Best Views for Fall Foliage

in the Middle Mississippi River Valley
 
Visitors to the Middle Mississippi River Valley will find an assortment of ways to view the spectacular fall foliage. Whatever your mode of transportation, be it by car, ferry, bike, or by foot, there are great places in the area where fall awaits you! The following are recommended sites or routes and are listed from north to south.
   

Mark Twain Lake
Ralls County, MO
  With 18,000 acres of natural lands there are plenty of opportunities to catch fall color whether on a drive, a hike, or from one of the many scenic overlooks.
Little Dixie Highway
Pike County, MO
  Pike County is located about an hour's drive north of St. Louis and lies between the Mississippi River and the northeast plains of Missouri. The eastern region that borders the Mississippi is dominated by the Lincoln Hills, an area that resembles the rugged and forested hills of the Ozarks. The Great River Road, MO-79, through this region has been designated the Little Dixie Highway of the Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway, as it travels over the bluffs and visits the river towns of Clarksville and Louisiana.
County Roads
Pike County, MO
  Clarksville is the anchor of a Missouri State Scenic Byway that starts just south of downtown and winds it way through the rural landscape of Pike County on Route W to Paynesville and then onto Route WW through Edgewood to US Highway 61.
Highway 94 & the KATY Trail State Park
St. Charles County, MO
  Travelers in St. Charles County can find fall colors, vineyards, and quaint villages along the Weinstrasse, "The Wine Road," as scenic Highway 94 is called. Visit Klondike Bluffs Park or bike along the Katy Trail as it follows the Missouri River.
  Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton, IL
Illinois’ largest state park prides itself in the panoramic views it has to offer. Take the scenic drive that starts near the Visitors Center and travel to the bluff tops where there are four scenic overlooks with convenient parking areas. Near the first outlook is access to the Hickory Hiking Trail, a fairly level trail where hikers can stroll through the beauty that season has to offer and provides access to several more scenic overlooks.
Any of the ten hiking trails that the Park maintains will provide hikers with an up close and personal experience with the fall foliage season. Fall colors are more than just leaves. Wildflowers in bloom this time of year include false dragonhead, boneset, goldenrod, wood sorrel and aster. Fruits coming to maturation include pokeberry, autumn olive and sumac. Guided tours are offered periodically by the Park staff. For more information on the tours or any of the other events the Park offers check out the Park’s Calendar Page.
  Middle Mississippi Valley Ferries
Catch the view while crossing the Illinois and Mississippi rivers on any of the five ferries that provide access to Calhoun and Jersey Counties in Illinois and St. Charles and Lincoln Counties in Missouri. For a round trip journey on four ferries through Calhoun County start in Grafton and follow the Scenic Byway to Kampsville, where a free ferry crosses the Illinois River. Take Highway 100 to Hardin and then follow County Road 1 as it passes the Blue Ridge bluffs and look for signs leading to Batchtown and the Winfield Ferry. After crossing the Mississippi River into Missouri take County Road N to MO-79 before heading south for County Road C and signs leading to the Golden Eagle Ferry. After another crossing of the Mississippi, follow the signs for Brussels until you intersect with County Road 1 and take a right, which will lead you to the Brussels Free Ferry. End your trip with a meal, refreshments or shopping in Grafton or a visit to Pere Marquette State Park. An $11.00 round trip fee applies to each of the Winfield and Golden Eagle ferries. Ferry ride rates are subject to change.

Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail
Jersey & Madison
Counties, IL
  This 20- mile bike trail parallels the Mississippi and Illinois rivers as they pass by the limestone bluffs that characterize the area. Start near the Piasa Bird in Alton and visit the river towns of Elsah and Grafton before ending at Pere Marquette State Park. This bike trail is paved with an easy grade with the exception for the area just west of Grafton.
Elsah
Madison County, IL
  Stroll through this town which was is the only town to be designated in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places because of its abundance of 19th century buildings and homes. The fall season provides an extra measure of charm.
Olin Nature Preserve
Godfrey, IL
  Located on the top of the Mississippi bluffs in Godfrey, the Olin Nature Preserve is a 300-acre Illinois Nature Preserve with wide trails through woodlands and native hill prairies, and contains several scenic views overlooking the Mississippi River.
  Fall Color Brochure
The Alton Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau has created a wonderful brochure with a map and details to scenic country drives that are noted for their fall colors. Each of these rides highlights a different quality of the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway area. The rides featured are Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route – the most traveled route from Alton through Elsah and Grafton to Pere Marquette State Park; The US 67 Country Loop – Considered the best country day drive in Illinois. Along with the river bluffs this route visits Jerseyville and Calhoun County; Calhoun County Vista & Ferries Loop – This loop features the ferries of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and scenic Calhoun County. The route maps include the locations of popular attractions, ferries, roadside stands, and orchards while the accompanying directions give greater detail and additional information. To obtain a brochure you can pick one up at the Alton Visitors Center, 200 Piasa Street in downtown Alton across the street from the grain elevators, call 1-800-258-6645 and request a free copy to be mailed to you, or download the brochure at visitalton.com.

