This year, there's no place like New England for fall foliage

Some early advice for leaf peepers determined to track down this autumn's most vibrant hues: Stick with tradition. "Right now, all the signs are pointing to New England," says Weather Channel meteorologist (and former Vermonter) Jim Cantore.

"The best fall foliage season in recent memory may be in store," crows the website YankeeFoliage.com. "The drought stress of the last few years has abated, pests and leaf diseases are down, and adequate sun and rain made for a long and healthy growing season, producing a lush hardwood canopy primed with the abundant starch essential for brilliant fall color."

Less promising, however, is the outlook for vibrant fall colors along stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina and other popular vantage points in that area. The second year of severe drought is drying up creeks and streams and had turned some trees brown by Labor Day.

In parts of southwest Colorado, the late September march of gold across the Rockies will be diminished due to a proliferation of dead and dying aspens, the U.S. Forest Service noted this week.

Elsewhere, "the Great Lakes look good," says Cantore, although a surfeit of rain this spring and summer could mean a duller show in the Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri.

But predicting autumnal hues "is always a delicate dance," Cantore adds. Warm, sunny days and cool nights in late summer and early fall serve as the best indicators of a fiery display.

And if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate?

"There are so many micro-climates in the mountains that there may still be pockets of great color," says Marla Tambellini of the Asheville (N.C.) Convention & Visitors Bureau. What's more, hotel sales in October — which vies with July as the city's busiest month — have increased steadily over the past six years.

"Most visitors don't have a color scale or grade in their minds," she says. "They're coming to enjoy the outdoors."

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