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Glorious Fall Colors Have Arrived in the Forest Preserves

Photo for: Glorious Fall Colors Have Arrived in the Forest Preserves

Photo by Suzy Lyttle

Just when we needed a boost to our spirits, Mother Nature is providing an outdoor feast for our eyes with a beautiful array of fall colors.   

"It is glorious right now," said Suzy Lyttle, a program coordinator for the Forest Preserve District. Lyttle has been out assessing the preserves looking for areas that are ripe with color. 

"I hiked to the big bridge at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve last weekend, and then scouted Hickory Creek Preserve and Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve on Tuesday," Lyttle said. "The maples, shagbark hickories, and basswoods are bright and golden yellow. And the oaks are starting to turn deep reds."

Lyttle said she has noticed that the treetops are turning a more intense hue than the rest of the tree. 

"This is because they have more access to the sun," she explained. "The sun makes the leaves produce more sugars and the sugars bring out the pigments."

Now is the perfect time to head outside, she added. 


"My favorite thing when hiking in the fall is the raining leaves. I think it is so peaceful to see them gracefully float to the ground."

Weather and frost can affect the fall colors, so don't delay your leaf peeping trips.

A tree's species also determines which hues you will see, said Bob Bryerton, a Forest Preserve program coordinator. Oaks turn reddish brown or russet, he explained. Hickories turn a yellow or gold color. Sugar maples turn yellow, orange and red. Silver maples generally turn yellow, but can show some red or orange. Hackberry turns yellowish and cherry trees turn yellow and rose in the fall. Ash trees tend to turn yellow.

Some of the best forest preserve spots for fall color excursions are:

Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve: The sled hill provides a good vantage point to view the large edge of the woods from up high. At Snapper Pond you can see the leaves reflected in the water and there is a good mix of trees. The Plum Creek Greenway Trail has several good locations including the big bridge and the trail portion south of Meadowlark Shelter, which features a field at the forest's edge.

Hammel Woods: Black Road Access is home to many sugar maples that will provide bright orange, yellow and red colors. The natural surface trail to the north of Hidden Shelter also makes for a colorful fall trip through the bluffs.


Hickory Creek Preserve: Hickory Creek Barrens Nature Preserve is stunning because of the rolling landscape of prairie in front of towering oaks. Behind the pavilion at Hickory Creek Junction, an open prairie provides a good sightline to the woodland edge, which displays vibrant color all the way along the bikeway to the creek.


McKinley Woods: The oaks in this preserve turn a dark maroon-brown color. There also are a few cottonwood and hickory trees that turn yellow. A good place to view the trees at this location is the Heritage Trail loop that is located next to Frederick's Grove Shelter in the lower parking lot.

Messenger Woods Nature Preserve: The oldest preserve in the District, Messenger Woods features many mature trees that put on an impressive fall color display.


Monee Reservoir: The silver maples, oaks and hickories that line the lake provide a good autumn show.

Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve: A large number of maple trees are mixed into the forest along the road and on the edge of the preserve, which provides a brilliant fall feast for the eyes. The oaks and hickories in the interior add to the colorful mix.


Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.


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