After 2020, who’s not eager to zoom away from screens and quarantines? If you like the idea of dipping your toes into camping and the great outdoors, but feel hesitant to take the full plunge, then Utah’s Glamping Canyonlands offers just the right mix.
Located near the quaint town of Monticello and solitary Church Rock, this unique camping retreat sits upon 22 unspoiled acres along the road to Canyonlands National Park. Here, you can dive into nature with an abundance of cozy amenities found at traditional lodging, without having to bring a tent or sleeping bag.
Parks and Rec
Closest to Glamping Canyonlands (GC), the south entrance of Canyonlands National Park is about 45 minutes down the road. Also called the Needles District, this area is named for its impressive line of rock formations with sharp needle-like points, bordering the lower elevation. To the north, Canyonlands’ majestic Island in the Sky District beckons.
Treacherous terrain prohibits driving from one end of the park to the other, however. So, spend at least one day at the Needles (south), best known for hiking. Take day two in Moab at Arches National Park (50 min to the north of GC), paired with a visit to Island in the Sky (40 min west of Arches and 1.5 hours north of GC), where eons of erosion have carved out what appear to be “canyon islands” on display.
Island in the Sky Tips
Begin your day early to beat the car line at highly popular Arches, or circle back for an unforgettable sunset at the easterly Delicate Arch. In that case, begin the day with an epic sunrise trip to the famous Mesa Arch (avoid weekend days if possible). The sun rises directly through this natural window — a mecca for photographers — into a jaw-dropping scenic canyon. Nearby Dead Horse State Park (where Thelma and Louise ended their infamous journey) is also worth a visit, and at a cooler elevation.
We love the hands-on owners’ eco-friendly concept at Glamping Canyonlands. The single solar-powered bathroom provides running water from a nearby refillable cistern. Showers of 10 minutes or less are requested, to conserve water. A valuable lesson for those who are accustomed to “plenty.”
Even off the grid, guests appreciate a basic signal (no WiFi) for mapping out the day or any emergencies. GC answers the call with a portable charging station to juice up essential electronics.
Each spacious tent is elevated on a soundly constructed wooden deck. Wagons are conveniently provided to transport luggage and supplies. Tents zip completely shut, and a small coded lock is provided to secure personal belongings.
Opt for the king-sized glamping tent or one of three other tents with queens. (You can even reserve the entire property for your own private event.)
The largest 23-ft Desert Sunset canvas tent sleeps up to four. Fall into the king-sized bed covered with the softest linens and down-feather comforter, with room for two more on the chaise lounges that double as sleepers. Twinkle lights, flameless candles, and a warmly lit welcome sign add to the ambiance. A decorative trunk holds useful extras like a campfire lighter, first aid kit and a handy lantern for late night outings. The reading nook next to a charming vintage writing desk has a guest book.
With the closest tent neighbor (and toilet) 50 yards away and minimal road noise after 11pm, you can sleep in peace. A collection of hammocks and swings surround the Desert Sunset tent for added R&R.
Hit the grocery story while in town before heading back to Glamping Canyonlands to prepare your own campfire dinner. Bundles of wood are available onsite for purchase, for roasting your own hotdogs, veggies and s’mores (small kits provided). The site’s community kitchen tent also houses a griddle for quick meal prep any time of day. Savor a cup of hot coffee, chocolate or tea, delivered by the uber hospitable owners just after sunrise.
At 7,000 feet, Monticello nights welcome lower temperatures just right for summer travelers. For spring and fall, purchase propane tanks onsite for the small provided heater. While stars hide out on cloudy nights, the moon can put on a spectacular show above the surrounding canyons. Clear nights showcase thousands of stars with excellent night sky photo opps. Temperatures can widely swing (38-80F during this late April visit), so prepare for sudden overnight changes. Lightweight hiking pants and long-sleeved tees travel well, providing daytime sun protection in the day and nighttime warmth.
Since the canvas tents go sailing in the event of high winds (over 50 mph), Glamping Canyonlands is subject to closing down for the night. No need to panic, because Monticello has several back-up options for lodging and food.
Stay at the Grist Mill Inn and dine at the adjacent Granary Bar and Grill for shelter from the storm and a delicious hot meal. This restaurant is also home to the only full bar in town, so you can raise your spirits in more ways than one, in the event of inclement weather.
Glamping Canyonlands currently serves guests in all but the sub-freezing winter months, however future plans include solar-heated winter cabins, pet lodging, guest chefs for special dinners, a general store, and a special star-gazing area.
While we can’t wait to see how they grow, we already can’t think of a more creative way to dive deeply into some of the most magnificent vistas in Eastern Utah and the country’s National Parks system.
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Cover: The Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Photo courtesy Brian Maass
Brian and Dana Maass are married and live with their dog Chester in Round Rock, Texas. When not working their day jobs, they can be found traveling, writing, capturing scenic photos, exploring the Hill Country, and serving the community. Follow them on Instagram at @Dana_Maass_Adventures and @Brian_Maass_Adventures.