The very idea of heading outdoors is predicated on leaving the amenities afforded by the indoors, lugging a tent into the wild to trade comfort for exploration.
But a long-standing tradition of “roughing it” to learn how to tackle and appreciate nature around Utah is changing.
Glamorous camping or “glamping” isn’t a new concept, but the options for a night’s stay in the wilderness around the state are expanding.
There are king-size beds in Conestoga wagons in Garden City, WiFi in luxury tents under the stars in Kanab and high-definition televisions adorning the walls of extravagant yurts in Escalante.
There’s also the CamelBak Pursuit Series Aug. 11-13, a “summer camp for adults” that includes glamping options and a curated experience for beginners and intermediate outdoor adventurers to learn everything from kayaking to rock climbing.
Held at Snowbasin Ski Resort in Huntsville, the Pursuit Series includes “world-class guides” for hundreds of activities, all the required gear, meals, an open bar and more for a one-day pass price of $225 to three days for $599.
From there, packages escalate to include all the aforementioned amenities plus a camping pass ($649 for three days) to the now sold-out glamping options in fully furnished tipis and safari tents.
Bart Davis, Pursuit Series’ director of operations, said the event is designed to help participants expand their outdoors skills and learn new activities “in an environment that’s really encouraging, safe and unintimidating.”
“It’s all good, we just want people outdoors and active,” Davis said. “It’s whatever you’re comfortable with, we can accommodate that and that’s the key.”
Amy Affeld and her husband, Curtis Wilson, bought land just outside Kanab five years ago. A year ago, they were inspired to turn it into a glamping property after their trips along the Yakima River in Washington and a “high-end” excursion to Africa.
The couple built the Basecamp 37° property 9 miles outside the center of Kanab along the Utah-Arizona border with four tents featuring king-size beds, solar power and internet access for $155 per night.
“I thought glamping was a growing a trend and people that were out experiencing the beauty of southern Utah in particular don’t necessarily want to be in a hotel room,” Affeld said.
In the first year of operation, she said her clientele trends younger than she expected and ranges from experienced adventurers to some who “have never been down a dirt road before.”
“We’ve got gourmet s’mores, campfires and starry nights,” Affeld said. “I think that sells itself.”
Jan Roundy started her glamping destination, Escalante Yurts, “on a wing and a prayer” on 30 acres of land.
Looking for a new way to make a living, Roundy put in five luxury yurts complete with canopy beds, bathrooms and some with full kitchens to host guests starting in April.
“I wanted it to be a place where somebody really wanted to come and enjoy making memories,” she said. “Not just come because they want to hike all day and be dirty and camp in a tent, but because they want to hike all day and come back and relax.”
Nestled between Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef national parks and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the smaller yurts sleep four for $225 per night and the bigger yurts sleep seven for $325 per night.
Roundy said her guests are “amazed” that the yurts have white linens and that there’s “no comparison” to tent camping.
“You get the shower, you get off the ground and you get to really relax after your hikes instead of having a sleepless night and then going back out again,” she said.
Conestoga Ranch sits on the shores of Bear Lake in Garden City and features wagons that can be “circled” for family reunions or large groups around a communal campfire.
Tom Hedges, co-owner of the ranch, acknowledged the initial proposition of asking people to vacation in a covered wagon was risky, but said the resort is now a popular spot for Utahns and travelers moving through the state to Jackson Hole, Wyo., or Yellowstone National Park.
“What we found is the whole glamping trend offers something that’s pretty unique, but also comfortable,” Hedges said. “Our pitch is it combines a luxury resort experience with all the wonders and benefits of camping.”
The wagons, which sleep up to six, and tents, which sleep up to eight, feature amenities like freshly laundered linens, full bathrooms and king-size beds. Low-season rates are around $115, with busy summer season costs rising to $400 per night.
Hedges said he sees the Bear Lake resort as “the first of many” Conestoga Ranches to serve a growing market of travelers who want a rugged outdoor experience during the day and a soft bed at night.
“I think it’s going to continue to grow,” Hedges said. “I don’t think it’s a trend, I think it’s just a new form of lodging that people are becoming more and more interested in.”
Glamping options around Utah
Basecamp 37° • http://www.basecamp37.net
Conestoga Ranch • http://conestogaranch.com
Escalante Yurts • https://www.escalanteyurts.com
More • https://utah.com/glamping-in-utah