For some, autumn comes with a particular appeal. While the others seasons may have their beauty, autumn is the one time in North America where you can truly relax and marvel at nature's glorious, cyclical changes.

Fall foliage viewing can be as simple as hopping in your car (or on your motorcycle or bicycle) and enjoying beautiful leaf colors, roadside farmstands selling apples, cider, and pumpkins, and the first fires sending smoke up farmhouse chimneys. You can have an even more basic (and perhaps more rewarding) fall foliage experience by traveling to a spot of particular beauty, parking your vehicle, and walking through the woodlands.There are also organized tours from companies that specialize in tracking the autumn color (weather variables make advance scheduling fraught with guesswork). These tours are ideal for those who want to travel with companions in a group.

If you're really fond of autumn color and have some money and time to spare, you could track the change of seasons beginning in early September in the northern United States and the Canadian Rockies. Next, head for eastern Canada (Montreal and Quebec) for mid-September viewing. In early October, head for Massachusetts and nearby states, working your way through New England by the third week in October, when fall foliage viewing generally ends.

Don't despair. The end of October usually brings peak viewing season in Pennsylvania, the Missouri Ozarks, and southern states such as North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. Color in the Ouachitas Mountains of Arkansas can last through the early days of November. Save Texas for mid- to late November, when fall finally arrives in various degrees of splendor in the southern parts of the state.

In the U.S., each state with even a modest degree of autumn leaf splendor posts online updates on forecasts and status of the colors. Some offer 800 numbers. One of the best hotlines is Tauck World Discovery's color prediction line at 800-214-8209. It's updated by "foliologist" Scotty Johnston, who does a good job and doesn't try too hard to steer business to his company.

Tauck (800-214-5158 and www.tauck.com) offers fall foliage tours in New England, the Canadian Rockies, Colorado, and select Midwestern states. Tauck and Globus & Cosmos (the other big name in autumn tours) go for quality rather than bargain rates. Expect to pay $1,300 or more for a typical seven-day trip through Globus (www.globusandcosmos.com). An 11-day New England Tauck package is $2,600. Don't anticipate discounts. These tours almost always sell out.

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