Procrastinator's Guide to Summer

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DILEMMA 1

I don't have a single reservation at a national park.
Where can I still go?

STRATEGY            WHERE TO GO       WHAT TO EXPECT    INFO

Think urban. There  Rocky Mountain    Trail Ridge Road  $2o/vehicle
are lots of great   National Park,    is the highest    entrance fee;
parks near cities   an hour from      paved highway in  nps.gov/romo
(i.e., avail able   Boulder, CO       the U.S. and
hotel rooms)                          spans the.
                                      Continental
                                      Divide: In 48
                                      miles, you'll
                                      drive from
                                      wetlands to
                                      alpine areas,
                                      with staggering
                                      views to boot

Find a smart        Kings Canyon      Towering granite  $2o/vehicle
alternative to the  National Park     Sierra Nevada     entrance fee;
big guns            (aka Not          peaks, alpine     nps.gov/seki
                    Yosemite), two    meadows, a
                    hours east of     dramatic canyon,
                    Fresno, CA        and--wait for
                                      it--1/6th as
                                      many visitors as
                                      Yosemite

Pick a park with    Olympic National  Look at the       $15/vehicle
oodles of lodging   Park, west of     photo! Rain       entrance fee,
                    Seattle           forests,          nps.gov/oly
                                      beaches, sea
                                      stacks, and 4
                                      in-park lodges
                                      that often can
                                      be booked a few
                                      weeks out

DILEMMA 2

Is it true you can't visit Alaska in summer unless you plan a year in advance?

Not true. The average booking window for a trip to Alaska is five months, according to the Alaska Travel Industry Association, but you can often snag a cruise cabin weeks before the departure date. If you want to stay in Denali National Park, with its limited lodging options, it's probably best to book for 2011 now, but for this summer, think about Denali State Park, which has camping in the park and nearby lodges like Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. Even the most planning-averse travelers should be able to find a hotel room in Anchorage, Juneau, or Fairbanks and take day trips: You can visit the Mendenhall Glacier from Juneau, float the Placer River from Anchorage, or explore Chena Hot Springs from Fair banks. travelalaska.com

DILEMMA 3

What summer events should I book now, before it's too late? …