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So where does a travel writer go on his vacation? At this point, I have canvassed the entire U.S., Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe, Australia and New Zealand. My favorite trips and the ones that I always recommend to friends are surprisingly close to home.


Glacier National

Summer in Montana is something everyone should enjoy at least once. Glacier National Park has perhaps the most stunning scenery of any National Park. Fly into Kalispell and spend a night to get grounded before your expedition. It will take at least two days to properly see this park. The Great Bear Lodge at the Saint Mary Lodge and Resort is the best lodging choice. Located about halfway into the park, we found it to be a perfect stopping point.

Take in Two Medicine Lake before heading down the Going to the Sun road. This is as good as it gets for the eye and equal to the best vistas of New Zealand. The road heads back to Whitefish, where you could also spend a day or two.


Paradise Valley to the Canyon

This is a great trip most any time of year. Fly in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, spending a night or so on both ends. The Montelucia Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley would be a good spot for this. The hotel is no more than 20 minutes from the airport and has panoramic views of Camelback Mountain from most rooms. You can walk to the backside of the mountain and pick up a medium-to-tough hike. The first third of this trail is for most anyone in good shape. From there, you better be in shape and have the right shoes. The views on the way up of the entire Valley of the Sun are awesome.

After a day or so, it will be time to head north to the majestic landscape of Northern Arizona. There is a lot to see and probably too much for one trip. Sedona, The Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Monument Valley and the Petrified Forest are all within reach. Most will opt for Sedona and the Grand Canyon, which are just a couple of hours from Phoenix. Sedona offers the most luxurious accommodations and could serve as a base camp for such an excursion. The Grand Canyon is worth a couple of days and even more if you choose to hike to the bottom. The Phantom Ranch awaits the hearty at the bottom, but reservations must be made well in advance. There is a mule ride down, but I must tell you this is not for those with a fear of heights. The trail is narrow and you will be looking at a vertical drop for much of the journey. Also remember the temperature is very different at the bottom. One real advantage of this trek is the ability to explore Havasu Falls, normally only seen by helicopter.


San Francisco to Monterey

I just never get tired of visiting the City by the Bay, but living there is a different story. Back in my younger days, I spent two years right in the city after college and grew tired of the cold, wet weather. On vacation, I look forward to the rugged climate of this great city, knowing that in a few days I will be warmer. Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco or the Huntington atop Nob Hill for the most authentic experience. The atmosphere is always festive and you are close to everything. The steep hills will provide you with the entire workout you need here, and be sure to bring your running shoes.

The Monterey/Carmel area is just a couple of hours to the south with something for everyone. Golfers will be in heaven with the famed courses inside the 17-Mile Drive. Kids will love the Monterey Aquarium and the great outdoors await all. The 17-Mile Drive offers many trails right along the crashing surf. Point Lobos, a bit to the south, will give you a closer look at the various sea creatures that venture onshore or close-by. Big Sur is just a few miles past Point Lobos. The Rocky Point Restaurant sits on a bluff along this route and is perfect for lunch or dinner.

Any one of these trips is sure to give you your money’s worth. Remember that Montana has a short summer. Fall would be best there, for better rates and less crowds. The Northern Arizona trip has a longer season. As for Northern Cal, just avoid the rains of February and you should be OK.