Look friends, it’s that time of the year. Everyone’s getting their rock climbing chalk out, dusting off their hiking boots, and packing up survival gear for off trail excursions. We love it and we support it. But truthfully, not all of us are Bear Grylls acolytes. Not all of us were in the scouts. Not all of us want to survive without a morning latte. In honor of the many new Coloradans who didn’t grow up doing mountain excursions but still want to get outdoorsy, we went glamping. What’s that, you ask, firmly ensconced in your sub-zero, alpaca lined, 100 percent organic fiber, fair trade custom sleeping bag? It’s glamour camping.
Well, why didn’t you say so? You had me at glamour.
Fibs be told, we really did want to go off trail this year, but we had our nails done and we need our regular morning latte, so instead we thought we’d look around for something adventurous and outdoorsy and fun, but with all the creature comforts we’ve come to *cough* need *cough* and love. Glamping is right up our well manicured alley, so we said, sure, we’ll come stay in your luxury tent. Did you know there is no one or right way to do glamping? There are several. #TheThingsWeDoForOurJob
If you want to glamp like an almost real camper, no need to bring a sleeping bag or dig a latrine, glamping tents are a real thing. We know because we stayed in one, but we’ll get to that. There are also treehouses to go full Tarzan in a Castlefield luxury travel dress and slippers, yurts (of Mongolian origin and, yes, we did that, too), safari tents, campervans, domes (which we assume are like the ones at UC Davis). But that’s not all. There are also eco-pods and nature lodges, which is fancy talk for high end cabin dwelling. But that’s still not all, folks. We mentioned there were a ton of options right? There are also caves, barns, huts, cabins, cabooses (yes, of the train variety), villas, tiny houses (did that, too), towers, cottages, A-frames, floats, and caravans.
Finally, and with all due respect, there are also native-style glamping options, like tipis and igloos, but we’re not trying to culturally appropriate while glamping so we’ll leave native structures to the natives unless we’re invited in. There are too many other options to risk offending an entire ethnic group for a weekend getaway. For the full list of glamping options, with descriptions of each and images, see bit.ly/GlampStyles. Now. Let’s talk about our experience. Is glamping even fun? What else do you do since you’re not literally stuck on a mountain ledge balancing in your sleep in a suspended cliffside tent during an otherwise boring grade VI ascent?
Wee Casa Tiny Home Resort
To start our glamping trip off as easy as possiibly, we kept it uber local and went to WeeCasa Tiny Home Resort. If that sounds like the cutest place you’ve never been, that’s because it probably is. WeeCasa is “The World’s Largest Tiny House Resort,” and is BOCO close in lovely, if sleepy, Lyons, Colorado. (Protip: it’s so close, you can really go there for a quick date night/overnight during the week and still make work the next day, or take the family for an easy weekend away.)
Embracing the slogan, Live Wee, Live Free!, WeeCasa believes “that life should be a balance of freedom and sustainability” and they encourage that balance “by providing a new experience built around tiny living and outdoor adventure”. Their stated mission “is to provide high-end accommodations that highlight the possibilities of living in a Tiny House.”
Located only a few minutes walk into downtown Lyons, this resort is situated right up against St. Vrain Creek, across from LaVerne M. Johnson park (editors note: that park is also where our cover photo was shot this month as well), which makes a stroll into nature incredibly easy. We actually saw a herd of deer meander into the park that looked like the same herd we photographed at Button Rock Trailhead, which is a very short 15 minute drive away. It’s not inconceivable that this herd may have followed the creek down. In any case, since everything is so close, we walked into town to check out some local spots.
Our Lyons experience included Spirit Hound Distillers, which is currently pouring the 66, a very wonderful, nose forward, and easy to drink Colorado whiskey (grain to glass, as they say). We had the old fashioned. Then we stopped in to Smokin Dave’s for some local BBQ because we realized we still had to make it back to our tiny home. At Smokin’ Dave’s, even the ketchup is from Colorado. We obviously had to stop in to Oskar Blues for a Beerito (Mexican lager) and some fries as we continued our walk across town. Lastly, we swung by Pizza Bar 66 for a last glass of local beer and a hilarious exchange with a very drunk, and very funny local guy. Don’t worry, the bartender took his keys.
