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Blaze a Trail to Fall Foliage Getaways

When Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore polled his Twitter followers this week on their favorite leaf-peeping destinations, the responses ranged from predictable (the Blue Ridge Parkway) to offbeat (I-95 in New Jersey).

For his part, Vermont-born Cantore is particularly bullish about his old stomping grounds this year.

"They had a ton of water and cool weather over the summer, and have been drying out recently, " he says. "We're already seeing splashes of color, and it looks like the makings of a classic New England fall."

But, Cantore adds, an absence of drought and other extreme conditions that can affect vibrant autumn hues means "this could be one of those years when almost everyone gets a good hit."

That, in turn, could mean a much-needed boost to local economies from California and Oregon (where new fall-foliage blogs launched this month) to Virginia (whose own revamped fall travel site includes a roundup of "48-Hour Guilt-Free Getaways"). And, notes Hotwire's Clem Bason, the cost of getting to leaf country continues to drop: Overall airfares and hotel rates are down 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively, from 2008.

A sampling of resources for tracking color and planning leaf-centric getaways:

Nationwide...

-- U.S. Forest Service (800-354-4594, www.fs.fed.us/news/fallcolors): Links to Web updates from 22 states and national forests across the USA.

-- The Weather Channel(weather.com/fallfoliage): Updates peak times with state and regional maps.

-- FoliageNetwork.com: Twice-weekly reports from spotters across the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest.

Northeast...

-- YankeeFoliage.com: Reader forum and interactive map; professional photographer Jeff Folger blogs, tweets and posts Facebook updates.

-- About.com's Foliage Central (gonewengland.about.com): Travel planner, links to state-specific information and roundups of New England deals.

Midwest...

-- DiscoverOhio.com: New "Autumn Adventures" gives getaway ideas and color updates.

-- VisitTraverseCity.com: Lists fall packages with lodging, dining and winery discounts.

-- TravelWisconsin: Features 11 classic fall drives.

Mid-Atlantic/Southeast...

-- FallinPa.com: Weekly reports start Sept. 22.

-- VisitNC.com: A wet summer could mean later (late October-early November) peak color this year; foliage reports start Sept. 29.

-- Virginia.org/fall: Geo-targeted activity finder, real-time foliage pictures and trip ideas.

West...

-- CaliforniaFallColor.com: Updates from the Golden State, particularly the Sierras and Shasta Cascade.

-- Colorado.com: Though a rapidly escalating aspen die-off across the Rocky Mountain West has diminished the late-September march of gold, the tourism site gives regional road trips.

-- UtahFallColors.com: The fall show is underway in northern Utah?s Upper Ogden Valley, where maples, oaks and aspens stand out against quartzite and sandstone cliffs.

-- OregonFallFoliage.com: New blog tracks color changes statewide, including the Cascades and Willamette Valley.

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