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A peek-a-boo season for fall foliage

Anne McGrail of Weymouth tried to capture the fall foliage from the Chickatawbut Outlook in the Blue Hills Reservation.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

MILTON — Armed with maps and hiking trail guides, Merita Dallta hoped to view the Blue Hills Reservation wrapped in a colorful blanket of red, orange, and yellow leaves.

“I came to see the colors,” said Dallta, 29, as she waited for a friend on Monday afternoon to climb Great Blue Hill, the highest of the reservation’s 22 rises. “I want to enjoy their beauty before winter.”

But the leaves are playing a game of peek-a-boo with leaf peepers at Blue Hills. Pockets of foliage have changed color, but most of the vast 7,000-acre Blue Hills is still a forest of green.

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“We’re not at peak yet,” said Lieutenant Tom Bender, a district ranger at the state-owned reservation. “I’d say only about 30 percent of our leaves have turned. It will probably be another three or four weeks before we peak.”

Foliage viewing is big business over the Columbus Day weekend in New England. Tourism boards in Massachusetts and New Hampshire have online foliage trackers to help visitors plan trips or post pictures of peak spots. Bay State residents are encouraged to share photos of local foliage on social media using the hashtag #MAinstafoliage.

But many tourist destinations in each state are still waiting patiently for fall to burst into view.

“It’s just starting to get colorful here,” said Sean Smith, general manager of Concord’s Colonial Inn, which faces tree-lined Monument Square. “I think it will be another week or so, before we really see things change.”

The Farmers’ Almanac, a nonscientific forecaster based in Lewiston, Maine, predicts foliage in Massachusetts will peak by Oct. 21 in inland areas, and by Oct. 28 along the coast. In New Hampshire, foliage is due to peak in the seacoast region by Oct. 21, according to the almanac.

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Kevin Ciliberto and his niece Chloe Flynn took a photo of the Boston skyline from the Blue Hills Reservation Monday.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Since warm days and cold nights are key to foliage’s changing color, the leaves turn first in northern New England, before spreading south.

“It’s just starting to really change here,” said Lauren Wood, a supervisor in the market at Applecrest Farm Orchards in Hampton Falls, N.H.

A warm, sunny summer — with less than average rainfall — is one factor for this fall’s late-changing leaves, noted Hayden Frank, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton.

“Less rainfall can make for a less colorful autumn,” Frank said.

A total of 27.1 inches of rain has fallen in Boston this year, or 6.3 percent less than average, according to the weather service. “If you had normal rainfall, along with mild days and cool nights, that can be helpful to bring out the colors,” he added.

Still, the muted tones of fall didn’t dampen business over the holiday weekend. The Colonial Inn sold out all of its 56 rooms, and its 300-room restaurant was packed, Smith said.

“A lot of people plan their fall foliage trips long in advance, so even if the color arrives late, they still come,” Smith said.

Sunny, cool days drew thousands of visitors to Applecrest for a weekend of apple and pumpkin picking. An hour south in Massachusetts, some leaf peepers lingered beneath the tall maple trees. Many snapped photos with their cellphones

“They’re beautiful,” said Cristina Gigliotti, 29, of South Boston, who stopped at the Chickatawbut Overlook, a popular spot on the Quincy side of the Blue Hills Reservation, on a hike with four friends. “We went off road, because their colors were so great.”

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“Breathtaking,” said Amy Bacewicz, 30, also of South Boston. “You can tell the colors are still trying to come out, but it really feels like fall.”

But Gary and Joanne Smith, a husband and wife from Braintree, couldn’t decide if the leaves are early or late.

“I think it’s still early for the leaves to change,” said Gary, 63.

“I think it’s just about normal,” said Joanne, 62. “Either way, the sun is shining, the sky is blue. It’s just a beautiful day.”

Brendan Yeager of Canton used a selfie stick to put himself in the fall foliage picture at the Blue Hills Reservation in Quincy on Monday.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

Kathy McCabe can be reached at katherine.mccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.