Alton Area Roads Among The Best For Fall Colors

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ALTON – It’s that time of year when a fall drive is a thing of beauty.

Illinois has more than 200 tree species, including ash, hickory, maple, and oak. The peak time to see their changing colors is around the second week of October through the middle of the month.

The Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau has selected three autumn-colored routes considered among the best in the Midwest to satisfy the eyes:

— The scenic route of the Meeting of the Great Rivers, about 60 miles round trip, is the most traveled route. Head west on the Great River Road (Illinois 100) from Alton to Elsah, Grafton and Pere Marquette State Park and back. The average weekend warrior takes this ride because it’s the easiest ride to remember, but it has the heaviest traffic on fall Saturdays and Sundays.

— Calhoun County vistas and ferries include rolling hills, winding roads, orchards and river ferries. Once in Calhoun County, continue on the Illinois River Road for 22 miles, through the village of Brussels, then to Hardin and across the Hardin Joe Paige Lift Bridge. After crossing the bridge, continue on Illinois 100/16. Continue on the loop turning left and heading north on Eldred Road. At Eldred, turn left onto Illinois 108 and cross the Illinois River via the free ferry to Kampsville. In Kampsville, turn left onto Route 100 and continue south to Hardin and cross the Joe Paige Lift Bridge. Once across the bridge, continue south on Route 100 to Pere Marquette State Park and back to Grafton.

— The U.S. 67 Country Loop is rated by the Tourist Board as the state’s best country day drive. Enter anywhere along this loop, but remember to drive counter-clockwise and see the Scenic Byway as you descend the river, where the view of the cliffs is best. Take US 67 north through Alton to Godfrey. Go north on US 67 to Jerseyville.

The full day itinerary represents a loop of approximately 100 miles. In Jerseyville, turn west at Illinois 16. Travel through Jersey County to the intersection of Illinois 16 and 100. Turn north and take the paved road to Eldred. Go west on Illinois 108 and take the free ferry to Kampsville. Head south on Illinois 100 (Great River Road) and back down into Calhoun County. Proceed south over the Hardin Bridge and return to the intersection of Illinois 16 and 100 and take Illinois 100 South. This parallels the Illinois River and takes drivers directly to Pere Marquette State Park. Continue south on Illinois 100, but it will continue east as the Great River Road bends back down to Grafton, Elsah, and Alton.

• The half-day itinerary represents a loop of approximately 70 miles. In Jerseyville, turn west at Illinois 16. Drive through Jersey County; turn south on Illinois 100. Go down Illinois River Road directly to Pere Marquette State Park. Continue south on Illinois 100 and it will head east when the road bends back down to Grafton, Elsah and Alton.

According to www.enjoyillinois.com, the 11 best spots with the most scenic views of fall hues are:

• The Great River Road, which stretches over 550 miles across the state from Galena to the Cahokia Mounds.

• The Meeting of the Great Rivers, which is the route between Alton and Grafton by the waters of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers.

• Galena, in northwestern Illinois known for its well-preserved 19th century buildings.

• The Ohio River Scenic Byway crosses the Ohio River Valley in Illinois.

• Route 66 from Chicago to the Mississippi River.

• Garden of the Gods at Shawnee National Forest.

• Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby.

• Matthiessen State Park, located a few miles from Starved Rock.

• Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford.

• Quad City Botanical Center, Rock Island.

• Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins, in Elizabethtown, adjacent to the popular Rim Rock Recreation Trail and Garden of the Gods, in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest.

The Illinois Farm Bureau recommends the Spoon River Drive through Fulton County, showcasing fall foliage on more than 100 miles of scenic drives.

Other suggestions from various sources include Beaver Dam State Park, 750 acres in Macoupin County, seven miles southwest of Carlinville; Giant City State Park in Makanda; Mississippi Palisades State Park in Savanna; Midewin National Tallgras Prairie in Wilmington; Decatur Lake at Decatur; and the Lincoln Memorial Garden and Nature Center in Springfield.

In Peoria, the two and a half miles of Grandview Drive was dubbed “the most beautiful road in the world” by Theodore Roosevelt when he visited in 1910.

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