so as to reserve campsite time period @ Glendale Lake Rec Area for Base to explore!
It really depends on rain, wind, and all that good stuff – frost and the works.
We’ve had a few bad fall color seasons.
Last year was better. Hoping this year is even better!
I’d plan for the last few weeks of October to be the best times to see the fall colors at their best, especially towards the last week of October.
I hope that helps!
P.s. Even if the colors aren’t that great this year, there is plenty to do down here 🙂 You’ll love it!