GLAMPING: The Art of Camping in Style
COVID has driven more of us outside, many for the first time. So has the need to get out with style and a little bit of comfort. So, the glamping industry is booming, and with it the variety of experiences has grown.Glamping is short for glamorous camping, and a good glamping experience will get you close to nature without leaving the comforts of home behind. Beyond that, what else makes something a good glamp? Price? Location? Amenities? Accommodations?
As the seasons begin to change and unpredictable weather can put an uninvited test to three season gear, glamping is certainly a good choice — yurts, cabins, trailers, and even deluxe tents provide protection from wind, rain and cold temperatures. Some places are cheaper in the off-season with fewer crowds. Here we look at a few California glamping options that can take you outside as we head into cooler weather.
Treebones on the Big Sur coast has offered luxury camping in a rugged natural environment long before “glamping” was even a word. Treebones co-founder Corrine Handy recalls saying things like, ”Come and enjoy nature close up, but in the comfort of a round tent with a cozy bed, linens, blankets and electricity.” Corrine notes that it is easier to describe Treebones now that there is a word — “glamping” — to describe the experience.
Those round tents Corinne mentions are yurts, and they are central to the Treebones experience. John and Corinne initially chose yurts because they were a year round way to help folks engage with nature. They’re warm and cozy but let you hear and see what’s outside. Starting at $340 per night, the yurts are a key part of Treebones, and for privacy most are limited to two people.
In addition to the yurts, there are two “autonomous tents” that are powered by their own dedicated solar arrays. Here you will experience posh upscale “off grid tenting” in one of Big Sur’s most luxurious and private locations. The resort also includes a more traditional campground, a pool, sauna, sushi bar, restaurant, and organic garden. Guests are warned that “the wifi is weak,” which many prefer.
With glamping, the comforts of home have come more in demand, and the cost of running a glamping venue along the Big Sur coastline has increased, and so have the prices. Resulting in Treebones serving guests who have more disposable income. Corrine says, “It’s neither a bad or good thing. It just happens.”
Inn Town Campground in Nevada City is also family-owned and operated. Inn Town features twenty “glamping tents,” that owner Erin Thiems says evoke the Gold Rush era that the area still identifies with. The glamping frames sit on raised wooden platforms and are covered by canvas.
The tents are all unique, with nightly rates between $95 and $170. They are roomy enough for the families who like a cozy experience. The Inn Town Campround glamping tents and their amenities (including housekeeping) have helped a lot of folks tiptoe their way into outdoor adventure, especially in COVID times. They “just show up, order a pizza and sit outside and relax,” she says.
Costanoa sits right on the rugged coast in northern Santa Cruz County. They also offer similar structures known as “tent bugalows.” Costanoa General Manager Trent Bridges says, “We call them tent bungalows so people understand that they don’t need to put tents up themselves.”
In addition to their tent bungalows, Costanoa has rustic cabins and a luxury lodge. For those who prefer pitching a tent or bringing their own RV, reservations can be made at the Costanoa KOA. Comfort stations are scattered throughout the property and they each include a central courtyard with a fireplace, dry sauna, heated concrete floors, private indoor and outdoor showers, sinks, flush toilets and complimentary wifi. Similar to other glamping resorts, there is on-site access to high-end services and artisanal cuisine.
Formerly known as Sorensen’s Resort, Wylder HOTEL Hope Valley near South Lake Tahoe offers up a variety of glamping options. After purchasing the resort, owner John Flannigan and his team restored the 30 rustic cabins of the original Sorensen’s Resort formerly owned by John and Patty Brissenden. These include some log cabins that were built in the early 1900s. Flanigan expanded the resort and bought the campground next door, which now includes scenic sites with seven custom yurts and a bakery. There’s also a vintage 1951 Spartan trailer on the property, perhaps heralding the arrival of more to come. Flannigan believes the mix of accomodation options makes it easier for folks to explore the outdoors in their own way.
The glamping industry has also caught on to the consumers’ attraction to trailers, both vintage and new. Small independent resorts like Waypoint VENTURA and THE Trailer pond at Alta Colina feature restored trailers: the former at the beach; the latter in the wine country. AutoCamp is a corporate chain offering campgrounds built around Airstream trailers. They are already on the Russian River and near Yosemite, and are coming soon to Joshua Tree. These companies tend to emphasize the unique connection their properties make between design and the environment.
Purists may think that glamping dilutes the true camping experience. Alan Bair of Pacific Yurts says otherwise, “There are people who just enjoy going out and roughing it, but there is a much larger segment that wants comfort. Glamping helps them experience nature in ways that creates more stewards for the outdoors.” And that’s a win for all.