But let’s actually talk about WeeCasa. A circle of tiny, well constructed, and extraordinarily cute homes, ready for you to cozy up for a stay. We were given the Hobbit House for a night. This was seriously the cutest place, featuring a round door, just like Bilbo’s in the Shire. What made it extraordinary was the clear attention to details. Extra flower pots on the house exterior for that shire vibe. A hobbit doll in the round central window waiting to greet new visitors. Twisted wood railing and accents. Ivy vines throughout the home, including around the lofted full bed. The only drawback we noted, given the size of everything, was that showering could be a struggle for larger bodies.
The accommodations, however, were perfect for our faux-outdoor loving self: french press in the kitchen, along with a small jar of coffee; cabinets with full cookware; a full range stove, small microwave, fridge and freezer; remote controlled heat and AC unit; a restroom as well stocked as you would find at any hotel. We were comfy.
Tiny houses are most likely the wave of the future, given the skyrocketing cost of infrastructure and need to balance both privacy and density requirements while limiting environmental impact. And thankfully, BOCO’s residents have always been on the cutting edge of saving the planet, so this resort will definitely work for most of us. Since it is so tiny, however, it necessitates heading into the local community to stretch out a bit, which in turn lowkey negates the goal of being in nature. An amazing place for a short staycation, we love WeeCasa and we know you will, too.
Royal Gorge Cabins: Glamping Tents & Cabins
WeeCasa gave us a taste of the outdoors and we were ready to follow it up with a slightly more ambitious experience. Royal Gorge Cabins was just the ticket. Nestled along Highway 50 in Cañon City, Colorado, Royal Gorge Cabins is the way to glamp in unabashed luxury.
Upon arrival, greeted by wonderfully happy receptionists, we checked out the glamping tent which, you can tell by the pictures, is glorious. These luxury glamping tents are marked by a truly great and subdued color scheme, leather couch, a simple desk, antler chandelier, and a massive and impossibly comfortable queen bed. But we didn’t’ stay in the glamping tent. We really wanted to but it was still a bit early in the season, and still cold (it rained while we were there), and these tents have no heat. Plan for summer stays. They are, however, installing new luxury glamping tents with built in floor heating, so even winter tent glamping will be possible.
As for us, we settled into a double king cabin, fully glamped out with a full kitchen, 1.5 baths (including the best waterfall shower I’ve ever used), three televisions, a patio set (including a private grill, so pack those steaks), and amazing views of the mountains all around. It would be incredibly easy to make that cabin my travel plan, as comfortable as it was, but we were out for adventure. Beyond sitting in a cabin for a couple of days, you have to get out for some local fun. You can do some truly fun, only slightly dangerous, white water rafting and see the local wildlife – we did a half day Royal Gorge white water rafting trip with the highly skilled Echo Canyon River Expeditions (hi, Zach and Ricky!) and saw Bighorn Sheep, Blue Herons, ducks, a Canadian Goose, and one small nest nestled in the rocks with four baby birds chirping for lunch. Spectacular is an understatement. A group that went down river alongside me was a six person group of friends all above the 50 year mark. White water fun isn’t just for the kids.
The Echo Canyon River Expedition took us down the Arkansa River, beneath the Royal Gorge suspension bridge, gondolas, ziplines, and the Royal Rush Skycoaster, which is a massive bungee-swing that we didn’t have the courage to try. We can attest to the beauty of the view from the bottom of the gorge and the cheers to be had as the Historic Royal Gorge train choo-choos past with the tourists on sightseeing decks waving and snapping photos.
And if all of that sightseeing and adventuring tires you out, take a break from cooking to dine at the 8 Mile Bar & Grill just across the road or head into town. Historic Cañon City plays host to local distillery, the Royal Gorge Distillery, newly opened after a two year close, where we had some amazing mini tacos, and the famous The Owl Cigar Shop and Hamburgers, where we stopped for a snack. There is also a very cool local dive called Brother’s Place, located inside an old theater (akin to the Fox being a badass full bar, for example). Off the downtown stretch, local watering hole, Bernie’s Place, is a great spot to meet the actual locals if you’re tired of mingling with other tourists. Lastly, we stopped in to the Royal Gorge Brewery and Taphouse, where we had a sampling of local beers and some amazing tiny appetizer chicken tacos topped with nacho cheese. They’re just about ready to start slinging their own brewhouse beers. A brewery with no beers, you think to yourself? Well, they closed down for two years, reopened the restaurant portion, and then started the brewery side. Bringing on a new team to take their beers to the next level is why they’re barely bringing beer to market. Taking time to do it right is why we’ll be back to visit.
