If you love the great outdoors, but don’t want to part with creature comforts, “glamping” is an innovative solution. Imagine replacing your dusty sleeping bag with a plush king-size bed, yet still awakening in an isolated setting to the sounds of a rippling creek and singing birds, all from inside a modernized “tent” with a door you can lock, complete with a patio and a gas grill.
No need to bear-proof your campsite or secure your cooler in your car. Instead, safety is right inside, along with a serene natural backdrop just outside the entryway. And you can still stargaze through a transparent ceiling dome window.
Glamping is a term for luxurious camping, where the rustic meets the wild. Amenities such as an electric fireplace and a coffee maker replace campfires and cowboy coffee for those who want a bit of an upscale experience in nature.
The notion of luxury camping spans the likes of modernized, permanent tent structures, villas, cabins, lodges, tipis, treehouses and yurts, and the glamping movement is picking up speed around the country and across the world.
My first glamping adventure took me to Castle Rocks State Park in Almo, Idaho, on the edge of a biogeographic crossroads spanning back to the Oligocene era.
Situated in a serene grassy meadow, Almo Creek meanders peacefully through the arching boughs of willow trees.
Sweeping views of Cache Peak at 10,339 feet, granite spires and rocky monoliths surround the structure, offering guests an authentic interface with nature. Hawks swoop for prey and coyotes howl in the evening light.
From the yurt, endless hiking, rock climbing and snowshoeing trips are available at one of the country’s meccas for geologic history, remnants of emigrants along the California Trail, and adventure alike.
Weary adventurers can return to a comfortable abode after a long day in the sun or snow, and kick their feet up next to an electric fireplace with a warm cup of coffee and gaze out the window at the surrounding peaks from a warm interior.
The Willow Glamping Yurt
The Pacific-brand yurt I walked into was immaculate, complete with wood flooring, a comfortable futon couch with a cow-skin throw, and a soft rug to sink my feet into, which felt amazing after a long afternoon spent tromping around in the snow in the City of Rocks National Reserve.
Two space heaters were available for extra warmth, and soft fleece blankets filled the oversized oak drawers. A fold-out desk surface tucked into a nearby armoire, and a bedside clock and lamp adorned the night table. A simple table with two seats offered a nice meal space, and I warmed my udon noodles in the microwave while spreading out my newspaper on its clean wooden surface.
Construction took place in the fall of 2017 in response to a growing national trend. A few glamping yurts exist in Idaho, along with many primitive yurts, but the Willow Glamping Yurt is a unique experience within the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. Equipped with electricity, a small refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, linens, a king-size bed, fresh water from a pump and a propane grill, it even comes complete with free Wi-Fi and a vault toilet nearby.
“We decided to upgrade the yurt to a glamping yurt — something not quite camping, and not quite like a lodge or hotel experience,” Park Manager Wallace Keck said.
“There comes a time in the life of an outdoorsman when you don’t need to sleep in a tent to prove anything or to be somewhere special,” Keck said. “You can give yourself a few comforts. You’ve probably earned it.”
Destined to return
Exhausted from a day spent touring in the City of Rocks, the yurt was a welcome sight as I unlaced my frozen boots and kicked my feet up on the rail, watching the sun sink behind the horizon line, illuminating ancient rock faces with its shimmering glow. The dust from the day sent a cloud up behind me, recalling the ancient history the land holds from emigrant caravans to early ranchers and pioneers in the mid-19th century.
The mountaintops were still crested in white all around me as the spring birds began to return and make their mating calls at dusk. It occurred to me that to see this place in all seasons would likely offer a different experience each time, but just one trip convinced me I will be back, and next time, I will summit the looming peak that overlooks the valley. Perhaps I will even be able to spot the yurt from the top.
“It’s a unique experience worth trying at least once,” Keck said. “There are very few places you can lay down on a king-size bed at night and hear the creek bubbling and gurgling just outside your ‘tent,’ where you can see a thousand stars surround a 10,000-foot peak.”