Thomas J. Story

From the coziest cabins to the most epic coastal road trip, these are the stories that got our readers daydreaming about their next vacation

Jessica Mordo  – December 23, 2019 | Updated December 26, 2019

From the most romanticized coastal route in the nation to mountain hideaways, the West is teeming with astounding natural beauty and off-the-beaten-path finds. All of the region’s most jaw-dropping sights, fun hotels, and vibrant towns are captured in our top travel stories of the year.

#10: The Island Paradises That Dreams Are Made Of

Mark-Skerbinek / Getty-Images

You might say that when it comes to its islands, the West is stacking the deck with Hawaii. The tropical archipelago does boast some of the world’s most idyllic isles, but don’t discount the more northerly islands: rugged surfer paradise awaits in B.C.’s Vancouver Island, the San Juans offer some of the most charming scenery and towns in the West, and don’t get us started on Catalina.

Read the Story: Top 30 Island Escapes in the West

#9: The Most Unusual Hotels You’ll Ever See

Thomas J. Story
More Videos From Sunset

For a completely Instagrammable vacation, sleep in a hanging orb in the Canadian rainforest, bed down in a house on stilts on the hillside in Baja wine country, or choose another highly unique hotel the West has to offer.

Read the Story: The 17 Most Unusual Hotels You Have to See in the West

#8: The Coolest College Towns

Jen Judge

These ten towns across the West make the grade for their esteemed academic institutions and a plethora of cultural, dining, and outdoorsy options off campus—making them some of the most livable places in the region.

Read the Story: 10 Best College Towns in the West

#7: The Restaurants with the Most Killer Views

Andrea M. Gómez

If we eat with our eyes first, then these restaurants do double-duty on the eye candy with scenic views to match the quality of their cuisine.

Read the Story: 19 Restaurants with Stunning Views

#6: The Coastal Route of Our Dreams

Thomas J. Story

We love road-tripping out west, and there’s no route more idealized or more driven than California’s Highway 1, a.k.a. the Pacific Coast Highway. Whether you tackle one section or all 735 miles, you’ll find endless pleasures, from postcard-worthy landscapes to top-notch seafood joints.

Read the Story: Ultimate California Highway 1 Road Trip

#5: The Greatest Hits National Park Road Trip

Thomas J. Story

Speaking of road trips, this one embodies the saying, “Go big or go home.” Highway 89 winds its way through six (count ’em, six!) of the West’s most glorious national parks, from Glacier to the Grand Canyon. Spend a summer on this route and you’ll pack in a lifetime’s worth of memories.

Read the Story: From Glacier to Grand Canyon, Hit Six Iconic National Parks on This Highway 89 Road Trip

#4: The Bucket-List Hikes

Crater Lake, one of the best hikes in Colorado, in Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness
Creative Commons photo by John B. Kalla is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The West has some of the most varied hiking terrain in the country, including mountain treks to top all other mountain treks, explorations through otherworldly desert landscapes, trails that lead up to jaw-dropping coastal vistas, and the one and only rainforest in the continental U.S. No biggie.

Read the Story: 42 Can’t-Miss Hikes in the West for Amazing Scenery and Terrain

#3: The Dreamiest Beach Towns

John Clark

We know the West Coast is the best coast, and these are the relatively undiscovered towns up and down the shore that are just as beautiful as their more popular neighbors.

Read the Story: The 14 Dreamiest Unsung Beach Towns on the West Coast

#2: The Coziest Cabin Getaways

Courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs

Cabins: we can’t get enough of them, and neither can our readers, apparently! Here, we’ve rounded up 40 of the coziest escapes imaginable.

Read the Story: 40 Cozy Cabins for a Weekend Getaway in the West

#1: The Most Affordable Places to Live

Thomas J. Story

We scoured the region for towns with the most value: lower cost of living, a decent job market, and far-from-sleepy in terms of cultural offerings. You just might find your next best place to live on this list of 19 towns.

Read the Story: The West’s Most Affordable Towns Have More Than Cheap Housing and Good Jobs—They’re Awesome Places to Live