Where to see fall foliage in McHenry County

Locations recommended by Naturally McHenry County

A tree starts to change its colors along Walkup Road near Crystal Lake on Aug. 30, 2023. Fall colors are just starting to show up in McHenry County.

As the leaves begin to change, fall lovers may be seeking the best places to enjoy the bliss of Mother Nature’s canvas. Here are five locations in McHenry County recommended by Naturally McHenry County.

1. Chain O’ Lakes State Park at 8916 Wilmot Road in Spring Grove offers river bluffs and rolling hills while oaks and hickories put on a spectacular show of reds, oranges and golds. The park offers scenic trails, equestrian adventures and paddleboarding along Grass Lake, Marie Lake, Nippersink Creek or any of the seven lakes that make up the Chain. The park also offers 151 sites for a weekend camping getaway.

2. Coral Woods Conservation Area at 7400 Somerset Drive in Marengo is home to century-old red and white oak groves, a rare find in McHenry County. When autumn rolls around, the oaks, hickories and sugar maples set the woods ablaze with shades of red, orange and yellow. Walk through Sugar Maple Loop trail, a short 0.4-mile hike that’ll “plop you right into the heart of this autumn carnival,” Naturally McHenry County’s Kristine Austin said. “Pack a picnic basket because you’ll want to soak up every minute of this colorful spectacle.”

3. Marengo Ridge Conservation Area at 2411 N. Route 23 in Marengo Austin described as “the crown jewel of McHenry County.” The area “boasts a whopping 818 acres of oak and hickory woodlands [where] colors await around every bend of the 5 miles of trails. It’s your chance to savor the last rays of warm sunshine before winter creeps in.” She recommends booking a campsite at Thomas Woods Campground and spending the last nights before winter creeps in under a star-studded autumn sky.

4. Volo Bog State Natural Area at 28478 Brandenburg Road in Ingleside straddles the McHenry-Lake County border. The location “offers an autumn spectacle that’ll leave you awestruck,” Austin said. “Fall transforms the landscape into a mesmerizing canvas, with golden tamarack needles, fiery red poison sumac and lush green sphagnum moss.” Austin suggested following the Tamarack View Trail, a 2.75-mile hike designed for leaf-peeping enthusiasts. Visitors will explore woods, wetlands, fields and prairies, “all while getting a bird’s-eye view of the Volo Bog basin and its majestic tamarack trees,” she said.

5. Veteran Acres Park and Stern’s Woods Fen at 431 Walkup Road in Crystal Lake “combine to create a sprawling 300-acre natural playground,” Austin said. “Among its treasures are two Illinois state preserves and miles of meandering trails. One of the park’s standout features is the enchanting pinewood groves. In fall, these endless rows of pines come alive with warm, vibrant colors, creating a picture-perfect setting for your autumn adventures.”