In California, where new-age nature meets creature comforts, luxury camping is not an oxymoron.
The Golden State has mastered boutique camping, from falling asleep to the sounds of the forest while peering at star-studded evening skies in a yurt to watching an outdoor movie from a vintage Airstream or soaking in beach sunsets from a treehouse.
There’s no need to bring any cumbersome equipment – only a sense of adventure. These compounds prove that you don't need to “rough it” to enjoy the great outdoors; read on for our eight favorite places to sleep very comfortably in the wild.
Here are the best glamping spots in California.
Glamp among boulder-strewn landscapes
Joshua Tree’s arid, mystical hills of spiny plants, wild cactus gardens and peculiar stacked rocks are something to behold. And among all this wonder, you can sleep under the starry sky in an 11ft private yurt. No comfort is spared here: abodes come with queen-sized beds, linen carpets and Nespresso coffee makers. There’s also heating, electricity and hot showers. If it gets too hot, take a dip in the deck-flanked communal pool.
While you’re there... Visit the Integratron, a spaceship-like dome in which you can lie down and feel like you are drifting off to another dimension as part of a 60-minute sonic healing session and sound bath.
Shelter in a vintage camper in the Valley of the Moon
An hour from Santa Barbara, on the edge of Los Padres National Forest, is a little town named Ojai (the Chumash word for moon), where you’ll find 10 sleek Airstreams from different decades. The Caravan Outpost Ojai occupies a site within a botanical garden and around a campfire, with vans separated by hammocks and palm trees for privacy. Queen beds come with fine linens, and all trailers have a TV, bathroom, kitchen and vintage record player. Guests will enjoy regular communal dinners, acoustic concerts and open-air movie nights at the site. Free bike rentals allow guests to explore the area.
While you’re there... Peruse the world’s largest outdoor bookstore. The nearby Bart’s Books has 130,000 new and used tomes to browse, including valuable, out-of-print first editions. They’re all housed in outdoor bookcases arrayed around the founder-owner’s home. It’s open 24 hours a day, with payment rendered via honesty boxes.
Soak up views of Monterey Bay from a 40ft treehouse in the sky
Forget the dusty treehouses you explored as a kid: climbing the ladders at Lago Lomita Vineyards is all about adventure plus ultimate comfort. A tent pitched on a sprawling 400-sq-ft deck built between Douglas firs offers unobstructed, soaring views of the sunset over the ocean. Your canvas house for the night has a cozy queen bed, crisp linens, electricity, a heater and wi-fi.
While you’re there... Visit the remarkable-looking “Moon Tree.” This cosmos-exploring coast redwood has grown from a seed that was taken into outer space during the Apollo 14 mission, before being returned to Earth and planted in Friendly Plaza, Monterey.
Stargaze from your bed in a yurt with a domed skylight near Santa Barbara
If it weren’t for the canvas-covered lattice walls, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a hotel rather than an “adventure yurt” at the El Capitan Canyon. The Turkish-style dwellings here all have hardwood floors and a bar-sized refrigerator, along with a ceiling fan and space heater. Up to four people can comfortably drift off to the sounds of the forest from queen or twin beds. Hop on a free cruiser bike rental to explore the nearby sandy beach and tide pools.
While you’re there... Sneak in another overnight stay in another spectacular abode. Hidden in the trees, the nearby Whale House is a whimsical structure covered in wooden scales. This mind-boggling, Gaudí-esque creation comes complete with a 75ft pool – an appropriate amenity for the whale theme.
Relax under canvas in a heated bed under the redwoods
Classic safari-style tents on wooden platforms sit surrounded by grand firs and sea air at Mendocino Grove, an adults-only camping compound with comfy beds, down comforters and leather butterfly chairs to relax in. Listen to the birdsong of mountain chickadees or the calls of the Steller’s jay as you enjoy an outdoor breakfast, or barbecue on your own grill. Numerous hiking trails beckon, as well as beaches and nearby canoeing opportunities.
While you’re there... Under an hour’s drive inland is the world’s first solar-powered brewery, serving up zero-impact beer. Stop in for a round of disc golf followed a pint of salted caramel porter at Anderson Valley Brewing, which handcrafts all its ales on-site. On Mondays, you can bring your own records for the DJ to spin.
Open your tent to the spectacular King’s Canyon
Accessible either via a one-mile hike or a longer, thrilling 12-mile backcountry trail through Sequoia National Forest, the 32 spacious, off-the-grid canvas bungalows at the High Sierra Camp come with luxurious, Etruscan-style furnishings, feather duvets, reading lanterns and wood-shuttered windows. Due to the property’s remote nature, all meals are included in a stay here. And the food is simply dreamy, made using fresh, local and seasonal ingredients and served in a giant dining pavilion on the property.
While you’re there... Marvel at the world’s largest tree: the General Sherman, which stretches 275ft into the sky. You can even drive through a giant sequoia tree, dubbed Tunnel Log, on the way to the granite Moro Rock, which offers one of the most spectacular views of the park.
Bed down in a safari tent just feet from gazelles, rhinos and lions
San Diego Zoo’s “roar and snore” experience is set in its 1800-acre safari range, populated by “freely” roaming animals. Wildlife enthusiasts can sleep in one of 46 canvas tents and get after-park hours peeks at the fauna. A campfire program adds to the experience; adult-only stays cater to grown-ups who are kids at heart. While the tents themselves are quite basic – they come with only a mattress, and you have to bring your own sleeping bags – there’s surely nothing quite as extravagant as gazing upon a real-life giraffe from the comfort of your own tent.
While you’re there... Take one of California’s best hikes, to Potato Chip Rock, a bizarre geographical formation shaped like a Pringle. You’ll find it directly south of the safari park over the mountain: drive via Highway 67, then trek four hours from the free parking area to the summit of Mount Woodson.