We absolutely loved our stay at Royal Gorge Cabins. Highly recommended. If the staff are half as nice to you as they were to us, and we’re positive they will be, you’ll be making this an annual destination.
Tennessee Pass Nordic Center: Yurt Living
For our final glamping adventure, we drove two and a half hours north east to the base of Ski Cooper to meet the lovely folks at Tennessee Pass Cookhouse and Nordic Center. Yes, that is a long name, but not as long as the hike from my yurt down to the car because I left my food and water in the car. Erica, Tennessee Pass staffer and global adventurer, was nice enough to drive me up in an ATV and I had to do a 1.5 mile hike down and back in steep terrain that was neither snow soft nor dirt dry; it was muddy, slippery, and treacherous. I just came to glamp. But enough of my complaints.
Yurts, it should be noted, are an amazing thing. We stayed in one that was called an “Oregon Yurt”, which we’re positive simply means it was made in Oregon. Yurts are one of the oldest types of accommodation on the planet, originating in what is now called Mongolia. In fact, according to OriginalYurt.com, ”Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who lived in Greece between 484 and 424 BC…who is regarded as the father of history, was the first person in the world to record an accurate account of the past. He described yurt-like tents as the dwelling place of the Scythians, a horse riding-nomadic nation who lived in the northern Black Sea and Central Asian region from around 600 BC to AD 300. Thus, the yurt was described in the first historical document in the world.” Trip out, right? Mongolians been doing their thing forever.
There’s not much to do in a Yurt in between seasons, but had we been there in the winter we definitely would have strapped on some skis like Lucy Oliviero and given it a go. There’s honestly not a ton of things to do that are outside of nature when you’re up at Tennessee Pass in Leadville, but there are a few. Of note, pets are allowed (with limitations), which is nice because you should swing through the Colorado Barkery for some “handmade happiness for your hounds”. Your dog definitely wants some luxury glamping love, too. You can also swing through some outdoors retailers, including CKSonline, the nation’s leading paddlesports retailer, located in Salida, or Pedal Power, for some serious bike gear.
Now for the actual review portion of my stay, which was epic. Yurts are magical. These ones are extra special because the peak of the roof is made of hard plastic that can be raised or lowered, depending on temperature. It’s also see through, which means laying on your back in your oversized handcrafted log beds (with full linens including down comforters), and gorgeous soapstone wood stove fireplace crackling behind you as you stare up at the stars above. And oh lord, are there stars to see when you’re staying in an extremely remote yurt at around 11,000 feet above sea level.
To be fair, this was probably the most roughing it of all the glamping places I visited. The water system is not connected to a traditional plumbing system and your supply may need to be changed out. The bathroom is an actual outhouse in a room with no light, so you will need that headlamp (see our gear guide for the one we love), as well as appropriate outdoor gear just to get there. And the fireplace, lovely as it is, requires a deft touch to maintain and, yes, you will probably have to get up through the night once or twice to make sure it stays lit and you don’t get to frosty.
But once you settle into that, accept the little bit of rough that goes with such a lovely place, you’re good to go. From the skies to the scenery, from snowshoeing to cross country skiing to snow mobiles. From hiking to hosting a wedding (free Yurt for the couple), this place is amazing.
The Tennessee Pass Nordic Center and Cookhouse is a two season operation, operating throughout the Winter and Summer. Winter operations run from Thanksgiving – April 15 while Summer operations are from June 28 – September 30, Thursday-Sunday. Remember that this place is 100 percent reservation required. No Yurts, no lunch, no dinner without one. Trust us, you’ll want to make one.
We’re not going to sit here and pretend we don’t actually like offtrail madness, some good tent nights under the stars, collecting sticks from a forest for a campfire, or the pack in/pack out life. We’re Coloradans after all. Glamping, however, is fun. It’s a way to get out there for some outdoors action when you have kids, or have a short time frame to get it done. And it’s perfectly ok to not be a camper. There’s literally no law in Colorado that says the forest are only for lumberjacks and GenX extreme rock climbers. You, too, can camp. Or glamp. You get my point.
We want to see you, recent transplant to Colorado, on your way to the great outdoors. So you moved here from the big city and aren’t quite sure that two years of girl scouts actually prepared you for surviving a three day off trail hike? We’ve got you. Colorado is ready for you. Pack your favorite cashmere flannel-pattern pullover, load up the Lavazza, and get on the road. It’s time to glamp.