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Where to see fall foliage in the St. Louis area

Here are some of the best places to see the colors before they're gone

ST. LOUIS — Fall is in the air and the bi-state is changing color, and what better time to go hunting for the best spots to see those vibrant reds and yellows?

At the end of October, most regions of Missouri are nearing peak fall colors, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation's fall foliage guide.

Peak fall color is usually mid-October, with leaves beginning to fade and drop by late October and gone completely by mid-November. But the department said the color change has occurred slowly in many areas across the St. Louis region this year due to warmer than normal weather, especially warm nighttime temperatures. Peak color should be hitting much of the region over the next week or two.

"Of course, the closer you are to the downtown St. Louis area, expect trees to be slower to change because of the heat island effect," MDC said.

Forecasted rain may cause leaves of the first group of color changers -- such as dogwood, persimmon, sassafras, Virginia creeper -- to drop, "but we should have a nice display of oaks, hickories, and maples for later in the season."

Here are some of the best places to see the colors before they're gone.

RELATED: Fall foliage forecast: Here's when we could see colors peak in St. Louis

Great River Road

If you’re looking for a scenic drive, the Great River Road offers fall vistas that are hard to beat. The road winds along the Mississippi River on the Illinois side and is famed for its scenic, tree-lined limestone bluffs which burst with color in the fall.

Here’s what it looked like in Grafton in 2019 when 5 On Your Side’s drone captured fall foliage beginning to peak.

MDC 'must sees'

MDC Community Forester Jennifer Behnken's can't-miss leaf-peeping locations include Trail of Tears State Park, Millstream Gardens Conservation Area, Hickory Canyon Natural Area, Johnson Shut-Ins State Park, Taum Sauk State Park, and Elephant Rocks State Park.

There are also several highways that offer some striking views. In a press release, Behnken recommended Highway 21, “especially in the Ironton and Arcadia Valley area for some pretty scenes.” 

Other views can be found along Highways 61, 67, 32, 25, 21, 72, and 49, she said.

MDC also released a list of conservation areas where you can see the foliage this year. 

Conservation areas such as Daniel Boone, Little Lost Creek, B.K. Leach or August A Busch are good for early displays.

“Early fall wildflowers are still the best bet for consistent color, so visiting area prairies at Busch, Valley View Glades, or Victoria Glades Conservation Areas or Shaw Nature Reserve should give you a chance to see both wildflowers and a splash of fall color in trees,” MDC said.

The department noted that severe storms and tornadoes earlier in the week wrought havoc on the southeast region, especially in places such as Farmington, Fredericktown, and St. Mary, so foliage hunters should be aware of cleanup efforts in the area. The high winds have also blown away some leaves.

"Fall colors are truly in a mosaic pattern, with some trees yet to show a speck of warm coloration while others have already entered their winter slumber," MDC said. "Between those two extremes, some of the most vibrant color is happening right now. 

MDC's fall color guide tracks the timing of fall foliage across Missouri and the best places to view it. To see how your area is faring, click here.

St. Louis parks

City dwellers don't have to go far to experience all that autumn has to offer.

Forest Park in St. Louis has over 45,000 trees -- and also its own fall foliage guide. You can follow their Twitter and Instagram stories for updates on fall foliage in the park.

The Missouri Botanical Garden has also been providing updates on its fall foliage on social media.

You could also stroll through Lafayette Park, Tower Grove Park, or one of the many other parks the city has to offer.