For views of autumn's colorful finery, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County invites fall fans to get out and experience the season’s short-lived woodland color displays.
The district describes its attractions:
The woods at Maple Grove Forest Preserve in Downers Grove are known for intense colors. The preserve is composed mostly of black, silver and sugar maples, which develop into golden tones that seem to shine from every leaf in the forest. A winding 1.1-mile trail offers a pleasant stroll and also passes through an oak savanna.
At Meacham Grove Forest Preserve in Bloomingdale in the 40-acre grove on the west side of the preserve — a recently designated Illinois State Nature Preserve — stately maples, oaks and hickories often display bold colors on their leaves, while broad-leafed goldenrods and Drummond’s asters show off bright flowers from the forest floor.
St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville offers historic charm amidst fall scenery. Tree-lined paths called “allees” of mature pin oaks, red maples and black walnuts beckon visitors to stroll down the lanes to barns, stables and courtyards. On Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in October, visitors can join tractor-drawn covered wagon tours to learn the history of the estate and take in the views. Tours begin between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and cost $2 per person for ages 13 and older; $1 for ages 5 to 12. It's free to younger children.
Forest preserves such as Blackwell in Warrenville, McDowell Grove and Greene Valley in Naperville, Herrick Lake in Wheaton, West DuPage Woods in West Chicago, Waterfall Glen in Darien and Churchill Woods in Glen Ellyn also are notable locations for beautiful foliage.
Printable maps for these and other forest preserves are available on the district’s website at dupageforest.org. Visitors also may request a trail guide that features 24 of the most popular locations by calling Visitor Services at 630-933-7248 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greene Valley Forest Preserve scenic overlook in Naperville is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 27.
“This is a great time of year to enjoy the perspective from the highest public ground in the county,” said Matt Blazek, a district site operations manager. “Visitors will watch scores of migrating birds on their annual journeys, and they’ll see the prairies turn golden and the forests turn rich reds and browns.”
District staff members provide binoculars and a spotting scope to help visitors see far-off vistas and migrating birds. Picnic tables and a short trail are available. Hikers and bikers can use the 1.9-mile Hawk Trail that circles the hill’s base.
The overlook’s access drive is off Greene Road south of 79th Street. Visitors can drive to and park at the summit, which stands at 190 feet above land surface. Due to Illinois Environmental Protection Agency maintenance activities, the overlook may close during the season, however, without notice.
The overlook rests on top of a closed landfill, which operated from 1974 until 1996. A gas-to-energy plant converts methane the landfill produces into enough energy to power thousands of area homes. Revenues received from the landfill’s former disposal operations and current gas-to-energy plant operation — not tax dollars — funded the construction of the recreational improvements and continue to fund the maintenance of the overlook.