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Eastern Sierra, American Samoa among top places to visit in 2013

December 06, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • Ancient petroglyphs are etched into rocks north of Bishop, Calif., in the Eastern Sierra.
Ancient petroglyphs are etched into rocks north of Bishop, Calif., in the… (Don Kelsen / Los Angeles…)

Lonely Planet's top 10 U.S. destinations for 2013 leans toward outdoorsy more than urban spots and gives a big thumbs up to the Eastern Sierra, the sole California location that made the list.

"This year, hop past Yosemite – just beyond lies the secret California dream: the Eastern Sierra, the overlooked flank of the Sierra Nevada range, with other-worldly natural attractions and surprises (Basque culture?), not to mention far fewer visitors," Lonely Planet author Robert Reid writes.

But you knew that. Anyone who has driven up Highway 395 to fish at the legendary Crowley Lake or hike up Mt. Whitney knows how spectacular this area is. (Full disclosure: I go backpacking or hiking in the Eastern Sierra every year.)

Other natural vacation-worthy stops on the list include:

--Washington's San Juan Islands;
--Arizona's Verde Valley, featuring towns such as Jerome, Cottonwood and Sedona and even a wine trail;
--Montana's Glacier National Park; and
--Northern Maine, where the Appalachian Trail begins and ends (depending on which way you're going) at Mt. Katahdin.

Louisville, whether or not it's Derby time, leads the more citified places -- "Could it be that the new Portland is in ... Kentucky?"-- followed by Philadelphia for its newly acquired art pedigree and Minnesota's Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The two unexpected picks: Fairbanks, Alaska, selected because it's the one place where you can see the northern lights 240 days a year, and American Samoa -- islands farther away than Hawaii but still U.S. turf.

I always wonder what didn't make the list this year, so I called up Reid and asked him. Would you believe the entire state of New Jersey (an unofficial No. 11) and Oklahoma City?

"The No. 1 travel album cover of all time is [Bruce Springsteen's] 'Greetings From Asbury Park' and it turns 40 next year," Reid said in making a case for New Jersey.
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