For the 2022 Outdoor Living Issue, Sunset editor-in-chief Hugh Garvey reflects on the West’s many ways to savor golden hour, and all the hours in between.

Golden hour at Green and Red Vineyards
Tobin Heminway and Ray Hannigan at Green and Red Vineyards. Photo by Thomas J. Story.

There are few diversions as lovely as watching a sunset, whether it’s over the terracotta roofs of Santa Barbara and into the Pacific, behind the wind-bent trees of Big Sur silhouetted black against a blaze-orange swath of sky, over the red hills of the Arizona desert, or peeking through pines in the Washington woods. Now that summer is here, we’ve been granted sunsets pushed out later in the day to savor. We’ve also been granted another unsung gift, that flipped view of a sunset, the fleeting 45 minutes or so known as golden hour. It’s when the sun drops and the angle of light goes low and soft and diffuse, and only the nectar light remains. Yes, the sky and the clouds of a sunset are stunning, but if you shift your gaze toward the earth you’ll see that everything around you is suffused with this golden light. Flowers get backlit, the fuzz on leaves glows, the white wine in your glass goes amber, and everybody looks picture-perfect. You don’t need a grand view of the ocean or a mountain range to enjoy golden hour. It happens wherever you are, magically transforming the everyday around you into a sight to behold.

With golden hour happening later in the summer, that means more time outside: for al fresco dinners, for evening hikes, and, yes, for sunset walks on the beach. We have more opportunities to spontaneously hit the road, more chances to cook in the wild or in our backyard, more motivation to contemplate how to dial in our patios and pools. To help fill those longer days with joy, we trucked out to Joshua Tree to test gear for stargazing in the wild, to Jackson Hole to learn the basics of fly fishing, to Phoenix to bring back the essentials of grilling Sonoran-style, to Sonoma for design inspiration from a modernist wine country retreat, to Big Sur for a luxe finale to an all-electric road trip from Santa Barbara, and to Los Angeles for a refresher course on farm-to-table cooking from none other than Alice Waters.

Sunset June/July 2022 Outdoor Living Issue cover
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Sunset’s Outdoor Living Issue 2022

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Yes, these are epic explorations in iconic destinations. But each and every story has a takeaway you can put to use wherever you are. So, my tip to you the next time you see a stunning sunset is to, yes, savor it and the grand view of the kindest star in the loveliest season. But don’t look only toward the horizon: Turn around and look for the gold around you, too.

—Hugh Garvey, editor-in-chief