Family Glamping Roundup

January 18, 2015

Glamping, a popular portmanteau for “glamorous camping,” essentially takes a hotel room and puts it in the middle of nature. It’s a nice compromise for parents who can’t agree on how to introduce their children to the great outdoors. Simply put, my husband would love to rough it for a weekend in the middle of nowhere with a tent and sleeping bag, whereas I tend to favor a comfortable bed, indoor plumbing and civilization.


El Capitan Canyon Resort, located 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, is one of the original glamping resorts. The resort offers safari-style tents, cabins and yurts. Short, docent-led trail hikes allow kids to pet the resort’s llama and goat population, while campers of all ages will enjoy spotting blue-jays, quail, deer, rabbits, poppies and wild mustard growing in the hills. There are lots of activities for campers and non-campers alike as well as summer concerts, shuttle service to the beach, a heated swimming pool and playground for the little ones. You can bring kitchen supplies if you plan to do your own cooking or you can enjoy gourmet-style meals prepared at the Canyon Market and Deli. The Market is also stocked with provisions, drip coffee and is also great for planning a barbecue, complete with s’mores kits and firewood delivered by resort staff.

For those with deeper pockets, the Resort at Paws Up located along Montana’s Blackfoot River offers private luxury canvas-walled tent camps (in addition to ranch-style homes) complete with electricity, heated floors, luxurious bathrooms and butler service. When guests aren’t being catered to, they can go horseback riding, fly-fishing, hot-air ballooning, rappelling, archery, geocaching and even cattle herding. After a hard day on the ranch, visitors can head over to the spa tent for a relaxing massage. And for dinner, glampers can choose from a gourmet restaurant, an outdoor chuck wagon grill or room (well, tent) service. In the summertime, The Paws Up “Kids Corps of Discovery” features a treehouse, playground and mini zip-line. Activities include panning for gold, kiting, a wilderness workshop, a trip to a preserved Montana ghost town, a drum circle, movie nights and a variety of authentic ranch experiences.

A private scenic 45 minute seaplane transfer from Vancouver, British Colombia or a 30 minute boat ride from Tofino takes guests to the Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, an eco-safari destination. Cedar boardwalks connect the 20 guest tents which are hidden under a canopy of the rainforest along the water’s edge or perched “Swiss Family Robinson style” amongst the hillside trees featuring lush down duvets, antique dressers, oil lamps and composting toilets. Employees help visitors choose between activities like whale watching, kayaking, archery and zip-lining. If travelers get bored of all the wilderness, two communal tents can occupy them; one has a wi-fi equipped library, and one houses games like pool. Executive chef and Vancouver Island native, Ryan Orr provides “modern natural cuisine” respecting the Cascadian region and its wealth of locally raised and grown products.

However, glamping certainly doesn’t have to break the bank. A stay at Falling Waters Resort, located in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains, costs less than a typical hotel room. Guests sleep in circular yurts, which feature queen-sized beds and hotel-like amenities such as coffee makers and refrigerators. The resort offers activities such as zip-lining, whitewater rafting and mountain biking. It may not feature the five-star dining and ensuite baths of more upscale glamping sites, but it’s perfect for budget-minded nature lovers.

The high altitude and steep inclines of the Sequoia High Sierra Camp means that the views of this Californian national park are memorable, but not very suitable for small children. However, adults and older teenagers can enjoy one of the 30 spacious canvas bungalows that feature oversized windows, daily maid service, plush-top beds and feather pillows, while the camp’s healthy cuisine is served al fresco in the relaxing dining pavilion. Family-friendly activities like horseback riding, fly-fishing and evening campfire social hours are just a few things glampers can do for fun. Hiking is spectacular here, and you can order picnic lunch for your hike and consult one of the camp’s experts about the best trail for you and your family.

In Washington, San Juan Island’s Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes is the summer camp you always wished for. Custom-built canvas cabins feature pillow-top bedding and a flannel duvet, bath linens, and a cordless lantern and turndown service includes two fleece-covered hot water bottles to toast your toes. The resort is surrounded by 82 scenic acres, providing guests with a range of outdoor activities including nature-watching, playing horseshoes, bocce ball, volleyball, barbecuing, s’mores, treasure hunting, birdhouse and jewelry making classes, an afternoon sundae bar, Tie-dye parties and more. There are three fresh spring water lakes for swimming in, as well as row boat, paddle board, and canoe rentals. The General Store is stocked with sundries, espresso and a lending library of books for all ages.

You can find Camp Orenda in New York state tucked away between the Hudson River and the Adirondack Mountains. Orenda (Iroquois meaning of a spiritual force by which human accomplishment is attained) is a family-owned property that offers glampers custom-made canvas tent cabins and amenities including down comforters, fleece blankets and towels. Activities include horseback riding, rafting, rock climbing, spelunking and there’s a myriad of activities for kids. The campground also has its own restaurant and a not-so-rustic outdoor shower.  Wood burning stoves, stocked daily with split wood, are provided in each cabin. All meals are prepared over an open flame at the open-air Rustic Country Kitchen. A large platform provides guests with a tranquil setting to practice yoga and a large centrally located fire pit, surrounded with Classic Adirondack Chairs accented with cozy throw blankets for the ultimate place to relax.

Know Before You Go

  • Find out how well-stocked the on-site store is and bring what you need. You don’t want to overpack, but you also don’t want to pay $20 for cereal and a cup of coffee.
  • All the extra running around in nature means extra hungry kids. Bring extra snacks.
  • Remember to pack additional warm layers for the evenings as well as hats for the days.
  • Insect repellant is a must. OutScent is a blend of grapefruit, fir needle, patchouli and other wood oils that naturally repels insects and has both a masculine and feminine scent.
  • Bumps and bruises do occur in nature. Bring a good calendula cream, essential oils and some arnica along with some fun bandages for the kids. Be sure to pack antihistamines as well.
  • Bring nature-loving toys such as telescopes, paper to trace constellations, a magnifying glass and binoculars.
  • Many places only loan out adult bikes, so if you’re going to go cycling as a family, bring your kids’ bikes too.

Image source: The Resort at Paws Up

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