Luxury Accommodations Under the StarsBy Fran Miller
If the idea of pitching a tent and getting down and dirty in the wilderness leaves you less than enthused, we have good news for you. Glamour camping––known as glamping––is an alternative way to experience the great outdoors. We’ve scoured the state from north to south to bring you some of the best. Make your reservations, get out there, and glamp.
Perched on the spectacular Big Sur coast, sixteen yurts sit on redwood platforms, each with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Swanky touches include queen-size beds, cushy couches, heaters, and electric lights. Outside, deck chairs are positioned to take in awe-inspiring sunsets. For an especially cozy retreat, curl up in the remarkable "tree nest" made of twining branches by artist Jason Fann. But for the ultimate in luxury, book the Autonomous Tent Grand, a one-of-a-kind space resembling a giant cocoon. Secluded on the resort edge with a private deck and outdoor fire pit, this spacious tent features a king bed, luxurious linens, in suite shower, a gas fireplace and leather lounging chairs. Treebones also sports a full restaurant, a heated pool and spa, and an outdoor bar. Complimentary do-it-yourself waffle breakfast is available at the resort’s restaurant. Yurts start at $263/night. Human Nest runs $150/night. treebonesresort.com
Located on the central coast in Cayucos, Wellspring Ranch is a couples-only sanctuary that sits on 160-acres of rugged pastoral beauty close to sea kayaking, surfing, horseback riding and wine tasting. At this “no cell phone” retreat, explore miles of hiking and biking trails, appointed gardens and ponds, picnic spots and yoga facilities. Refined bedroom lofts feature King beds, fireplaces and private bathrooms. Cabana yurts nestled under ancient oaks come with King memory foam mattresses, luxury linens, fireplaces and private bathrooms. The Luxe Airstream yurt is equipped with a queen bed, gas fireplace, Turkish cotton robes and purified mineral water from every tap. Ranch fresh meals are served al fresco year round. Rates start at $375 per night. wellspringranch.com
Just north of Santa Barbara on the Central Coast, El Capitan Canyon is a rarity, one of the only Southern California spots where you can sleep in a coastal canyon beneath a canopy of trees. Surrounded by El Capital State Beach, this secluded location boasts cabins with Chumash decorative details, soaking tubs and kitchenettes, as well as wired yurts and safari tents. Each has its own fire pit for charring the tri-tip and marshmallows purchased at the onsite general store. Bike on a complimentary cruiser to the sandy beach and tide pools, take a surf lesson, whale watch, kayak, or swim in the heated pool before retreating to your plush cedar cabin. For traditionalists, spacious furnished safari tents with screened windows are equipped with linens, towels, and electric lamps. Rates vary greatly. elcapitancanyon.com.
SEQUOIA HIGH SIERRA CAMP AT KING'S CANYON
Located in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Fresno on a steep, wooded hillside with views of mountain peaks, dramatic creeks and peaceful meadows, this slice of paradise offers 32 stunning canvas tents that comfortably sleep two to four. Each features plush beds and bedding, artisan furniture and décor, along with gourmet meals prepared by the on-site executive chef. Kick-back in the evening by the communal campfire after a day of exploring the stunning sequoia and redwood trees buried within Sequoia National Park. Take part in bird watching, horseback riding or fly fishing, then return for a hot outdoor shower and a dinner of wild-caught king salmon served in the open-sided dining pavilion. Rates start at $250 per person. sequoiahighsierracamp.com
Cradled in the rolling hills of Point Reyes, Windsong is located on four remote acres where guests sleep in an elegant circular tent––known as a yurt––featuring a large round room with a ceiling skylight, a full kitchen, a California King bed, a pullout sofa, a private garden and a hot tub for star gazing. Other amenities include cable TV, a Blue Ray/DVD, CD, iPod Dock, free high speed WiFi, a wood burning heat stove (with an ample supply of wood) and built-in electric heat. All bedding and towels are provided. $190 per night weekdays; $220 on weekends/holidays. windsongcottage.com
BOTHE NAPA VALLEY
This beautiful Napa Valley campground has it all: 1,900 acres to explore, ten miles of hiking trails, traditional campsites, and yurts. While a bit more rustic, the Bothe yurts qualify this location as a certifiable glamping site. Each is equipped with a queen bed, two cots, table and chairs, outdoor fire pit and picnic table, nearby bathrooms and a lockable door. Large 21-foot yurts sleep up to six, smaller up to four. Bring your own sleeping bags or bedding, cooking utensils, food and towels. Hike local trails winding through impressive redwoods, Douglas-firs and big leaf maples, and glimpse views of the Napa Valley and Mount Saint Helena. Reward yourself with a dip in the spring-fed swimming pool. Yurts start at $70/night. napavalleystateparks.org
What makes it glampy? Upscale dining at the onsite restaurant.
In a canyon below the Ventana Inn & Spa, where rooms on summer weekends start at $1,100 per night, Ventana Campground is Big Sur without the big price. Arranged along a creek in a redwood forest, the 78 spacious campsites are well-groomed and equipped with fire rings and picnic tables. Campgrounds aren’t usually known for upscale dining, but a trail leads up to the rustic, yet modern Restaurant at Ventana, whose smoked brisket sandwich and black cod dinner are worth the climb. Campsites start at $75/night. ventanacamping.com
The tent bungalows at this coastal Pescadero escape are scattered throughout the property with plush bedding, electricity, sliding windows, and locking doors. Comfort stations include a central courtyard with fireplace, sauna, heated floors, and private showers. An outdoor hot tub, wireless internet, and the day spa help cement Costanoa’s well-earned designation as a top California glamping destination. Cook and enjoy your meals on the outdoor grills and picnic tables, or head to the Cascade Bar & Grill for locally sourced seafood and produce. Spend your days mountain biking through towering redwoods, horseback riding across meadows or exploring the beach and tide pools. Rates vary greatly. coastanoa.com
INN TOWN CAMPGROUND
Nevada City's new campground promises a plush place to relax after a day of play in the Sierra foothills. Opened by Erin and Dan Thiem, Inn Town offers easy access to the Yuba River, exceptional road routes for cyclists and miles of hiking trails. The year-round campground has 70 total campsites, the majority of which are meant for pitching your own tent, but 15 customized sites bring a bit of style to nature, outfitted with custom beds and linens, furniture and electricity. Rates: $45/night for tent sites and $90 for glamping tents (some sites are pet friendly for an additional fee). inntowncampground.com
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
WEATHER: Conditions vary from day to night. Do your research, and pack accordingly, but plan for surprises like unexpected rain. For most of our suggested locations, expect cool mornings, warm days, and chilly evenings.
GEAR: While some locations have it all, others require traditional camping gear. You’ll never go wrong with an extra flashlight.
FOOD: To cook or not to cook? On-site restaurants and chef created meals remove the need for critter-attracting coolers. But if cooking is your thing––feel free. It’s all about options.