A decade-by-decade look at 110 years of grandeur, glamping, and good times in the outdoors on our magazine covers
– March 31, 2015
June 1904: “Midsummer among the Mariposa Sequoias”
California artist W. H. Bull, who designed many early Sunset covers, captured the majesty of the big trees for our first cover set in the California redwoods. “No man can stand before these prehistoric giants without a new sense of the age of the world and the insignificant span of human life,” said a story.
July 1912: “The Mountain That Was God”
A roadster filled with smartly dressed adventurers drives down the narrow dirt stretch from Washington’s snow-capped Mt. Rainier, known in Native American legends as Tacoma, “the mountain that was God.” Rainier was the first national park open to autos, in 1908, and with an improving network of roads, the West’s wild places invited exploration.
July 1917 “A Motor-Lodge in Some Vast Wilderness”
For our first camping cover, by artist W. H. Bull, the auto again played a big role. Inside, we praised options for comfortable car camping, especially “a camp-body made for your car” (the first RV’s were introduced in Los Angeles in 1910). “It resembles closely an undertaker’s wagon, but only in appearance. It can be fitted to a chassis by any good wagon-builder in an hour.”
July 1926: Camping number
In the 1920s, everybody wanted to go car camping, thanks to the growing number of Americans who could afford automobiles and to the new network of “good highways reaching to even the remotest corners of our far-flung wilderness.” In a sneak preview of today’s glamping trend, we recommended plush automobile camps where “electric irons are not an unusual provision.”
June 1933: Road trip
Car DVD players and smartphone games like Angry Birds were decades away. An editorial in this issue praised the automobile trip as a time when we’re “forcibly detached from the artificial aids to entertainment....on which we are inclined to lean so heavily at home.” Perhaps artist Heath Anderson had good conversation and scenery in mind for her whimsical illustration of a family on the road.
June 1934: A hike along the valley floor
Inside this issue, a story praising Montana's Glacier National Park certainly speaks to Maurice Logan’s untitled watercolor. “Upon cool blue lakes, to let a waterfall sing us to sleep while we lie in camp under the stars, to stand in a field of wildflowers and see a glacier shining in the sun, to catch a glimpse of a mountain goat, a grizzly bear or an elk...”
July 1948: Dude ranch vacations
“What were they thinking?” said Sunset’s current art director when he saw this cover, shot on the approach to Mt. Whitney. Harsh lighting, uninspired text (“noisy, clanking, mechanized world”?), and those dutiful pack animals hardly make us jump to turn the page. All we can say is the post-war audience must have been eager for some fun.
August 1959: The art of camp cookery
With the slopes of Mt. Lassen as a backdrop, Sunset’s managing editor Ken Cooperrider and two other staffers pose for a cozy scene at Manzanita Lake campground. The cover story included directions for cooking bacon and just-caught trout on a stick, and baking mincemeat-port wine pie in a dutch oven.
June 1963: Surprising Yellowstone
America’s oldest national park was suffering. The network of highways made it feel more throughway than sanctuary. The park's once-thundering herds of bison had been reduced to 500. Our 16-page guide took visitors beyond the “elbow-to-elbow fishermen and hopelessly tangled trout lines” to back-country corners where one could be still and discover the magic of rare trumpeter swans, otters, and antelope.
March 1971: Spring camping in Arizona’s desert
There’s no better time to explore the low desert than early spring, said our cover story. Warming weather unfurls the blossoms of the desert primrose, lures the desert tortoise out of hibernation, and invites caravans of weekend nomads to hit the road. As for the nomads’ comfort, there may be no better way to enjoy remote, undeveloped camping spots than the self-sufficient RV.
August 1987: User-friendly Shasta
Uncrowded Mt. Shasta in northern California offers much to the last-minute visitor, we noted, from hiking trails to house-boating, trout streams to historic towns, even opportunities for square-dancing. Yes, square-dancing.
May 1997: 100 best campgrounds
Timothy Lake near Mount Hood, Oregon deserved its spot in our complete camping guide. But our favorite takeaway? The science of s’mores according to a Stanford University professor specializing in combustion science. The last of 6 steps: “Oxyinterruptus. Pulling the marshmallow from the fire and blowing it out interrupts the oxidation process. This creates soot, evidence of incomplete combustion.”
May 2008: Luxury camping resorts
“Problem: Love the outdoors, hate camping. Solution: Swap your sleeping bag for a feather bed,” our cover story stated. Glamorous camping, or “glamping,” was a newly coined term, and our readers took to the concept like blue jays to pancake crumbs.
Becoming a parent doesn’t have to end your camping career, we promised in one story. To help, we shared real-life tips from a staffer and his family, a guide to the 10 best family campgrounds (including this one on the Mendocino Coast), and a recipe for Cowboy Hot Dogs that could be served plain or fully loaded.