“Let’s go camping!”
For some, this could be the most dreaded vacation request to come out of a child’s mouth. For others, it’s music to the ears.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of reconnecting with nature, but cringe at the thought of sleeping on the ground with nothing but a thin tent between you and the outdoors, let me introduce you to one of the hottest new travel trends: glamping!
To kick off the summer, we traveled to western Montana to get our fill of the great outdoors. We would be there only four days, so we had some serious decisions to make. Hiking, biking, fly-fishing, ATVing, canoeing, white-water rafting, and horseback riding were all possibilities, but we knew we couldn’t do them all.
Our most important decision, however, would be made well before our arrival. The accommodations! We chose Paws Up, a working cattle ranch resort with 37,000 acres of sprawling natural beauty, because it offers its guests a choice between traditional luxury lodging and something a bit more rustic for people who love nature, but not roughing it: a luxurious tent.
According to glamping.com, the concept of fusing glamour and camping (hence, glamping) — whether it’s in a tent, yurt, Airstream, hut, villa, or treehouse — developed in Europe and came to the U.S. over the past decade. And hotel properties are jumping on the chance to capitalize on the growing demand from travelers who want to experience the positive aspects of camping without the “uncomfortable” negatives. There’s no tent to pitch, no sleeping bag to unroll, no fire to build.
At Paws Up, there are five different group campsites (featuring two-bedroom tents — perfect for a family of four like ours — and one-bedroom tents) to choose from, each with its own unique setting. We checked out the River Camp, which rests alongside the banks of the Blackfoot, immortalized so beautifully by Norman Maclean in “A River Runs Through It.” Other sites include Moonlight Camp, situated at the foot of Lewis and Clark’s famous Lookout Rock, and Pinnacle Camp, which includes a honeymoon suite.
The two-bedroom tented suites offer plenty of space for you and the kids and come complete with comfy beds, electricity, and a bathroom with two sinks, heated floors, and a large slate shower. The campsites also have a dining pavilion with fireplaces and outdoor fire pits – perfect for a night of stories and s’mores. And don’t worry about packing food; your own private chef will prepare a gourmet breakfast and dinner. There’s even a personal “camping butler” to ensure that all creature comforts are attended to.
Weather is always a factor when you’re dealing with Mother Nature, but Paws Up seems to have that covered. The tents are equipped with heaters, electric blankets, and fans to keep the inside temperature as comfortable as possible.
Unless you’re traveling with extended family or a group large enough to take over an entire campsite, the only drawback with staying in one of the luxury tents is that you’ll have neighbors. In most cases, this isn’t an issue — especially if there are other families in the mix. During our stay, however, one couple we met did share a site with a group who liked to party late into the night. Though they didn’t seem to mind, we probably would have.
As far as activities go, we had a blast on the ATVs. Even though you need to be 16 to ride one solo, kids ages eight and up can hitch a backseat ride with mom or dad. Horseback riding is popular, but since we’d done that before, we opted to add a challenging element by trying our hand at the cattle drive. After spending close to three hours running the cows through expansive meadows to get them inside their enclosures, the boys and girls had a race to sort the steers from the heifers. Whoever did it the fastest won.
I don’t seem to recall who was the quickest. We were all winners on this trip.
Rainer Jenss is a featured contributor for Intelligent Travel. Follow his story on Twitter @JenssTravels.