Glamping in California: 6 Great Luxury Camping Sites

California is a glamper's paradise. Here are six of the best glamping sites throughout the Golden State.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Edited by Kevin Berry

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You love a good luxury vacation, but you also want to stay socially distanced because, you know, coronavirus. Or maybe you’re a bona fide camper but after a rough 2020, you’re ready to treat yourself. No matter where in that spectrum you are, 2022 is the year of glamping.

Unfamiliar with the term glamping? It’s exactly what it sounds like: glamorous camping. Take your standard camping trip — the peace of nature, clear skies with bright stars, fresh air and few people around. Now, subtract the nuisance of pitching a tent, the awkwardness of carrying your toothbrush to the shared shower facility and the mustiness of a sleeping bag that’s been untouched since last year. Instead, replace that with a hot shower, a kitchenette, a full bed, a heater and someone else to clean the marshmallow skewers. There you have it: glamping.

California, with a glut of natural splendor — ranging from breathtaking seascapes to towering redwood forests — is a glamper's paradise. Here are six of the best glamping sites throughout the Golden State.

The best spots for glamping in California

Sun Uncharted at El Capitan Canyon. Photo courtesy of Sun Outdoors.

Located just north of Santa Barbara Coast in Goleta, glamping at Sun Uncharted El Capitan Canyon means you’re surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on another.

Every type of lodging within the property is unique — you might choose the cozy Canyon Loft, the queen-sized safari tent or perhaps even the Adventure Yurt (the yurt is a free-standing, round tent situated atop a round wooden platform with canvas walls and a raised rooftop that includes a domed skylight for stargazing).

The Deluxe Safari Cabin Suite at El Capitan Canyon. Photo courtesy of Sun Outdoors.

But if you're really fancy, you'll likely want the Safari Cabin Suite for its spacious rooms, hill-top privacy and unbeatable views that span the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains.

And you can share the space with many people as it's huge; there's a master bedroom, second bedroom, spacious bathroom with double sinks and a living room. And because camping might evoke an urge to shower outside, wash up in the wooden outdoor shower. Long-term stays are easily possible thanks to a designer kitchen with a stainless steel gas range, microwave, full-sized refrigerator, cookware and dishware, coffeemaker with complimentary coffee, pantry and generous granite countertops. Outside on the wraparound deck sits a gourmet gas barbecue grill and prep area complete with BBQ tools.

Top amenities: Complimentary beach cruiser bicycles, docent-led hikes, and an on-site llama and goat farm.

Things to do nearby: Whale watching, kayaking, hiking, Old Mission Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara beaches, and shopping and dining at downtown Santa Barbara’s State Street.

Photo courtesy of We Are In Our Element

2. Joshua Tree: Dome in the Desert

You’ll get a lot more than just four walls when you stay in this geodesic, modern-bohemian dome house in Joshua Tree, California. Two private bedrooms accommodate up to four guests. Because the temperature swings in Joshua Tree can be drastic, you’ll likely make use of the home’s natural wood-burning stove and space heaters on chilly evenings while still cranking up the air conditioning during the hot desert days.

Ideal for travelers seeking distance from others, the dome sits on multiple acres far from any neighbors.

City: Joshua Tree, California.

Top amenities: Indoor fireplace, free parking, antique books and games.

Things to do nearby: Joshua Tree National Park (including biking, hiking, horseback riding and rock climbing), Crochet Museum, outdoor art galleries and sculpture gardens.

Photo courtesy of HipCamp

3. Sonoma: Hobbit Cobin

Most people think of vineyards and wine-tasting when they think of a trip to Sonoma. This trip is a bit more down to earth. The Hobbit Cobin is a hand-sculpted hut made with earthen walls and a living roof, located on a farm.

While staying at the Hobbit Cobin might make you feel like you’re in another world, it’s just a 15-minute walk to the historic town of Petaluma.

City: Petaluma, California.

Top amenities: Wood-fired pizza oven, adobe dome sauna, coffee and orange juice in the morning.

Things to do nearby: Downtown Petaluma, wine tasting, hiking, biking, Lagunitas Brewing Company.

Photo courtesy of HipCamp

4. Santa Cruz: Big Om Ocean Retreat

Drive about 45 minutes north of the bustling Santa Cruz Boardwalk and you’ll find the Big Om Ocean Retreat, a glampsite with unobstructed ocean and mountain views. As you drive up, you’ll see pastures of grazing horses that live in the adjacent animal sanctuary. For an additional fee, you can participate in animal-guided healing or a ranch tour.

City: Pescadero, California.

Top amenities: Outdoor fire pit with glass wind enclosure, swings, free roaming horses.

Things to do nearby: Hiking at nearby state parks and beaches, downtown Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

Photo courtesy of Treebones Resort

5. Big Sur: Treebones Resort

For your stay at the Treebones Resort, choose between yurts, campsites or two rather unique lodging options — a “Human Nest" and a “Twig Hut.” The Human Nest is an elevated, human-sized bird nest with a futon pad and views of the Pacific Ocean. The Twig Hut, built by Big Sur artist Jayson Fann, is a hand-woven two-story hut with ocean views and a futon pad inside.

If those options sound a little too rustic for you, the yurts offer real beds, sinks with hot and cold running water in each unit, and electricity.

City: South Big Sur, California.

Top amenities: Yoga, an organic garden, massages, a sushi bar (coming in March) and a heated pool and hot tub.

Things to do nearby: Pfeiffer Beach, Bixby Bridge, hiking.

Photo courtesy of AutoCamp Yosemite

6. Yosemite: AutoCamp

If you prefer more sturdy, aluminum walls to canvas walls, consider a stay at AutoCamp Yosemite, where you can spend the night in a decked-out Airstream. The 31-foot trailer includes a fully functional kitchenette, separate bedroom and walk-in rain shower.

Outside, you’ll have your own private patio, fire pit and dining area.

City: Midpines, California.

Top amenities: Complimentary bike rentals, heated pool, YARTS shuttle stop at AutoCamp entrance to take you into the Yosemite National Park valley floor, five electric car-charging stations, yoga classes, live music, s’mores bars and wine tastings.

Things to do nearby: Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall trails, Half Dome, Tuolumne Meadows and rafting along the Merced River.

If you're looking to tack on further indulgence to your California glamping adventure, check out our guide to California wine regions that aren't Napa.

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