Stone Bridges Tour
Monroe County, IL
  The landscape of Monroe County is dotted with a number of European-style stone arch bridges. greatriverroad.com has put together an easy driving tour to see five of these structures. The scenery along this route winds its way through scenic farmlands, colorful forests, through the historic town of Maeystown, and beneath the bluffs along the American Bottom lowlands. This stone bridge route is especially nice during autumn.
Hawn State Park
12096 Park Drive
Ste. Genevieve County, MO
573-883-3603
  With pine and oak forests, sandstone bluffs and canyons, and clear sand-bottom streams, this nearly 5,000 acre park is considered on of the most scenic in Missouri. The park has many nature trails, picnic areas and a campground for those who wish to get out and enjoy nature.
Pickle Springs
Natural Area

Dorlac Road
Ste. Genevieve County, MO
  Designated a National Natural Landmark, this area has geologic features and plants that occur in few other places which are punctuated by stands of oaks, maples, and hickories.

Route du Vin
Ste. Genevieve County, MO
  Autumn is a great time to travel the Route du Vin, an easy hour long loop through the forested hills and farmland of Ste. Genevieve County that features 5 wineries.
   
Perry County, MO   Perry County is a county that typifies rural Missouri. The history of early Missouri can be explored at such locations as the Lutheran Heritage Center, St. Mary's of the Barrens, and the Saxon Lutheran Memorial. Tower Rock Conservation Area provides a viewing platform that offers a scenic view of Tower Rock, a small landmark limestone noted by early explorers such as Marquette and Joliet and the Corps of Discovery. A day trip through Perry County in autumn will reward visitors with plenty of splashes of color amidst the rolling farmland.
   
Shawnee Hills National Forest   The Shawnee Hills National Forest in Southern Illinois provides some of the best autumn color in the Middle Mississippi River Valley. The rolling forested hills and river bluffs of this Ozark country provide a variety of scenery and fall color opportunities. The area is home to the popular Shawnee Hills Wine Trail where visitors can relax in natural settings while sampling great domestic wines. The region also holds a number of festivals during the season. The best colors occur in late October but the leaves start to turn in September. Learn more about Jackson, Union and Alexander Counties.
   
Bald Knob Mountain
3630 Bald Knob Cross Road
Alto Pass, IL
618-893-2344
  Bald Knob Mountain is the highest point in Southern Illinois and offers wonderful views, particularly in the fall. This site is the location of the Bald Knob Cross of Peace which provides a visitors center and picnic areas.
   
The lakes of Union and Jackson Counties   The Illinois counties of Union and Jackson are blessed with three lakes that are publicly maintained. Hiking, nature watching, picnicking, horseback riding, fishing, and camping opportunities can be found at Lake Murphysboro State Park, Lake Kinkaid, Johnson Creek Recreational Area, and Cedar Lake. All three provide excellent opportunities to experience the regions fall colors.
   
Trail of Tears State Park
429 Moccasin Springs
Jackson, MO
573-290-5268
  Mature forests cover much of this 3,415-acre park providing visitors with great views of autumn colors. The park offers camping, fishing, swimming, hiking, backpacking, primitive camping and equestrian pursuits. A platform overlooking the Mississippi River gives stunning views of the river and the surrounding countryside.
   
Columbus-Belmont State Park
350 Park Road
Columbus, KY
270-677-2327
  Columbus-Belmont State Park is located on the site of a Confederate fortification built during the Civil War to prevent Union forces from using the Mississippi River. This 156-acre tree covered park includes a Civil War Museum, a river cliff campground, and hiking trails. The park also offers a great view from the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi just south of its confluence with the Ohio River.
   
FEATURED ATTRACTIONS ALONG THE GREAT RIVER ROAD
Jacoby Arts Center
Alton, Illinois
Cahokia Mounds
State Historic Site
Lewis and Clark
State Historic Site
National Great
Rivers Museum
     




 
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