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What is Glamping?

Glamping — a combination of the words ‘glamorous’ and ‘camping’ — offers you the opportunity to be immersed in nature without sacrificing the comforts of home. Blending luxury and experiential travel, a glamping experience is essentially the best of both worlds: you’re reconnecting with the environment, unplugging and embracing a slower pace, refreshing your mind and spirit, while also enjoying spa-like amenities, decadent sleeping arrangements, and meals that often verge on fine-dining. Places like Joshua Tree National Park, Marfa, and Sedona have served to help bring this idea into popular culture, and now your options are as varied and accessible as your desires. These days a few nights at a luxury campground can be just as comfortable as staying at an upscale hotel, and your time there will undoubtedly be much more memorable. A champagne toast for two as you gaze up into the endless starry sky from the front porch of your private yurt? Yes, please.

What is a luxury campground?

Appearing in almost every destination these days — from national parks to the most remote jungle locations — luxury campgrounds are becoming renowned for their bespoke, sometimes eclectic, and always immersive experiences. Rather than nylon pop-up tents and idling RV’s you can expect custom-designed and curated accommodations, upscale (if not private) restroom and shower facilities, and plenty of amenities. Usually they are designed specifically to highlight the surrounding nature you’re there to appreciate, playing to the scenery and the energy of the area, which only increases the appeal. Unique, thoughtful, and guaranteed to make an impression. The memories you planned to create at your destination start immediately upon arrival at your lodging — it’s not an afterthought or extra, it’s part of the main event.

Where can I go glamping in California?

California is huge and home to multiple climates and topographic features, so it only makes sense that some of the most interesting glamping options in the United States are located right here in The Golden State.

Heartbreak Hotel and Temple Peak at Nomadic Campground
Heartbreak Hotel and Temple Peak at Nomadic Campground

Nomadic | Jacumba Hot Springs Located in the energetic vortex of the Anza Borrego Desert, and on the grounds of Southern California’s largest clothing optional resort, Nomadic melds the classic glamping ethos of an intentionally-curated return to nature with an extra emphasis on freedom and exploration. Outdoor activities like hiking, trail biking, and poolside sunbathing are complemented by on-site wellness workshops and events, creative structures, art installations, and the open invitation to wear as much, or as little, clothing as you desire.

Safari West | Santa Rosa

A former cattle ranch converted into a conservation breeding facility for exotic animals, Safari West is one of the most unique glamping experiences available in Northern California. Each of their thirty canvas safari tents are imported from Botswana and customized on property, featuring private viewing decks, en-suite bathrooms, polished hardwood floors, and all the wildlife sounds of the ‘Sonoma Serengeti.’

Cabins at El Capitan Cabin
Cabins @ El Capitan Canyon

El Capitan Canyon | Santa Barbara

If you’re looking for something close to the Pacific Ocean that will also immerse you in greenery, El Capitan Canyon is ideal. Nestled on the Santa Barbara coast amidst ancient sycamores, you’ll choose between rustic-luxury cedar cabins, adventure yurts, and safari tents when deciding how best to fully appreciate the natural wonders available there.

Yosemite Pines | Yosemite National Park

In addition to classic cabins, yurts, and retro trailers, Yosemite Pines offers notable glamping accommodations in the form of replicated conestoga wagons. Sleeping four to six people and with all the comforts of modern day lodging, these newest additions to their property allow you to channel the ‘pioneer spirit’ without sacrificing anything for the experience.

What’s the difference between camping vs glamping?

Many people liken traditional camping to ‘a working vacation’: lots of preparation, set up, logistics, and potential hardships if something goes awry. Glamping essentially turns this on its head — capturing all the glorious benefits one might seek from a camping experience, and eliminating the effort, logistics, and pitfalls. Not only that, the bespoke nature of so many glamping accommodations means you’re getting something above and beyond even a classic hotel stay, making it an entirely new and wonderful experience unto itself. Sleeping mats become queen sized beds, plastic flashlights become Edison-bulb string lights, and instead of unzipping a slightly damp tent flap first thing in the morning, you might find yourself graciously accepting the freshly-baked scones and pot of coffee you ordered for delivery to your glamping site.

Even if you’re not indulging in a visit to one of the more luxurious glamping properties, the novelty of staying for even a couple of nights in a different sort of dwelling than anything you’re usually encountering can light up your mind and spirit in extremely satisfying ways, leaving you refreshed and rejuvenated on multiple levels.

What are some different glamping accommodations?

And speaking of ‘different sorts of dwellings’ — glamping seems to have them all, depending on the location. At The Colony we offer upscale shipping container hostels if you don’t mind sharing space with some like-minded friends, as well as personal canvas yurts, retro RV’s, and eclectic trailers. You can also look forward to additional sleeping options in things like pods, tepees, themed units designed around individual concepts, and anything else that strikes our fancy along the way … a yacht-turned-apartment-in-the-desert? Who knows! Creativity and novelty are definitely key when curating glamping accommodations.

