→ Book now: Under Canvas Bryce Canyon
Until this year, my time spent camping was . . . rugged. During high school, I spent a summer volunteering on a trail crew in Acadia National Park, which involved backcountry camping for a month on Isle au Haut, a gorgeous island that’s only accessible via ferry. We hauled our gear and food in, our trash out, and there were no showers available (save the occasional pay-shower spot, and much to the dismay of the people I sat next to on the flight home). Now, I’m not saying I’m Richard Proenneke, just that I’d accepted that pain was all part of the outdoors game.
Glamping company Under Canvas believes you absolutely do not need to rough it to experience the wonders of the outdoors—and please, enjoy a shower while you’re at it.
Founded in 2012 by Sarah and Jacob Dusek in Bozeman, Montana, Under Canvas offers upscale safari-style tents in 10 different locations across the United States, all conveniently sited next to popular national parks. Some of its most popular options include a property near the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, a camp on the Atlantic Coast near Acadia National Park, and a 100-acre spread just a few minutes’ drive from Yellowstone’s west entrance.
During the decade Under Canvas has been in business, the domestic glamping game has gotten more crowded with competitors. Yet Under Canvas has built a reputation for providing a taste of civilization and luxury in remote destinations. Its popularity experienced a huge boom during the pandemic when international travel ground to a halt and American adventure-seekers were ravenous for wide-open spaces.
The company will unveil Under Canvas Bryce Canyon (its tenth location in 10 years) this August 4 in an enviable new site, just 15 minutes from the entrance to Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. (Despite being one of the smaller national parks, Bryce has the highest concentration of otherworldly hoodoos on Earth.) As anyone who’s ever tried to book lodgings near a national park knows, there’s slim pickings (choices are usually limited to a motel, lodge, or tent) in local towns near parks thanks to their rural locations. Under Canvas is a breath of fresh air for the Bryce Canyon City area.
In May, I got a sneak peek of the new camp, which is set on 700 acres of Utah countryside with rolling grasslands ringed by craggy mountains. Wooden tent frames and canvas were still going up amid green chaparral scrubland, where pronghorn and white-tailed deer regularly make appearances. It was a short and pleasant drive to the only entrance of Bryce Canyon National Park; even on a weekday, the park was bustling with sightseers eager to view the hoodoos. After hiking the nearby Navajo Loop Trail, a 1.5-mile trek that takes visitors past some of the most iconic sights in the park—Wall Street, Thor’s Hammer—it only took a few minutes to drive from the park back to camp. What a luxury for anyone who likes being close to “home” while traveling.
Under Canvas Bryce Canyon will open with 50 tents, ranging from a Deluxe (which sleeps two) to a Suite (which sleeps four), but there are plans to add more. All tents come with wood floors, its signature West Elm furniture, en suite bathrooms with low-flow toilets and hot water, cloud-like king-sized beds, and wood-fired stoves to keep the space warm during chilly nights. Since the camp sits at about 7,600 feet with no nearby big cities, it’s an ideal spot to stargaze. Not too shabby at all.
Chief marketing officer May Lilley, who has been with Under Canvas for more than four years, has traveled extensively in her native Australia, but to her, there’s nothing like the American Southwest. She believes Under Canvas can serve as a gateway to the United States’ natural spaces for people who may feel intimidated by the outdoors. “We really pride ourselves on providing exceptional outdoor hospitality,” Lilley says. “The adventure doesn’t have to stop when you leave the national park—it can keep going.”
The new property will also be Under Canvas’s second completely off-grid, fully solar-powered site after Under Canvas Zion. As with its other camps, there’s no electricity within the tents (though there are battery packs for charging electronics and lanterns); and—brace yourselves—there isn’t a television or Wi-Fi signal on site. “People don’t miss it,” Lilley says. “It’s transformational and emotive when you wake up listening to the sounds of birds or fall asleep in a tent while looking at a sky full of stars. We encourage disconnection from technology and connection with loved ones, friends, and family.”
There are plenty of amenities to keep visitors entertained and sated. In the main “lobby”—a large, billowing tent at the edge of camp—complimentary hot chocolate and coffee are available 24/7 and Bluestone Lane lattes can be purchased. There’s also a fully outfitted kitchen in the main tent that serves breakfast options lke frittata sandwiches as well as hot dinner like roasted trout. Most people are usually out exploring during lunch, but there are grab-n-go options available in the afternoon when the kitchen is closed. Snacks are also available to purchase, but if you’re looking for some groceries for the trail, there’s Ruby’s Inn General Store in town. Free s’mores kits are available every night for those who’d like to enjoy something sweet by the campfire. Complimentary programming includes yoga classes, live music, and astrology readings (something that will be unique to the Bryce Canyon location).
It’s transformational and emotive when you wake up listening to the sounds of birds or fall asleep in a tent while looking at a sky full of stars.
Under Canvas Bryce Canyon marks the company’s fourth camp in Utah (it also has locations near Moab, Lake Powell, and Zion) and its fifth on the Grand Circle road-trip itinerary, making it an ideal spot for travelers hoping to get a taste of Utah’s beauty. “It’s kind of opened up this area of Southeast Utah and Northern Arizona in a way that guests know that they can have a really comfortable place to stay at night with all the comforts of home, but in an equally immersive and adventurous way,” Lilley says.
Let’s face it: Glamping has gotten a bad rap in the past few years, from being accused of not understanding “what makes the experience [of camping] worth the discomfort in the first place” according to Study Breaks, to simply being labeled as “pretentious bullsh*t.” But what if we are misunderstanding glamping and not vice versa? How many times have I been camping and wished to the heavens that I could shower? Or secretly longed for a real bed while trying to catch some rest in a sleeping bag with a rock poking my spine?
As I explored southern Utah during my stay with Under Canvas at its Lake Powell and Zion locations, I actually felt more connected with the national parks I visited because, well, I enjoyed my time more. What’s wrong with being fueled by a latte before a morning hike? Aren’t the natural wonders of the United States meant to be beheld and appreciated by everyone regardless of their level of outdoorsmanship?
“I’ve been asked before, ‘Who is this for?’” Lilley says. “To me, it’s for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. I hope when our guests leave, they have a greater appreciation for nature and why it’s so important that we protect and preserve it. I hope they take that home with them.”
Mae Hamilton Mae Hamilton is an assistant editor at AFAR. She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special.