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As I slept (or rather, attempted to sleep) while tipped sideways on a slowly deflating air mattress in a tent in Grand Canyon National Park, my 9-year-old son crept closer to me like a heat-seeking missile. In essence, he was an 80-pound “blanket” who was, at least, keeping me warm throughout the chilly evening.
The next night, however, we were in Moab, Utah, and having a completely different experience. I slept restfully in a tent, but this time it was with Under Canvas Moab, a luxury camping accommodation site just 7 miles from the entrance to Arches and Canyonlands national parks.
Furnished with a sumptuous, king-size bed heaped with blankets and a snuggly comforter, two cots (one for each of my children) and a wood-burning stove, this “glampsite” was the perfect compromise between my sons’ and husband’s desire to camp in a tent and my desire to shower during our family’s weeklong road trip through the Southwestern U.S. last March.
The goal for Under Canvas, which was founded in 2009, is to get visitors slightly off the grid while cultivating memories, says Sarah Dusek, the company’s CEO and co-founder.
“We want guests to find a greater appreciation for the outdoors and the environment,” she said. “Having the opportunity to disconnect and connect with the people we love while doing extraordinary things is what an Under Canvas vacation is all about.”
Combining Dusek’s love affair with Africa safari experiences and her husband Jacob’s talent for design, the pair worked together to open several locations throughout the U.S. With sites set primarily near national parks — including Zion, Glacier and Yellowstone — Under Canvas offers an authentic safari atmosphere while allowing clients to be immersed in natural beauty with plenty of outdoor activities.
The camps feature unique canvas-and-wood tent and teepee designs that can accommodate up to four guests at a variety of price points. (Additional guests can be added to certain tent options for $25 per person, per night.)
Visitors choose from several tent layouts. Cabin-style versions are appointed with basic furnishings, a king-size bed, cots (available upon request, depending on tent setup) and community bathrooms with toiletries, a flushing toilet, a sink and a shower with hot water. There are also more luxurious tent styles, such as the Deluxe tent with an en-suite private bathroom, or the Stargazer, which offers a star-viewing window over the bed.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that because these accommodations are technically tents, there are no outlets. Instead, they feature battery-powered fans and lanterns with USB plugs that can charge cellphones. Wi-Fi access is not available, and cellphone service varies by location. (Clients should check coverage with their network carriers.)
Kids are welcome at Under Canvas properties, and dogs can come along for $25 per pet, per night. Bedding and towels are included, and meals are available for purchase. Fires are not permitted at individual tents, but properties offer communal fire pits featuring complimentary s’mores each night from 7 to 11 p.m.
Activities can be scheduled independently or via an Under Canvas activities coordinator who specializes in the local area. In Moab, for instance, we opted for a combination of both, booking our own tours with local operator Windgate Adventures, including a half-day rappelling adventure with owner Eric Odenthal. We climbed up precipitous red sandstone walls — nary a cloud in the indigo sky — and finished before lunch with a rappel down the area’s famous Funnel Arch.
“It’s amazing,” Odenthal said, as we summited to our first vista. “There are all these people around us, but you can’t see or hear them. It’s like we have the place to ourselves."
The list of Under Canvas Moab excursions, on the other hand, includes options such as a Colorado River jet-boat tour, white-water rafting and hot-air balloon adventures, in addition to guided mountain biking, hiking, canyoneering and more. We selected a three-hour sunset Hummer tour of Hell’s Revenge with partner operator Moab Adventure Center. During the tour, we traversed a four-wheel-drive trail that crosses the world-famous Slickrock Bike Trail and enjoyed a rocky ride over natural, petrified sand dunes known as "fins."
The activity — which included winding through rock canyons toward a Colorado River overlook under a painted desert sunset and stopping at dusk for tasty hors d’oeuvres — topped off our safari-style, Under Canvas escape.
“Glamping at Under Canvas is unlike any other vacation you will take,” Dusek said. “I hope our guests truly experience feeling connected to those they love by creating magical memories that will last forever."
Under Canvas offers both preplanned and custom adventure itineraries, from a three-night Zion Expedition Package to the upscale 7 Parks in 7 Days itinerary, which includes an aviation tour with flights to Arches and Canyonlands, Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. Under Canvas also rents tents and teepees for weddings, festivals and other special events. New Under Canvas campgrounds, opening this year, include Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains national parks and Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
The DetailsMoab Adventure Centerwww.moabadventurecenter.com