Other structures you might come across in your glamping explorations could include geodesic domes, A-frame cottages, cubes, treehouses, huts, the aforementioned conestoga wagons, and even caves or igloos if you’re traveling in an area that supports them!

What kinds of activities does glamping offer?

As glamping is blurring the boundary between your accommodations and the nature they’re surrounded by, the activities available during your time there are also evolving to match this new approach to travel. Having full access to the outdoors — often in some of the most coveted and beautiful destinations — while still being able to enjoy a hot shower and gourmet meal before falling into a luxurious bed for the night is one of the perks of glamping that cannot be overstated.

Glamping activities are generally based very much on your chosen destination. You’ll typically find options like horseback riding, or location-specific outdoor adventures such as white-water rafting or zip-lining. Additionally, many often offer some version of spa services: from hot springs to outdoor clawfoot tubs, to full retreat facilities. And of course, there will always be plenty of ways to simply relax and commune with nature: hammocks, swings, outdoor lounge areas, fire pits, and more.

Why go glamping?

As we collectively start to desire more meaningful, more connected experiences in the destinations we are visiting, the way we travel is changing. Glamping offers an approachable and exciting middle ground between the luxury resorts that used to be the norm, and simply winging it out in the woods in pursuit of fresh air and a clear mind. Not only do you get to tap into the proven health benefits of spending time in nature — reduction of anger and fear, lowering of blood pressure and stress hormones, release of tension in the body — but you can do so in a supportive and comfortable environment that doesn’t require you to bring much more than yourself and an open mind. Plus glamping can resolve all the hesitations for those who wouldn’t even know where to start with ‘camping gear,’ or who simply don’t have the space to store it when not in use. This is especially true for people in apartments and urban environments (who likely need a nature escape more than most!) There is a reason the Japanese promote the practice of ‘forest bathing’ and Icelanders make it a daily habit to soak in their hot springs — nature can heal us in both subtle and overt ways, if we let her. Glamping is just getting you that many steps closer to experiencing it. And you still get a flushing toilet.

How to go glamping …

Whether you choose your location first, and find a nearby property that suits your taste, or seek out a specific kind of dwelling — say a bohemian yurt in an energetic desert vortex with wellness facilities and hot springs, like we have here at The Colony — there are glamping options worldwide for you to consider. If you’re interested in a stay with us, you can book directly through our website, where you’ll have the opportunity to specify your preferred accommodations and length of stay. There are also sites that curate listings of glamping destinations for you to peruse, which can be helpful if you’re feeling unsure of exactly what you’re looking for.

Things you need for glamping (TL / DR — not much!)

As discussed, glamping is one of the most accessible ways to immerse yourself in nature with little-to-no requirement for preparation and supplies. Because you’ll have access to so many amenities, it’s not unreasonable to bring items you’d like to refrigerate, plenty of clothing options, and any other comfort of home that would make your stay more enjoyable — all things that would essentially be unheard of with traditional camping. Of course, one of the goals of your time is to unplug from the chaos and reconnect with the stillness, whatever that means for you, so ideally you’ll keep that in mind when you’re packing. But above all, glamping is about having an experience, and one that you likely wouldn’t find in your day-to-day life. At The Colony, we can promise you this.

Glamping with the Fam

Glamping is ideal for families because it allows for the full experience of diving into a nature vacation without the complicated packing and preparation that traditional camping usually requires. Because there are so many on-site amenities and classic accommodation aspects, parents can spend less time planning for worst-case-scenario incidents and more time focusing on making memories as they watch their children open so intuitively to all that the natural world has to offer. Meanwhile, if you have a child (or an adult!) with more specific needs or an uncertainty around how much is TOO much nature, glamping offers all the comforts to set them at ease in their experience.

No need to "rough it"

Each glamping location is different, of course, but in general you can expect all the modern amenities of a classic resort or hotel. Many glamping properties even offer ensuite bathrooms with running water and fully-functional flushing toilets. And regardless of the specific bathroom set up, you can pretty much count on the idea that it will be carefully designed and curated for an ideal, if not unique, experience.

Consider a glamping site to be like a mini canvas (or natural wood, or eco-friendly earth) hotel. This means electricity, running water, luxury bedding, mood lighting, sensory elements like essential oils and incense, fresh and delicious food, and a variety of other location-specific amenities like spa services and hosted events and outings. Imagine that the classic resort experience has been dropped it in the middle of the woods / desert / jungle / coastline for your extreme pleasure and relaxation. Add to this a series of bespoke features designed to pique your interest and light you up on multiple levels, and you've got yourself a glamping trip.

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