All indications point to an excellent foliage season in Vermont this year. Vermont has the characteristics needed for great foliage. Weather and forest health conditions thus far have been ideal and should produce a colorful autumn show.According to M. Brian Stone, Vermont’s Chief of Forest Management, “Vermont has all the conditions required to consistently produce excellent fall foliage. With a diverse combination of tree species, generally highquality soils and topography, which allows good moisture retention, Vermont can regularly count on beautiful foliage. Tree health is alsocrucial. Leaf cover and tree color in Vermont’s forests have all been very good this year and pest evidence is minimal.”Vermont state foresters track many aspects of forest growth and health throughout the year. Ample early summer rainfall led to a great growingseason. There is a lot of green and abundant chlorophyll was produced. Both are key to good fall color display.In addition to spring forest health and moisture, late summer variables, particularly temperature and sunlight, affect timing of color change.Cooler nights just prior to foliage season usually mean timely arrival and more brilliant foliage colors. A lot of sun during the period when leaves are turning generally increases the brilliance, as well as the viewing pleasure.The variety in Vermont’s forest species and in Vermont’s topography help create a relatively long foliage season. Typically, in early to midSeptember the color change begins in northern Vermont at high elevations and in areas where trees are stressed by normal conditions, such asswamps, roadside or city areas. Tree species change at different times and provide an enormous range of colors. Swamp maples are one of thefirst tree species to turn. Oak, poplar and tamarack are often the last trees to turn from green to fall hues.Complete foliage change in a locale typically occurs over several weeks. Northeast Kingdom foliage begins color change early to mid-September and generally peaks near the end of September or beginning of October. Progression of color change moves steadily southward and down in elevation until mid to late October.Higher elevation spots, even in southern Vermont, may have some trees with peak color in mid to late September. Low elevation areas in the LakeChamplain Basin in western Vermont and the Connecticut River Basin on Vermont’s eastern border may not begin color change until a week or two later than high elevations at the same latitude. These areas may have some color through the season but do not reach peak color until early to mid-October, at nearly the same time that many low to mid elevation southern Vermont areas attain full color.Determining when to visit a specific part of the state is not an exact science, but Vermont provides regularly updated information and an online map for tracking color progression. Vermont’s small size makes it easy for travelers to move around from town to town and experience every color stage.But why hurry? Traveling the back roads and enjoying a wholly new view around the next corner or at the crest of the hill is part of the mysteryand magic of fall foliage. Vermont’s picturesque villages, agricultural landscapes and scenic vistas all add to the contrast and beauty of foliage season.The splendor of foliage is highly subjective. Brilliance of foliage is often proclaimed as an indicator of the quality of a foliage season, butanyone who has witnessed the softer hues displayed in a pastel fall scene knows they can be breathtaking as well.Foliage conditions reports are distributed on Mondays and Thursdays during September and October from information provided by state foresters twice weekly.The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing advises making advance reservations as some of the most popular lodgings may fill on early on busy weekends in late September and the first two weekends in October. Some innkeepers may also require a minimum two-night stay, especially on these weekends. Foliage viewers can avoid the reservations’ squeeze by visiting mid-week, coming earlier in September or by researching other lodging options. Availability and other information about specific lodging properties, restaurants, attractions and events may be found in the online Vermont Travel Planner at www.vermontvacation.com(link is external) .