Ottawa, IL is surrounded by plenty of natural wonders, including rivers, forests, bluffs and canyons. Add in the gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows of the changing leaves, and the area’s stunning landscape becomes a must-see every fall season. Here are four of Ottawa’s best spots to hit in order to experience the magnificent fall colors.
Starved Rock State Park
The park is beautiful at any time of the year with its 18 sandstone canyons, 14 cascading waterfalls and abundant wildlife, but Starved Rock State Park truly shines in the fall. In September and October, the park features a vibrant expanse of oak, maple and elm trees with the brightest colors around. Because of the park’s hills and bluffs, the majestic colors appear in a tiered effect that allows viewers to take in more colors at once. Click here for our rentals for your stay.
Every year, Starved Rock holds Fall Colors Weekend. During the event, guides provide free hiking tours which lead to various overlooks and canyons within the park where people can enjoy the breathtaking colors. The 2015 Fall Colors Weekend is Oct. 18–19, with guided tours leaving the Visitor Center at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day.
Matthiessen State Park
Not far from Starved Rock State Park is another state park with prime viewing of fall’s changing colors. Matthiessen State Park offers five miles of trails that wind through fragrant cedar forests and pass by waterfalls and canyons, leading to incredible vantages where you can snap photos of Central Illinois’s stunning beauty.
This 333-acre county park features bluffs, an oak-hickory forest, steep ravines covered in maple trees, and a mixture of other trees scattered throughout along the landscape. With a wide variety of trees and plant life, Catlin Park is one of Ottawa’s hotspots for fall foliage. The park has 14 different trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, so grab your hiking shoes, bicycle or saddle and enjoy a day on the trails surrounded by the magnificent fall scenery.
Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway
Named one of the 30 Great Midwest Fall Color Getaways by Midwest Living, the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway promises some of the best natural sights in Central Illinois. The byway begins in Ottawa at Washington Park and passes through over 100 nature-related sites along the Illinois River Valley on its way to Havana, where the byway ends. Along the trail, you can take in the stunning fall foliage and other natural beauty of the area while making stops in quaint towns along the way. The Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway also passes through Starved Rock State Park, Matthiessen State Park and Catlin Park, making it possible to hit all of Ottawa’s best spots for fall colors in one trip.