Along with the publication of the book Best in Travel 2013, Lonely Planet guidebook editors and expert authors put together a list of 10 places in the United States seriously worth a visit. To our delight, six of the 10 spots took you straight into the outdoors for hiking, sight-seeing, kayaking, wildlife watching, and exploration. In two other locations, bourbon and a foodie’s paradise are just as appealing.
Lonely Planet’s recommended list mentions the following outdoors destinations:
1. Fairbanks, Alaska
Nary an outdoorsman hasn’t thought about visiting Fairbanks, Alaska, especially during the northern lights season. The fire in the fireplace crackles along to the sight of gorgeous tones of green, blue, red, and purple against the dark Alaskan sky. Peak viewing months are from mid-August to end of April.
2. American Samoa
Not many people know that you do not need to file any additional paperwork to get to American Samoa, which is accessible with a U.S. passport. It’s further than Hawaii, but the distance is worth the effort. On the island is a pristine national park (National Park of American Samoa [Ta’u]) with protected bats and native birds. Natural features include cliff as high as 2,952 feet and the Judds Crater. Snorkeling and diving opportunities abound.
3. Eastern Sierra, California
Hidden behind the iconic Yosemite, the eastern Sierra is an equally impressive area, but with less foot traffic. It’s easy to get to and visitors will be stunned by its surreal landscape features akin to what a kingdom on Mars may look like.
4. Northern Maine
Mountain hiking comprable to the Rocky Mountains exists much further east than imagined. The Appalachian Trail starts at Mt. Katahdin in Maine where there are 200,000 acres of lakes and mountains within hiking distance. Catch a glimpse of some moose, go white-water rafting, canoeing, mountain-biking, or take a much more relaxing steamboat ride.
5. Verde Valley, Arizona
Situated between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon, Verde Valley is a good stopping point on your visit to the canyon. Flanked with green canyons, red rocks, and stunning rivers, kayakers and canoers can enjoy themselves in the valley. Small towns nearby offer great food, art, and historic perspectives on the mining industry.
6. Glacier National Park, Montana
There isn’t enough that can be said about Glacier National Park to describe its allure. Wildlife abounds within the park’s boundaries; jagged cliffs, snow-blanketed ridges, and crystal-clear lakes leave quite the impression on visitor’s minds. Many call it their favorite park if they have visited plenty. A drive-through route is available for those who just want to pass through.
Other destinations mentioned on the list include Louisville, Kentucky for the city’s excellent bourbon breweries residing in converted warehouses and the San Juan Islands, Washington, which were deemed the “gourmet archipelago” by guidebook author Brendan Sainsbury. On the Islands, visitors will likely strike upon sunshine as it shines 250 days of the year there and fresh market food is available from numerous vendors. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was mentioned for its world-renowned art museum and numerous art hubs. Lastly, the Twin Cities in Minnesota (Minneapolis and St. Paul) made it onto the list for the best bike lanes, an old bowling alley, and a stunning music scene.
Read the full descriptions of the cities at LonelyPlanet.com.