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Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo by Matt Morgan.

Every year the Sunset Travel Awards honor the best in travel in the West. This year we had over 600 entries across all categories (a record number!). These spots are the 2023 winners of the Where to Go: Best Nature Experiences category. Check out the complete list of winners here. For our definitive directory to travel in the West, click here.

Best Nature Experiences

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon Navajo Loop

Matt Morgan

Marked by towering red rock formations, this International Dark Sky Park is one of Utah’s “Mighty Five” for good reason. With wide-open spaces in awe-inspiring vistas, it’s a transformative destination that belongs on every traveler’s bucket list.

Visit Channel Islands National Park

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Courtesy of Island Packers Cruises

The remote nature of this national park off the Central Coast of California—one of the least visited in the parks system—makes it all the more beautiful. Island Packers Cruises gives explorers of all skill levels easy access with kayaking, camping, and whale watching trips to beautiful Anacapa, Santa Cruz, and Santa Rosa islands.

The Portland Japanese Garden

Portland Japanese Garden Moon Bridge

Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden, Photo by Roman Johnson

Since 1963 this garden has attracted international visitors with its 12 tranquil acres of eight garden styles, a Japanese tea house, view of Mount Hood, year-round events, and its mission of peace and unity. One of the most impressive examples of the art of Japanese landscape design and culture.

REI Point Reyes National Seashore Backpacking Adventure

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REI Co-op

Point Reyes’ achingly beautiful stretch of California coastline provides a diverse habitat for everyone from backpackers to daytrippers to explore and REI’s adventure itinerary is the most convenient way to experience it. Their expert guides conveniently shuttle hikers from San Francisco to experience the area’s stunning estuaries, expansive grasslands, and grand beaches in their untrammeled timeless form.