Every day, hundreds of drivers speed past the turnoff on US-20 for Apple River Canyon State Park, bound for fall getaways in Galena, which is packed with people and shops every weekend until the last leaves drop. Those travelers admire the view from the car, not realizing that if they wanted a peek at one of the area’s few remaining secrets, they should turn north on Canyon Park Road west of Stockton and drive for just 7 miles. Glaciers somehow missed this stretch of land, leaving a steep wall along the river—more like what you’d expect along the Mississippi than farther inland.
What to do
Apple River Canyon State Park Springs, limestone bluffs and abundant wildlife characterize this area that was once home to a town. A devastating flood in 1892 swept away most of the buildings and drove away the residents, paving the way for a return to natural space. Free. (815) 745-3302; dnr.state.il.us.
Where to eat
Sidetrack Inn This weather-beaten cafe in Apple River has great burgers and desserts. (815) 594-2278; Sidetrack Inn
Where to stay
Apple Canyon Lake House Rentals Upscale, new two- and three-bedroom rental homes have views of Apple Canyon Lake. From $200. (815) 541-4740; applecanyonrentals.com
Country Inn and Suites A reliable chain option in Stockton. From $80. (815) 947-6060; countryinns.com
Prices and other details are subject to change; please check specifics before making your travel plans.