Where to see fall colors in the suburbs

  • The Morton Arboretum has a variety of fall events.

    The Morton Arboretum has a variety of fall events. courtesy of Morton Arboretum

Posted10/9/2018 5:58 AM

The cooler days of fall signal the end of summer but also the approaching arrival of spectacular autumn colors.

And remember, trees aren't the only breathtaking color bearers. Autumn-blooming plants add blues, whites, pinks, golds and purples to the landscape.


Here are venues where you can revel in the changes that mark the season:

Morton Arboretum

The annual Fall Color Festival is celebrated through October with an extensive lineup of returning favorites and new events for all ages. Weekly fall color reports are posted at mortonarb.org so people can plan their trip to see changing trees from more than 40 countries. Other activities include a nature-themed scarecrow trail around scenic Meadow Lake; the Glass Pumpkin Patch offering glassblown art Wednesday through Sunday, Oct. 10-14; "The Grimmest of Ghost Tales" performed live at 3 p.m. Oct. 13, 14, 20 and 21; a cider and ale festival from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 20; and a fall photography walking tour.

Info: The Arboretum is at 4100 Route 53, Lisle, (630) 968-0024. Visit mortonarb.org for specific event dates, times, prices and details.

A self-guided walk at the Chicago Botanic Garden is a good way to see fall colors.
A self-guided walk at the Chicago Botanic Garden is a good way to see fall colors. - courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden
Chicago Botanic Garden

Prime colors usually peak during early October, but there is a nonstop fall show from late summer to late autumn. Take a self-guided fall-color tree walk from the Visitor Center along East Road to see trees competing for attention with brightly blooming perennials and annuals. Check out photo-ready views of lakes, islands and other features. Giant maples ablaze in green and orange, bright red sour gums and the burnished gold of bald cypress, dawn redwood and larch trees are part of an extensive color palette.

Info: The garden is at 1000 Lake-Cook Road, Glencoe. In October, hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., except Oct. 24-28 when the garden will close at 5 p.m. Admission is free. Parking is $25 per car on weekdays and $30 on weekends and holidays. Visit www.chicagobotanic.org/walk/october.

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The Danada Equestrian Center at Danada Forest Preserve provides a majestic sampling of fall colors.
The Danada Equestrian Center at Danada Forest Preserve provides a majestic sampling of fall colors. - courtesy of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
DuPage County Forest Preserve

Color abounds in the forest preserves of DuPage County, and those who work there recommend some particularly scenic must-see sites, such as the view of the Salt Creek Valley at Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook or images of golden grasses, rushes, reeds and sedges reflected on still marsh water at Pratt's Wayne Woods.

Visitors can explore staff favorites for spectacular fall colors and learn about the preserves during special Ranger Discovery Hikes:

• 9 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at Waterfall Glen in Darien

• 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at Greene Valley in Naperville

• 9 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Meacham Grove in Bloomingdale

• 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at Maple Grove in Downers Grove.

Info: All ages; under 18 with an adult. Free. Register at (630) 933-7248 or visit www.dupageforest.org/calendar-of-events.


Lake County Forest Preserve

With nearly 31,000 acres, the district is the second largest in Illinois. And while each preserve is unique, staff favorites for fall color include Independence Grove in Libertyville, Grassy Lake in Lake Barrington, Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth, Ryerson Woods in Riverwoods, Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa and Rollins Savanna in Grayslake.

Programs and events to learn about seasonal changes and catch the blush of fall color include:

• Winter is Coming, 3 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at Van Patten Woods. Describes leaf color changes and how they coincide with signals for animal migration and hibernation. Adults, families with children ages 4 and older. $5 residents, $7 nonresidents.

• Guided hikes, 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14 and 28. All ages. Adult supervision required. Free. No registration. See LCFPD.org/GuidedHLC for locations.

Info: For detailed program descriptions, specific meeting locations, directions and registration, visit LCFPD.org or call (847) 968-3321.

Volo Bog State Natural Area has dramatic vistas in fall.
Volo Bog State Natural Area has dramatic vistas in fall. - courtesy of Bill Batalden
Volo Bog State Natural Area and Moraine Hills State Park

Fall is one of the most dramatic seasons at Volo Bog featuring the gold of tamarack needles, red of poison sumac and the deep green of sphagnum moss. The park includes woods, wetlands, field and prairie. Trail brochures, adapted for each season, are available at the visitor center.

Moraine Hills is near the Fox River and McHenry Dam. Wetlands and lakes make up about half of the 2,200 acres. Pike Marsh is home to many rare plants and Lake Defiance is one of the few glacial lakes in Illinois that has remained largely undeveloped,

Take a fall color walk:

• 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at Volo Bog (meet at visitors center)

• 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at Moraine Hills (meet at Northern Woods playground)

• 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, at Volo Bog.

Info: The Volo Bog is at 28478 W. Brandenburg Road, Ingleside. Moraine Hills is at 1510 South River Road, McHenry. Registration requested by emailing dnr.volobog@illinois.gov or by phone at (815) 344-1294. Give your name, email and phone number. Walk-ins welcome but group size is limited. Visit the parks tab at www.dnr.illinois.gov/. (815) 344-1294.

Cook County Forest Preserve

The largest forest preserve district in the U.S. covers more than 69,000 acres over a wide variety of locations and landscapes.

The district includes 22 dedicated nature preserves, 300 miles of trails, seven major waterways that can be canoed or kayaked, many scenic spots for photography, oak woodlands and savannas, tallgrass prairies and native wetlands providing ample opportunities for a fall color bonanza.

Among them is Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington Hills with the following events:

• A brisk, two-mile hike with a naturalist 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20

• Leisurely wellness walk to unplug at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays, Oct. 13 and Nov. 17.

• Autumn Hues. Take in the colors of the season and learn about the science behind the changes. 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21.

Info: Crabtree is at 3 Stover Road, Barrington Hills. (847) 381-6592. For park district information, call (800) 870-3666.

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