I love spending time outside, away from traffic, tall buildings and strip malls. I’ll take open vistas, ponds, streams, forests, all of it. On my forays into the great outdoors, I’ve learned that few things taste better than a freshly peeled orange after five miles of hiking in the woods. Collapsing onto a sleeping bag rarely feels better than after backpacking twelve miles into the heart of a state park.
Then again, I am also a big fan of luxury — hot tubs, heated floors, chocolates on my pillow, you name it. Sometimes where you stay can be as much of a vacation as where it’s located. So naturally, I am quite intrigued by the concept of glamping. A vacation that seamlessly combines in-your-face nature with the comforts of the Ritz? Sign me up!
It turns out that while all agree that glamping is short for “glamorous camping,” the ratio of glamorous to camping is not fixed. Some glamping destinations lean further toward the rustic side of the dial, offering yurts with Spartan furnishings and communal bathrooms. They are more luxurious than pitching your own tent, but not by much. Others take the glam factor to eleven with multiple room designer tents, gourmet chefs, personal butlers and laundry service. These places can make five-star hotels seem dumpy.
All of which goes to say, there are glamping destinations a step above every definition of “roughing it” and available for any budget. Below is a sampling of the glamping options North America has to offer.
Location: Greenough, Montana, USA
Best known as a summer glamping paradise, Paws Up retains its title as North America’s premiere glamping destination in the winter. During the colder months, their 37,000 snow-covered acres become a veritable winter wonderland with sleigh rides and Christmas Eve visits from Santa himself.
The resort’s hallmark attentive, personal service remains, with little tweaks for winter. Guests participating in outdoor activities like dog sledding, snow mobiling or sunrise hot air ballooning are outfitted in cold weather gear to make even extreme elements enjoyable. Sporadic hot chocolate breaks take the coziness a step further. Sledding chauffers spare guests the exhaustion of trudging up hills and the burden of carrying sleds. Each cabin porch has a gurgling hot tub to soak the day’s fun and gourmet meals away beneath a canopy of stars and lightly falling snow.
Paws Up is so popular that it recommends visitors make reservations at least one year in advance. Winter packages come in the three-day romance and four-day adventure variety and start from $3,872 based on two adults. Various winter activities, all meals, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages and transport to and from Missoula are included.
Fun fact: Families of four who want to stay during the holidays can opt for the $10,662 five-day Christmas package that comes with a personal Santa and decorated Christmas tree, among other amenities.
Location: Big Sur, California, USA
Treebones Resort perches cliffside along Highway 1, with many of its 16 yurts offering spectacular ocean and sunset views from their redwood decks. Inside, the luxuries include hardwood floors, towels and linens, hot and cold running water, electricity and gas-burning fireplaces. The pièce de résistance is their skylights, which allow guests to peer at star-filled night skies from the comfort of their queen-sized beds. Sounds of ocean waves and sea lions serve as gentle morning wake up calls.
The resort makes environmental sustainability a priority. All power comes from zero-emission turbines. Meals are served at an onsite restaurant serving veggies from the resort’s garden and eggs from the resort’s chickens, which eat the resort’s compost. The rest of the food is locally sourced whenever possible. Guests who arrive by bicycle are thanked with a free bottle of wine.
While the resort offers a heated pool, hot tub and outdoor sushi bar, it does not provide ensuite bathrooms. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own flashlights in case they need to make the 2-3 minute walk at night. The communal bathroom does, however, have private showers and changing areas.
In the high season from April to October, yurts with mountain views cost $199 per night for two people with a two-night minimum. Ocean views are $229 per night. Weekend stays cost 20% more. A breakfast buffet is included; lunch and dinner are not.
Fun fact: The resort also rents campsites, one of which offers exclusive use of a “human nest.”
Location: Eastman, Quebec, Canada
It seems appropriate that a place that offers a variety of chalets that look straight out of a fairy tale is frequently described as “enchanting” and “charming.” With 11 chalets with cute names like “Seventh Heaven” built across 175 acres with the goal to promote relaxation, escape and contact with nature, it is no surprise that Entre Cimes et Racines won the 2012 gold award for accommodation in Quebec’s Grands Prix du Tourisme. An onsite labyrinth and treasure hunt cements the resort as a nature-lover’s playground for the whole family.
In terms of amenities, the resort seems set up more for the seven dwarves than fairytale royalty. Each chalet comes with a wood stove and firewood for heat. Kitchens are fully equipped (table, chairs, dishes, pots, pans) for those who want to cook their own meals, provided they bring or rent propane stoves. Otherwise restaurants in town are a short drive away. Bed bases with mattresses and pillows are supplied. Linens can be rented or brought from home. Bathrooms are ensuite, but are of the dry, non-flushing variety. Communal showers are available at all times in a separate building.
Open year round, each chalet can be rented for $91-$137 per night for 1-2 people. Additional adults are $15 extra per day. Children are an extra $10 each.
Fun fact: The chalet “Le Troglo” is Quebec’s first cave dwelling and looks like it is straight out of The Hobbit.