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updated 9/30/2005 1:50:24 PM ET 2005-09-30T17:50:24

If the still-warm September air temperatures have you thinking about sunbathing in the sand, it's time to shift your thoughts to autumn. Fall is just a few days away, and here in the Northeast that means saying goodbye to our swimsuits and hello to sweaters -- and of course, foliage. There's still plenty of time to plan a leaf-peeping trip or, if you prefer, read along and find out when the brilliant autumn colors will come to your area.

Our timeline is a general outline of when peak foliage is likely to arrive at your destination. There are many factors that can impact the leaves, such as a sudden drop in temperature or a violent storm that blows the leaves off the trees before they have a chance to fall. Our calendar is based on past leaf-peeping seasons, but you'll want to check with the area's tourism bureau (we've included several useful links at the end of this article) for the most up-to-date foliage reports.

We've also included a great drive for every part of the foliage season in the Northeast, from the most northern parts of Maine to southern Pennsylvania. Driving is the most popular way to view fall foliage, so keep in mind that you may hit traffic along popular routes. When you decide to do some leaf-peeping on your own, be sure to check out our guides to renting a car, choosing a B&B and planning a fantastic road trip.

Last Week of September
Follow the Foliage: Northern parts of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Great drive: Acadia Harbor and Heights.
The tour starts in Bangor and takes you through Ellsworth to picturesque Mount Desert Island. From there you'll head to beautiful Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, where from the summit on Cadillac Mountain you can be the first to see the sunrise in the Northeast. The lighthouse in Bass Harbor is another highlight of the trip, as are the fishing villages of Deer Island and Stonington. For the complete driving itinerary click here.

First Week in October
Follow the Foliage: Northern New York, northeastern and central Maine, central and southern Vermont and New Hampshire, northern Pennsylvania and western Massachusetts.
Great drive: SoVT (Southern Vermont) Loop
Follow Route 7A from Manchester Center, south to South Shaftsbury. From South Shaftsbury take Route 67 to Route 67A in Old Bennington. Continue to Pownal Center via Bennington and South Stream Road (Morgan Street). Drive Route 7 from Pownal Center to Williamstown, Massachusetts. Take Route 2 east to Route 8 north to Searsburg, Vt. From Searsburg, take Route 9 east for a short distance; then, via Somerset Road, an unpaved road, you can take a beautiful side trip to Somerset Reservoir. Retrace your steps to Route 9 and travel west to Bennington. Take Route 7 north from Bennington to Manchester Depot. The drive is 104 miles.

Mid October
Follow the Foliage: Southern and central coast of Maine, central and eastern Massachusetts, northwestern Connecticut, Catskill Region of New York, central Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey and southern Rhode Island.
Great drive: Catskill Mountain Region
Visitors traveling between Catskill and Windham on Route 23 will find Lookout Point, with its five-state view, to be a marvel of natural beauty. Route 23A, as it winds and climbs through the Catskill Forest Preserve and past Katterskill Falls, affords a breathtaking connection to the season's colors. Route 28 from Kingston to Oneonta traverses some of the most stunning vistas in the region, with plentiful attractions, restaurants, shops and accommodations along the way.

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Late October
Follow the Foliage: Southern Connecticut, southern Pennsylvania and southern and central New Jersey.
Great Drive: Amish and Dutch Country. Recommended by FallinPA.com. Follow Route 772 right through the heart of Amish and Dutch Country, one of the premier farming areas in the nation. This picturesque and culturally unique environment is partly owed to the Amish, Mennonite and Brethren who own about 40 percent of the farms. You'll see scores of Amish buggies as you pass through Intercourse and Gap. The beauty and romance of the fall foliage make a perfect backdrop to the simple dress and traditions of many of the area's citizens.


Photo credits: Mount Desert Island photo, courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism. Photo of Pennsylvania foliage courtesy of VisitPA.com.

The Independent Traveler is an interactive traveler's exchange and comprehensive online travel guide for a community of travelers who enjoy the fun of planning their own trips and the adventure of independent travel. You can access our wealth of travel resources and great bargains here at www.independenttraveler.com, or at www.bargainbox.com.

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