Fall in Midwest: Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois

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The beauty of autumn is seen best here in the Midwest.  Our temperatures tend to stay warm long enough to dry out the leaves. Then we get our first frost just early enough to make those leaves crisp.  I learned this a long time ago from my Grandma. Yet it never made sense to me until a few years ago when I really stopped and gazed at the beauty of Fall in the Midwest. Read on to find out where to catch the colors of fall in Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois.

Fall in Midwest

Fall in Midwest

Ah who doesn’t love fall?  The fresh autumn air. The leaves turning. Fall in the Midwest really starts at the end of September. Then Mid October Autumn blazes into full color. By early November most of our trees and plants have died back giving us that bare look.  When I say full color I mean those raging reds, warm oranges, and crisp browns that make you want to throw on a sweater and go for a hike – but where are you going? Take in the best fall colors in the midwest. Read on for where to go to catch the beauty of autumn in Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas.

Where to See Autumn’s Beauty in Missouri

Just outside of Cape Girardeau, Missouri offers a family-friendly hiking trail, a chance to learn the history of the Trail of Tears State Park , and discover the perfect place for camping.  At the lookout point, experience a spectacular view of the Mighty Mississippi. Catch a boat or two going up the river. As you gaze across the river, see into Illinois. From the right angle you can see into Illinois,and catch glimpse of the Bald Knob Cross surrounded by the beauty of autumn colors.  

Bald Knob Cross surrounded by The Shawnee National Forest, Photo shot from Trail of Tears Park in Missouri
Bald Knob Cross surrounded by The Shawnee National Forest, Photo shot from Trail of Tears Park in Missouri by Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

Pink rocks surrounded by the warm colors of autumn; if you have seen this view, you have visited Amidon Conservation Area in Madison County, Missouri.  Often referred to as “Pink Rock,” in the summer, Amidon is known for its swimming hole, but as the leaves turn colors, the views become amazing.  From every angle, a painted picture of autumn reflects off the water, mixed with unique pink granite rocks. Truly a worthwhile view to stop to photograph.


Step back in time at Alley Springs Park just outside of Eminence, Missouri – inside the park sits Alley, Alley General Store, and Story’s Creek One Room Schoolhouse and as the leaves change colors these buildings offer a beautiful backdrop for picture perfect moments.

Whether you want 30 minutes of autumn’s beauty or 5 days, Katy Trail State Park can offer you that and everything between.  Katy Trail State Park is a 237-mile trail that stretches across almost all of Missouri – you can ride the entire trail, or just pick a section to visit for the day.

Visit the highest point in Missouri at Taum Sauk Mountain State Park The park is located in the St. Francois Mountains and gives a great location for a rugged autumn hike. The park is gorgeous any time of the year, but during the fall, it will take your breath away.  At the bottom of the mountain is one of the few Missouri waterfalls. If you hike after a wet spell you will see the water pouring from the mountain.

See the beauty from a boat at Lake Girardeau Conservation Area, perfect for a fall fishing trip. Lake Girardeau is surrounded by trees, and when the weather turns cooler, those trees turn colors. The area also offers camping, picnic areas, and if you do not own a boat – there is a dock to fish from.

Mingo National Wildlife Refuge
Mingo National Wildlife Refuge, Photo Credit Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

Take a walk down the boardwalk at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. This is also known as the Missouri Swamp area home to a large variety of plants and wildlife.  The area features several picnic spots, a great place to ride bicycles, a nature center to visit, and multiple trails to view the stunning fall colors of Missouri trees.

Giant elephant rocks surrounded by tons of autumn beauty. Elephant Rock State Park is one of Missouri’s most family friendly parks.  The giant boulder offers a huge natural playground for families . At the lookout point in the park. you can see miles of beauty.

Where to View Fall Colors in Illinois 

Nestled in Shawnee National Park sits Giant City State Park with all its unique sandstone structures.  The park’s history dates back as far as the Civil War and as you navigate through the park you can find dates etched in the giant rocks.  The park offers trails, picnic areas, a nature center to visit, and a lodge that serves a mouthwatering lunch.

45 miles from Harrisburg to Karnak, Illinois is the Tunnel Hill Trail – the trail is a former railway that has been turned into a bike trail perfect for families.   Tunnel Hill navigates through some of the most beautiful areas of Illinois.

In midst of Alto Pass, Illinois sits the 111-foot-tall Bald Knob Cross that is visible, when lit at night, over an area of 7,500 square miles.  The cross alone is breathtaking and something to see – very peaceful, and surrounded by miles of beauty.  However, from the point of the cross you can gaze out on the beauty of the Shawnee National Forest.

Fall in Midwest Trail of Tears State Park
Trail of Tears State Park Photo Credit Becky Davenport, Budget Traveling Mom

Known for its beauty and also nestled in the Shawnee National Forest is the Garden of the Gods.  Beautiful rock formations surrounded by the changing tree colors.  The Garden of the Gods has 5.5 miles of interconnecting trails – perfect for an all day hike.

Fall Colors of Arkansas

Just far enough north that they can be considered in the Midwest, but if you drive too far south in Arkansas you will be too warm for the beautiful trees.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a unique town in itself; secluded and peaceful with winding mountainside streets.  Along the winding streets built into the mountains are beautiful trees that will soon turn to the bright colors of fall.  Eureka is a great town for walking, shopping, and dining – however, the entire town seems to run on banker’s hours and they roll up the streets at 6 pm – so plan ahead if you want to eat a late dinner.

Arkansas also offers a few scenic routes that are known to show off Arkansas’ fall.  Crowley’s Ridge Parkway National Scenic Byway – runs Crowley Ridge, it begins in the northeast corner of St. Francis running along the ridge to West Helena.  The Great River Road National Scenic Byway winds through the eastern portion of the state, almost parallel with the Mississippi River from Blytheville Arkansas to Eudora, Arkansas.

Where is your favorite fall destination? Have I missed one in the Midwest that I should visit?

Fall in Midwest

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