The somewhat-late-to-bloom foliage season of 2011 continues to dazzle as the color change sweeps to the lower elevation foothills and mountain valleys. The highest elevations are showing leaf drop, but brilliant foliage is on display throughout the state. ‘It’s awesome!’exclaimed Addison County Forester Chris Olson after driving through much of west central Vermont midweek. ‘I don’t know if Ben & Jerry’s have a flavor for foliage, but it would be worth it. This year has awesome, intense colors and pastels. Route 22A is absolute peak,’ Olson adds. He also suggests the gap roads, Route 17 and 125, or the Lincoln Gap between Bristol and Warren. All areas west of the Green Mountains are showing bright foliage, particularly from Hinesburg and Bristol to Middlebury and Castleton and south down Route 7. ‘Great color everywhere,’ says spotter Tom Olson from the Maple Museum near Pittsford. ‘From roadside Sumacs to hillside hardwoods, we have high mid-stage to near peak foliage appearing in most of west central Vermont, from Middlebury south to Manchester and Bennington.’ Because the leaves are still anchored well to their branches and with temperatures above freezing, showers predicted for the next several days should not affect the leave drop. ‘We’re looking forward to a very colorful upcoming week,’ Tom Olson adds. Colorful foliage is also approaching near-peak in southern Vermont and the Connecticut River Valley in Windsor, Windham and Bennington Counties. ‘Just took a ride down the valley this afternoon and it’s looking pretty peak-ish out there. The leaves have blown at the highest elevations but the lower and mid slopes are popping. This is the time,’ says Bennington County Forester Chris Stone. Northern Vermont is still displaying good color through the mountain valleys and sheltered hillsides where viewing is expected to remain good at least through the coming weekend. Best Bets: In Addison and Rutland Counties, colorful foliage can be found on Route 116 from Starksboro to East Middlebury, Route 17 from Bristol to Waitsfield or 125 from East Middlebury to Hancock, and Route 7 between Middlebury and Rutland. Also try Route 140 from Wallingford to Poultney, Route 133 from Middletown Springs to Pawlet, Route 30 from Poultney to Cornwall, and Route 22A from Fair Haven to Bridport. In southern Vermont, suggested drives include Route 7A from Manchester to Bennington, Route 313 in Arlington, Route 5 along the Connecticut River, Route 30 from Manchester to Rupert, the open sections of Route 100 above and below Jamaica where a bridge is out, Route 103 from Springfield to Rockingham, Route 35 from Townshend to Chester, and Route 30 from Brattleboro to Newfane. In northern and central Vermont, suggested drives include 5A between West Burke and Westmore, Route 105 from Bloomfield to North Troy, Routes 5 or I-91 north from White River Junction, Route 100 from Warren to Moretown, and Route 2 from Montpelier to Richmond. Also Route 2 through the Champlain Islands, and Route 78 from Alburgh Center to Highgate. The Vermont Hospitality Council advises making advance reservations because the most popular lodgings may fill early on busy weekends during the foliage season. Some innkeepers may require a minimum two-night stay, especially on busy weekends. Vermont tourism officials encourage visitors to take advantage of midweek specials during the foliage season as part of the statewide ‘Midweek Peek’ promotion. Deals range from discounted lodging to free Vermont products. For details, visit www.VermontVacation.com/midweek(link is external). Also available on the website are several tools for planning a Vermont Fall Foliage tour: Fall Foliage ForecasterLodging Availability ForecasterScenic DrivesFall Travel Tips For more information, visit www.VermontVacation.com(link is external).