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We're entering the prime season for seeing russet-and-gold autumnal foliage in North America, when chlorophyll breaks down to reveal brilliant shades in leaves.

Some of the most renowned states for "leaf-peeping" were hard hit by Tropical Storm Irene, especially Vermont, New Hampshire and parts of New York state. But don't let the stories on the news discourage you from going to this part of the US. Locals have been hard at work clearing the roads and brushing up the landscape, and they convincingly claim that the autumn foliage will be as spectacular as ever in their part of the country.

Whether you're thinking of visiting New England or another part of North America, you need to plan your trip first. An ideal way to plan is to choose when you're free to travel and then check which destinations will display the most brilliant hues at that time. Alternately, you can also choose your preferred territory first -- such the mountains of Vermont, the coastline of Nova Scotia or the hills of northern Minnesota -- and then research the peak colour times at that spot. 

Either way, there are several websites and apps that can help you fine-tune your trip. We've vetted the best digital tools for seeing the autumn splendour. 

Foliage Leaf Peepr
This app by Yankee Magazine focuses on New England. It tracks reader and editorial reports of colour changes and presents these updates on a colour-coded map, putting peak season information just a finger swipe away. For instance, if you see areas on a map of northern Vermont coloured green, that means the forests are still green in that part of the state. (Tip: you'll find the web version of this information at yankeefoliage.com.) Free; Android and iPhone/iPad

Leafsnap
This app lets you point your iPhone's camera at a leaf and receive an instant explanation about it, helping autumn-foliage fans identify the major species of trees they're admiring. You can also browse by shape of tree or leaf. There is no comparable Android app yet. You can upload the type of leaves you see, too, providing data that can be used by researchers at Columbia University, the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution. The app works best in the United States and Canada. Free; iPhone/iPad

Ultimate field guide to North American trees
This app is similar to the above but it works for Android users, not just iPhone/iPad. In an easy-to-understand format, the scientific research in the National Audubon Society’s Field Guides to Trees. Browse by shape of tree or leaf. Works best in the United States and Canada. Free; Android and iPhone/iPad

Gas Buddy
This app helps you find the cheapest gas while you're driving in unfamiliar territory, based on more than a million user-generated reports. Free Android and iPhone/iPad

As for websites that help you time your trip to see maximum colour, here is the rundown, broken down geographically: 

Connecticut
Typically peaks late October, with yellow and purple from chestnut, beech, red maple and the state's famous white oaks. See the state's foliage website

Maine
Typically peaks in late September, with orange and amber of poplar, marsh and sumac. See the state's foliage website

Massachusetts
Typically peaks mid-October, with red and yellow from beech and oak. See the state’s foliage online resource

Michigan
Typically peaks late September, with orange and gold from birch and white cedar. Call the state's foliage hotline 800-644-3255, or check out the online updates for the western part of the state

New Hampshire
Typically, peaks late September, with gold, crimson, purple from adler and pin cheery. See the state's foliage report.

New York state
Typically peaks in mid-September, with red and yellow from sumac, oak and poplar. See the state's foliage forecast.

Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
Typically peaks early October, with amber and crimson from birch and maple. See the region's foliage forecast for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

Ontario
Typically peaks late September, with yellow from white birch and other trees. See updates from the province's foliage website

Rhode Island
Typically peaks in late September, with red and yellow from varied deciduous trees. Call the state's foliage hotline 401-222-2601. (No website.) 

Minnesota
Typically peaks mid-September, with gold and crimson from aspen, tamarack and red maple. See the state's fall foliage report also available by free downloadable app

Vermont
Typically peaks late September, with the yellow, red and purple from adler, pin cheery and the state's signature sugar maple. See the state's foliage Internet alerts

Virginia
Typically peaks late October, with the crimson of oak, sweetgum and red maple. Visit the state's foliage website

Wisconsin
Typically peaks late September, with scarlet and cinnamon colours from oak, sumac and aspen, plus the brilliant reds of mountain-ash berries. See the state’s autumn colour report.

Washington
Typically peaks late September, with yellow and purple from tamarack and vine maple. Call the state's foliage hotline 800-354-4595. 

For other US states
See the US Forest Service's forecast webpage.

 

Sean O'Neill is the tech travel columnist for BBC Travel

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