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Which state boasts the best fall foliage in America? Depends who’s asking. It also depends when they’re asking. Peak foliage occurs in that fleeting window when changing deciduous species are at their most dazzling — the perfect time for an autumn road trip. In the Northeast, the show starts in early September before spreading south in a blazing continuum of color. If you’ve yet to immerse yourself in this seasonal climax (pre falling action, if you will), don’t panic. Weather permitting, the New England and Mid-Atlantic forests should continue their performance through early November.

Pack a map, some comfortable walking shoes, a thermos of hot cider, and an obligatory pumpkin-flavored fall treat, then hit the road and expose your senses to one of Mother Nature’s greatest acts. Here’s a list of must-see locations:

Peak Foliage Destinations - New HampshireWhite MountainsA drive through the Granite State’s White Mountains region will reveal an array of golden yellows and orange with sudden pops of bright red. Foliage displays with the longest shelf life are typically in areas sheltered from harmful environmental conditions; therefore, the savviest “peepers” will take a kayak and soak in the scene from a kayak or canoe.

Peak Foliage Destinations - MainePeak Foliage Destinations - MaineChilly temperatures and salty coastal breezes keep Maine’s foliage season short and sweet, but a canvas of evergreen and birch makes for extraordinarily spectacular autumn views. For an afternoon of family-friendly hiking, head to Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal. Picnic at the summit and stage an impromptu photo shoot for your annual holiday card. In the Portland region, follow marked trails through the wooded Presumpscot River Preserve for the full sensory, cascading rapids experience.

Peak Foliage Destinations - MassachusettsWalden PondAccording to local reports, visitors should head for the hills. Trek up the elevated Berkshires for the strongest hues, and look down at highlighted individual trees in the lower valleys. Check the most recent foliage report for the best route.  Of course, a pit stop at Concord’s Walden Pond is a good idea any time of year to indulge your inner Thoreau.

Peak Foliage Destinations - VermontPeak Foliage Destinations - VermontThe state employs its very own leaf forecaster. Enough said.

Peak Foliage Destinations - New YorkPeak Foliage Destinations - New YorkWhile the Adirondacks tend to peak in the first two weeks of October, the timing’s right for a foliage tour of the Hudson River Valley. For a scenic road trip, wind along the East Side of the river and brake in charming small towns for historic mansions and local shops. Across the river, nature trails along the West Side route will appease more active explorers.

Peak Foliage Destinations - New JerseyWeather depending, New Jersey’s autumn foliage will blaze through early November. Enjoy the post-tourism calm of the shore, or enjoy a walk through the forested acres of Belleplain State Park.

Leaf RubbingWherever your leaf peeping leads you, remember to collect a few fallen souvenirs for crafting purposes. The most classic of fall art projects (up for debate among premature pumpkin carvers), leaf rubbings are easy to make and can be enjoyed year-round as a lovely reminder of your autumnal peeping adventures. If you live in greener, more temperate regions, leaf rubbings are a great excuse to dig out your red, orange and yellow crayons and participate in the colors of the season.