Scenic Snaps

No filter needed. Get the scoop on where to go for the best snaps along seven scenic byways.

Photo by Adam Alexander

A waterfall in a canyon at Starved Rock State Park, Utica, Illinois.

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Take aim at these camera-ready sights along Illinois’ seven scenic byways.

Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway

Starved Rock State Park is a wonderland for nature photographers, with awesome rushing waterfalls that are at their peak form in spring or after a good drenching rainfall. Catch tugboats chugging through the Starved Rock Lock & Dam at the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center. Hike the I&M Canal Trail and shoot the storied waterway, where the mule-pulled LaSalle Canal Boat sails.

Great River Road in Illinois National Scenic Byway

Focus on postcard-perfect Mississippi Palisades State Park, where weaving trails lead to bluff-top overlooks for amazing views of the rolling Mississippi River. Make time to stop in Galena, with its historic Main Street and bucolic backdrop. Discover the little river town of Nauvoo and its impressive Mormon Nauvoo Temple. Marvel at the important architecture in Quincy’s East End Historic District.

Ohio River Scenic Byway

Stump your friends and make them guess where you took the dramatic pictures of majestic forests and unusual sandstone outcroppings. Hint: It’s the Garden of the Gods! Explore Cave-in-Rock, a notorious cave that once harbored river pirates; storm the replica 1800s fort at Fort Massac State Park, and take a selfie with the 15-foot-tall Superman statue in Metropolis’ town square.

Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway

Mother Road travelers can’t resist stopping for a photo with the Gemini Giant. At the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame & Museum, take a picture of the world’s largest Route 66 shield. Henry’s Rabbit Ranch makes for a fun photo op with its retro gas station and cute bunnies. Walk or bike the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge for sweeping views of the Mississippi River.

Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway

Slow down on the scenic drive between Alton and Grafton, because you’ll be busy shooting amazing views of soaring cliffs and the Mighty Mississippi. Sandwiched between the bluffs is Elsah, home to 19th-century stone cottages. Spy the cliff-side mural of the legendary Piasa Bird. Atop the 180-foot-tall Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower, survey the swirling confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

Illinois National Road

Climb to the top of 100-foot-tall Monks Mound for a 360-degree panorama of Cahokia Mounds, the earthen remains of an ancient American Indian civilization. Get a cool shot of the Stone Arch Bridge in Marshall, one of the National Road’s last original bridges. Make a whistle stop at the Greenup Depot, rich in railroading history. And wonder at the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville.

Illinois Lincoln Highway

You can’t miss the recently restored Black Hawk statue in Lowden State Park, perched high above the Rock River. Watch for colorful murals in towns such as DeKalb that celebrate the highway’s history. Snap a picture with a president at the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home. Visit Fulton’s De Immigrant Windmill, an authentic Dutch windmill that actually grinds grain.

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