Glamping in California: 5 Best Luxury Camping Sites

NerdWalletApril 6, 2018
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Glamping — a fun and comfortable way to spend a little time in the great outdoors.

If you're unfamiliar with the term, glamping is exactly what it sounds like: glamorous camping. Start with a camping trip, subtract dirt and discomfort, add a hot shower and kitchenette, and you have the prototypical glamping excursion. Glampers stay in luxury tents, treehouses, cabins, yurts and tipis where they don't have to worry about fiddling with flimsy self-assembly tents or musty sleeping bags, untouched since last summer's family retreat.

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

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Redwood Treehouse in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Want to make your kid green with envy? Treat yourself to a weekend getaway in Northern California's most luxurious treehouse. Deep in Sequoia forest in the Santa Cruz Mountains, this elevated cabin has two trees growing through it -- one in the main living area and one in the bathroom.

Beautifully decorated and tastefully furnished, the treehouse boasts all the modern conveniences of home (aside from cable television and WiFi, which is probably a good thing). The unit contains a refrigerator, stove, cupboards, coffee maker, raised bed, shower, toilet, deck with outdoor seating and--the cherry on top--a hot tub. There is plenty of opportunity for hiking, biking and birding right in the forest, and guests have easy access to the area's wealth of coastal and culture activities.

Strawhouse Resorts on the Trinity River

What the heck is a yurt, anyway? Basically, it's a single-room cylindrical structure with a conical roof and walls made of felt or canvas. Originating in Central Asia, yurts and yurt-derived structures have started springing up in the Western United States.

This particular yurt is decked out with a slew of modern conveniences the 12th century Mongolian nomads could not have imagined. The bamboo floors, queen-sized bed and open-air deck are only the start. The yurt comes equipped with heating, air conditioning, an electric fireplace, clawfoot tub, shower and kitchen appliances.

The Trinity Wilderness area is packed with gorgeous mountains, lakes, rivers and forests with space for hiking, fishing and whitewater rafting.

Canyon Cedar Cabins at El Capitan Canyon

El Capitan Canyon is the quintessential Californian glamping experience. Arranged in several cabin groupings called "villages," El Capitan Canyon is less a campground than a nature resort. Cedar cabins are available in different sizes, offering king, queen and double beds. All units contain full bathroom facilities, heating controls and kitchenettes with a mini-fridge and wet bar sink.

If that's too fancy, the Canyon also offers 26 safari tents, which are 12′ x 14′ canvas tents on a raised wooden platform. Safari tents contain beds with fresh linens and basic furnishings (no private bathroom or kitchen).

For the ultimate in luxury, check out the Safari Cabin Suite, a two-room cabin on its own private hilltop. Located near the ocean, the resort invites guests to enjoy activities that ranging from whale watching and surfing to jeep tours and Swedish massages.

Dome in the desert near Joshua Tree

While El Capitan has the capacity to host hundreds of guests at a time, this strange little dome can host a maximum of 10 people, allowing for a much more individualized and undeniably unique experience. Located in the High Desert area of the Marongo Basin in Southern California, the dome is something of a sacred sanctuary in the midst of one of America's harsher natural environments. The structure contains two private bedrooms (the Temple Room and the Altar Room) as well as a larger group sleeping area (referred to as the Temple Dome).

Guests are free to sleep on an outdoor bed or the back patio or go camping near the boulders. The dome is a sort of cushy hippy pad with original artwork, Native American decor, strings of neon lights and a hodgepodge of colorful cushions and pillows. Visitors can explore the area's beautiful desert scenery and rich anthropological history. Joshua Tree has numerous hiking paths and impressive biodiversity.

Treebones Resort in Big Sur

If there's one place in California that needs a designated glamping area, it's Big Sur. The Treebones Resort allows guests to choose between 16 yurts, 5 campsites or what they called "The Human Nest," all of which come with breathtaking views of the Pacific coast. These yurts aren't quite as luxurious as those on the Trinity River, but a stay here certainly doesn't qualify as "roughing it."

Each unit contains a queen-sized bed, electric lighting, pinewood floors, heating and a sink with hot and cold water. The yurts are built with raised decks with chairs facing the ocean. For a truly unique experience, reserve the Human Nest — an elevated human-sized bird nest with a futon and unobstructed view of the Pacific. Resort amenities include outdoor yoga, an organic garden, massages, an outdoor sushi bar and a heated ocean-view pool and hot tub.

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