If you live in a highly trafficked area, you might forget how meditative it is to drive on the open road. As a state of mostly small towns, Illinois has plenty of scenic roads you can take to get away from it all and have space to look around instead of just staring at the bumper in front of you.
Enjoy the scenery and take a long, lovely drive down one of these 10 amazing roads and see the best parts of the state. Check it out:
1. Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway
Sprawling through 33 miles of southwestern Illinois, this gorgeous road travels through the Mississippi flood plain and coincides with a portion of the Great River Road. It begins at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, at Pere Marquette State Park, and it ends at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri River at Lewis and Clark State Historic Site.
2. Historic National Road Scenic Byway
Beginning in the town of Cumberland in Maryland, this road ends in the wonderful Illinois town of Vandalia. Our section is about 166 miles long. It is also known as "The Old Pike" or "The Road That Built the Nation" and it has existed since 1811, making it one of the oldest backroads in the state.
3. Ohio River Scenic Byway
This gorgeous road spans three states: Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Many use it to visit antique shops, farmers markets, and other attractions, but you can also drive the whole thing and see the best parts of Southern Illinois. With about 300 miles of highway in Illinois alone, you could make a whole day of sight seeing.
4. Great River Road
Following the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles and spanning 10 states, this amazing road starts in Minnesota and extends to the Gulf of Mexico. There are many riverside attractions in Illinois along the road such as Cahokia Mounds, an ancient Native American settlement that is a must-see for all.
5. Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway
Traveling along its namesake, this road is partially an old route marked by French explorers and other immigrants who were drawn to Illinois. The national byway preserves the nature along the river, providing amazing views of serene Illinois woodlands and wetland as well as prairies and lakes, which makes it perfect for nature lovers.
6. Knox County Scenic Drive
Navigate the charming small towns of Knox County on this self-guided car tour. Along the way, you'll pass many historic places including an old railroad depot, a log cabin from 1832, and a couple one-room schoolhouses. You'll have your camera out almost all the time for this one.
7. Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive
Wind through this 140-mile backroad, and you'll find more than 20 amazing Illinois attractions that everyone must visit. There are also many festivals as well as flea markets and farmers markets that take place along this remote road. It is most popular during fall events, but you'll find lovely sights any time of year.
8. Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway
This incredible route is the iconic American road trip. It's known for its cheesy attractions, quirky restaurants, and unique museums. Beginning in Chicago and ending in St. Louis, you'll find an old, hand-laid brick road, a rabbit ranch, fried chicken, strange statues, and much more on this Illinois byway.
9. Illinois Lincoln Highway
At just over 153 miles, this road spans the Illinois section of U.S. 30 which connects Iowa and Indiana. Along the way, you'll see Ronald Reagan's childhood home, a railroad park, and other historic landmarks and attractions that only backroads can offer. In Illinois, the highway begins in Chicago and cuts through the suburbs before heading straight to Fulton.
10. Peoria’s Grand View Drive
Perfect for a short, fun trip, this scenic backroad is only 2.5 miles long. Theodore Roosevelt named it the "world's most beautiful drive," so have that camera ready and drive both ways up and down the road for all the best sights.
Have you ever been up and down these roads? Share your experiences and photos with us!