Camping is really fun—until it's not. Sleeping out under the stars is glorious—until you wake up with a sore back. Connecting with nature is wondrous—until you realize you and your partner both smell like a toxic combination of sweat, dirt and campfire smoke, and you'd gladly trade all of your outdoor equipment for one hot shower.
If you enjoy the outdoors but also like some civilization thrown in, "glamping" offers the best of both worlds. Spend time enjoying hikes, outdoor recreation, s'mores around the campfire and everything else that's fun about camping. Then, when you're ready, turn to the "glamour" side and take a shower with real plumbing before drifting off to sleep on an actual indoor bed on a real floor in an enclosed space.
If you're a traveler who wants to mix the beauty of the outdoors with the comforts of the indoors, check out these options close to home and in beautiful locations in neighboring states.
Conestoga Ranch (400 W. 300 North, Garden City, 844-464-5267, ConestogaRanch.com)—located near Bear Lake in Garden City, Utah—became Utah's newest entry in the glamping arena when it opened on July 1, 2015. Visitors will be able to choose between glamping "tents" (with real beds, bathrooms and hot showers) and Conestoga covered wagons (which will have real beds, fire pits outside and access to a luxury bathhouse). The wagons are mobile, so if you have a large group, you can circle the wagons in one spot and be together.
There will also be an on-site restaurant serving breakfast selections and family-style dinners, a small bar with beer and wine, and a place to rent equipment for fun out on Bear Lake. You can also pick up supplies for your own fire-pit dinner including "haute dogs" made with Kobe beef. No trip to Bear Lake is complete without getting a famous raspberry shake, and the Conestoga Ranch Shake Shack will be whipping them up all summer long.
Moab Under Canvas (13784 Highway 191, Moab, 801-895-3213, MoabUnderCanvas.com) laid claim to being Utah's first glamping location when it opened in 2013 just outside of Arches National Park. MUC features Safari tents with kings beds, safari furniture table, lantern and wood burning stove with complimentary firewood. They also have teepee marquees that are based on a traditional teepee design. Each of the seven sides can be flipped up or down depending on the weather or time of day, or sides can be lifted to join up with other teepees to accommodate groups. Guests can add the bed & breakfast option or order a picnic lunch for their adventurous day ahead.
Besides visiting nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks, guests can arrange packages that also provide rock climbing, mountain biking and other outdoor activities.
Fireside Resort (2780 Moose Wilson Road, Wilson, 877-660-1177, FiresideJacksonHole.com) is situated just minutes from Grand Teton National Park and the town of Jackson, and just over an hour from Yellowstone. Fireside features 23 "Jackson Hole" rustic cabin rentals. Beds are covered in plush linens and duvets, and topped with goose pillows. Full kitchens are provided so you can whip up a meal to serve out on your private deck. There are also living-room areas featuring flat-screen televisions and WiFi. Besides being enjoyable in the summer, the cabins are the perfect hideaway for a winter getaway, since Fireside is located just minutes from skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
El Capitan Canyon (11560 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, 866-352-2729, ElCapitanCanyon.com) is situated in a prime spot at the north end of Santa Barbara and just off California's famed Pacific Coast Highway. Speaking of the Pacific, the ocean itself is less than a mile from the canyon that holds El Capitan.
The site offers a variety of accommodations, including large yurts and canvas tents with beds and electricity, as well as cedar cabins that feature a full bathroom—where you can soak in a large tub—plus a kitchenette and outdoor deck. Don't want to pack everything for your evening meal? Just stop by the on-site Canyon Market & Deli and pick up one of its signature barbecue kits that includes everything for a camp-style fireside dinner with s'mores for dessert.
Safari West (3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa, 800-616-2695, SafariWest.com) in California's wine country lets you get wild and spend the night glamping in the "Sonoma Serengeti" surrounded by giraffes, zebras and even a cheetah or two. Don't worry: They're in enclosed areas. You can enjoy a daytime safari through the park to see the animals before bedding down at night in a luxury tent built on a high wooden platform, complete with a private bathroom and hot shower. Have dinner at the on-site Savannah Cafe before sitting on the deck outside your tent watching and listening to the animals as the sun sets.
If you're a bit put off by traditional camping, then try glamping, and reintroduce yourself to the outdoors while being a bit pampered.
Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin host the Travel Brigade Radio Show and Podcast. You can find them at TravelBrigade.com.