The essential Western states travel planning tool: Sunset Magazine

Sunset, the Menlo Park, California-based lifestyle magazine, is an outstanding regional magazine with excellent tips for travel and dining in the Western and Pacific states. The magazine remains fresh issue after issue, and strikes that essential editorial balance between helping and inspiring readers.

Toward the former end, it offers directed tips; toward the latter, it inspires imaginative thinking on the part of its readers about travel, gardening, cooking, and home renovation. Sunset’s brief includes the Western US states from Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico on west, and extends to Alaska, Hawaii, and western Canada and Mexico.

The June issue is loaded with good travel stories. Two highlights are Peter Fish’s examination of Carmel on high and low budgets and Rachel Levin’s take on the Idaho Sawtooths, introduced as the “hidden Rockies.” The Sawtooths article concludes with a list of four more “hidden ranges” that don’t get much attention. This pairing is vintage Sunset: one well-known, highly visited spot alongside one much less well-known.

The May 2010 issue, all archived online, is devoted largely to travel. Star features included an insider’s guide to offbeat Maui, a long weekend stay in the San Juan Islands, and a 24-hour trip to Yosemite.

Sunset’s Travel Update blog touts good hotel deals across the Western states. Latest posts include tips on hotels in Ventura, Zion National Park, Healdsburg, San Luis Obispo county, and Palo Alto.

Although Sunset is by no means exclusively a travel magazine, its archive may just provide the best Western states travel guide around. It takes perennially popular destinations as seriously as it takes quirky places on the landscape that get little attention, and it is indispensable in its coverage of both.

(Image: Flickr/stephenhanafin)