Illinois is beautiful from top to bottom. From natural delights to man-made wonders, photo opportunities abound in our gorgeous state.
Whether you’re an expert with many lenses or just capturing memories with your phone, these stunning spots will capture the beauty of Illinois – no filter necessary.
1. Starved Rock State Park
Complete with 13 miles of trails, this park lies along the Illinois River and is a popular destination for sightseers and photographers alike. Camp or stay in a nearby cabin during the warm months to see all the amazing waterfalls, such as the French Canyon Waterfall in Utica.
2. Mississippi Palisades State Park
Spanning 2,500 acres, this national landmark in Carroll County is full of winding trails, large cliffs, and expansive caves. It is located along the confluence of the Mississippi and Apple rivers in the northwestern part of the state at 16327A IL-84 in Savanna.
3. Robert Allerton Park
Though it is not the most well-known park in Illinois, this 1,500-acre plot sits on the upper Sangamon River and features European-style gardens. There is also a large manor house which sits beside a reflecting pond that is sure to make you feel like royalty. Catch all the best shots at 515 Old Timber Rd. in Monticello.
4. Giant City State Park
Just outside of Carbondale in the Shawnee National Forest, this state park is known for its massive sandstone structures. With the addition of hundreds of wildflowers and trees, there are outstanding photos to be taken everywhere here. The park spans about 4,000 acres in Jackson and Union counties.
5. Cameo Vineyards
Since 2002, this wonderful Illinois winery has been offering more than sweet sips and good buzzes. The vines are planted on a bluff overlooking the Embaras River Valley, so your photos may make it seem like you went to Italy. Lounge on the grand front porch overlooking the vineyard at 400 N Mill Rd. in Greenup.
6. Cahokia Mounds
Near Collinsville, this historic site is one of only 22 mounds left in the United States. It was utilized by a civilization that resided in this part of Illinois over 1,000 years ago. It spans 2,200 acres and offers stunning shots whether you're looking up at the mounds or peering down from the top.
7. Burden Falls Wilderness
This area spans 3,775 acres of the Shawnee National Forest in the picturesque, southern tip of our state. It is accessible throughout Pope and Saline counties and, in addition to seasonal waterfalls, features sandstone formations and hardwood trees like oaks.
8. Anderson Japanese Gardens
Whisk yourself away to a tranquil yet soul-energizing oasis that resembles a colorful and zen Japanese garden. It is located at 318 Spring Creek Rd. in Rockford and is open daily from morning until mid-afternoon.
9. Cache River Wetlands
These are the largest wetlands in all of Illinois, spanning 45,000 acres, and the scenery will take you to another world. It is part of a region called Little Egypt and is found in six counties. The cypress/tupelo swamp is home to over 100 endangered species and a river that is 92 miles long.
10. Buckingham Fountain
It's undeniable that some of the most stunning photos you can take in Illinois are of man-made structures. Buckingham Fountain is located in Grant Park at 301 S Columbus Dr. in Chicago and is hands down the best place to take photos in the city. Day or night, during the warm months, there are regular water shows as well as light shows after dark.
11. Navy Pier on Lake Michigan
While you're in downtown with your camera, you have to catch a shot of Navy Pier over the lake. Jutting out from the coastline, the tall Ferris Wheel makes each photo spectacular. Fireworks, sunsets, and even gloomy days are still picture-perfect on Lake Michigan.
12. Garden of the Gods Wilderness
Enjoy the red rocks of the Shawnee National Forest at this 3,318-acre area known for its eye-popping rock formations. Made of sandstone, the steep and rocky trails run through Hardin, Pope, and Saline counties.
13. Matthiessen State Park
This 1,700-acre park is located just south of Starved Rock in LaSalle County near Oglesby. It lies along the stream connecting Matthiessen Lake to the Vermilion River and is made beautiful by the cedar trees, brilliant moss, and sandy soil that run through it.
14. Des Plaines River Nature Preserve
Hike along one of Illinois' best rivers, which runs through Lake and Cook counties. It can be enjoyed any time of year and is primarily used to connect people to their communities and those nearby. Connecting trails allow you to travel nearly seamlessly from one end to the other.
15. Illinois Beach State Park
If you really love Lake Michigan, you can get the best shots of it from this beach. Those looking to escape the city enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, lounging on the beach, and, of course, picture taking. The beach is located at 1 Lake Front Dr. in Zion.
Do you have shots of any of these photogenic spots? Share them with us in the comments below!
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