If the past few foliage seasons have appeared a bit dull, this one should make up for them.

“Everything is right on time and they’re going very brilliantly,” said William Ostrofsky, forest pathologist for the Maine Forest Service.

This year’s leaf-peeping season is shaping up to rival the celebrated fall of 2008 and could be among Ostrofsky’s all-time top 10, he said. And tourists seem to be taking notice, based on increased visitor traffic.

When the leaves get brightest, however, the displays of bright reds and yellows are typically brief – meaning tourists should book their trips quickly.

Fall is Maine’s second-most popular tourist season, after summertime. From September to November last year, 8 million visitors spent nearly $1.2 billion, according to the Maine Office of Tourism.

If last weekend is any indication, even more people are making their way up to Maine this year. The Maine Turnpike’s toll plaza in York saw 145,720 vehicles pass through from Friday to Sunday. That’s nearly 8,000 more cars than on the same weekend last year, an increase of 5.6 percent.

Dropping gas prices have probably helped. That’s one reason, Terry Johannemann believes, that she’s booked all her 14 rooms and suites at the Greenville Inn near Moosehead Lake this weekend.

“This is the busiest September we’ve ever had, and the busiest October” so far, said Johannemann, who has owned the inn with her husband, Jeff, for 12 years.

She also thinks people are more confident in the economy and are getting more familiar with the Moosehead Lake region. Not that she discounts the quality of the fall color.

“A lot of people this year, more than ever, booked quite a bit in advance. I think people know that foliage in New England is going to be good,” said Johannemann. “This year, it’s not a disappointment. It’s beautiful out there.”

But peak foliage will be over by the end of the month as a result of the summer’s cool temperatures. Even last weekend’s unseasonably warm weather couldn’t change that.

“The course is set,” Ostrofsky said.

As leaves start to fall faster in northern Maine, the best and brightest colors are making their way south, illuminating central Maine before heading to this neck of the woods next weekend.

The state’s official foliage conditions map says most of the state is now at peak color, with the coast and southern Maine in the moderate range.

But it’s not too early to enjoy the colors in Cumberland County, where forest rangers will lead a foliage hike Saturday afternoon through Bradbury State Park in Pownal. Next weekend, they’ll be at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport.

For self-guided tours, the state’s foliage report recommends heading to Grafton Notch State Park, near the New Hampshire border, Mount Blue State Park in Weld, and Moosehead Lake to catch peak colors in the coming week.

Portland and areas south will see peak foliage in the second to last week in October. But, for the time being at least, there’s no bad spot.

“The coloration is just spectacular all over right now,” Ostrofsky said.