There’s never been a better time to explore the West. Here are just a few ways to hit the road with sustainability, nature, and culture in mind.

Glamping tent with firepit at Ventana Big Sur
Thomas J. Story

With more camping and glamping options than ever before, there’s never been a better time to explore the outdoors in the West. But we’re partial to experiences that slow us down and open our senses, which is why we chose Alila Ventana Big Sur as the location for our cover shoot.

Rightly legendary for its luxe-meets-wild vibes above the coast, it also offers signature activities such as sound baths and astronomy that channel the region’s boho history, plus the option of canvas glamping tents for just $240 a night. But that’s not all. We headed out on the trail to take our trip to the next level: Join us to learn the art of foraging, and discover new ways to hit the road this summer with sustainability, nature, and culture in mind.

Go Ahead, Forage Your Own Food. But First Know the Rules

Foraging with Nan Cole in calendula field

Thomas J. Story

San Luis Obispo guide Nan Cole, who leads foraging excursions at Alila Ventana Big Sur off the California coast, identifies plants on the trail like she’s reading words off a page—calendula, poison hemlock, hedge nettle. Foraging allows her to “see the same place with new eyes,” Cole says. And, when appropriate, she gathers some material, like the nuts she takes home and then roasts with olive oil and sea salt—which she harvests herself. Try your hand at this meditative practice, and you can start to form an intimacy with plants, Cole says, as she offers insight into the dos and don’ts of foraging.

Help Monarch Butterflies While You Travel

Monarch butterfly

Thomas J. Story

The Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove is an otherworldly oasis on the central California coast that serves as an overwintering site for the beloved Western monarch butterfly. It’s the first stop on a new multi-state trail established to educate people about how they can help save the species, which has seen significant decline in recent decades. More people are becoming aware of the migration and doing their part to aid in a healthy population. Recent months saw a bit of good news: About 250,000 monarchs overwintered along the West Coast last winter, according to the Xerces Society, which is up from fewer than 2,000 the year before. Read more about the trail here.

No Fire? No Problem. Camp Cooking Solutions (and Great Dishes, Too)

Chef Gabriel Woo eats udon with daughter
Chef Gabriel Woo and his daughter

Thomas J. Story

With unprecedented wildfires prompting widespread burn bans across the West, cooking in the great outdoors can feel more daunting than ever. The good news? You can easily put together a delicious meal thanks to high-tech gear and expert advice.

Before you head out on a camping trip, Bar Cecil chef Gabriel Woo recommends preparing these vegetables at home. Then all you have to do is heat up the broth—an induction burner will do the trick—to build your bowl. For chef Wes Avila, the mastermind behind Angry Egret Dinette and Ka’teen, the trick is to pack like a chef. Try the recipes from two chefs whose dishes are low on flames but high on flavor.

Epic Road Trips to Take in an Electric Car

Joshua Tree National Park camp

Thomas J. Story

It’s no surprise that people who love the outdoors want to keep these landscapes beautiful for years to come. One in five campers own an electric vehicle, according to Kampgrounds of America. So, we put together some road trip route ideas with plenty of charging stations along the way. Plus, Matt Teske, founder of Oregon-based charging station app Chargeway, shares a few tips for planning the best road trips ever. Read more here.

You Can Make Delicious Cocktails While Camping

gin and grapefruit cocktail recipe
Cocktail by Ryan Lawrence, Clare Byrne, and Thomas Giddings of Suncliffe gin

Thomas J. Story

You don’t need more than a few ingredients to make delicious camp cocktails that are as flavorful as they are easy to tote around. So, we asked a trio of our favorite spirit makers for their favorite recipes. Then we headed to an Airstream at the new AutoCamp Joshua Tree to craft them in the great outdoors. Get the recipes and tips here.

Everything You Need to Throw a Stellar Stargazing Party

Stargazing gear

Thomas J. Story

There’s never been a better time to stargaze in the West, as more cities and states make major moves to protect their dark skies. Grab your camera and throw the ultimate astral affair with these tips and gear recommendations.

Layer up with These New Hiking Essentials

Hiking gear

Thomas J. Story

It can be a tricky feat, packing for outdoor adventures in the spring. Depending on where you are in the West, temperatures can be drastically different. There may be rain in Seattle while the sun is shining in Palm Springs. So, when it comes to gearing up for hiking, biking, and the like, we’re looking for breathable apparel that can be easily layered. And good news: We’ve already found a few favorites after extensive testing in wide-ranging climates from snowy southern Utah to the arid heat of the California desertCheck out our favorites here.

These Stylish Hiking Shoes Easily Go from Trail to … Anywhere

Hiking shoes

Thomas J. Story

We’re all about a shoe that can transition right off the trail to the mountainside brewery, from the rocky cliffs above the ocean to the coffee shop overlooking the waves. This season’s latest footwear achieves that in spades. Breathability? Check. Versatility? Check. Durability? Check, check, check. Here are some standouts.

Behold the Campuccino, the Ultimate Campsite Coffee

Campuccino camp coffee making gear

Thomas J. Story

Let’s be honest: If you’re making and enjoying our camp cocktails during a long night by lantern light, you’re going to need a serious cup of coffee in the morning. So, we challenged Sunset assistant editor Magdalena O’Neal, who spent three years working as a barista across California, to create a caffeinated beverage easily made at any campground. The result? A frothy, creamy, iced coffee that you’ll be craving long after you leave. Learn how to make it here.

Evelynn Escobar Wants Everyone to Get Outside

Evelynn Escobar Hike Clerb

@francothehuman

Evelynn Escobar wants more women of color out on trails. To that end, she first founded Hike Clerb in 2017 as a monthly hike for friends. Now a Los Angeles nonprofit, it has since evolved to help provide resources, workshops, and opportunities to explore the outdoors for people who may not have thought it was for them, or who didn’t grow up with access. She has created a global community, and organized hikes from California to Toronto, with the largest drawing more than 100 women out on one trail.

Escobar refers to it as the “Hike Clerb universe,” and she plans to expand with more hikes, creative endeavors, and outreach programs. See what she has to say about her plans here.

Bonus: Drink the Issue

The Sunset Wine Club perfectly pairs standout wines with recipes from the magazine. See our favorite wine pairings here.