I love camping, as in, I love being out in nature. But I actually don’t really love setting up a tent, sleeping on a half inflated air mattress (I mean they never stay inflated for the whole night right?) or cooking on a one pot stove or an open flame (anything besides a s’more that is!).
What I like to do instead these days is go glamping. What is glamping you ask? Basically, glamping is the combination of a natural experience of the outdoors with more glamorous amenities (aka having a bed!). This can be as simple as a canvas tent in nature with a real bed tucked away inside or it can go a few steps further and include things like prepared meals, spa treatments and more. What all glamping experiences seem to have in common however, is a getaway in nature with some comforts of home.
Our family loves being outdoors and experiencing nature in as many ways as we can, but not always roughing it! Here are our some of our top picks for glamping in Southern California with (or without!) children.
El Capitan Canyon
El Capitan Canyon is the granddaddy of family glamping in Southern California. Everyone has heard of it and knows someone who has been. It is the perfect glamping option for families in that it offers everything from regular tent camping, safari style tents and wood cabins. They also have yurts which your kids will think are super cool!
You can do as much or as little in the way of traditional camping here. It is recommended to bring your own charcoal and/or firewood for your personal fire pit, however it is sold at the Canyon Market as are s’more and full meal kits. Or better yet, forget cooking dinner over the fire, just head down to the Canyon Market & Deli for your breakfast, lunch and dinner! The little wooden shack sports organic groceries, wines, entertainment items, locally created clothes and jewelry as well as your must have latte and packed lunches. As you can imagine, it serves as the social hub for the canyon.
This is the place to go if you are interested in getting a bit more into nature, but not so interested in all that goes with it. Prices start from $145 in low season and $170 in summer.
Keough’s Hot Springs
Take a step back in time at Keough’s Hot Springs. This wonderful hidden gem is located outside Bishop off scenic Hwy 395. The main draw here for visitors and locals alike are the hot spring pools. These pools were built in 1919 and are the same ones used today. The large pool is kept at 86-89 degrees in the summer and 90-92 in the winter, while the hot pool is kept at 104 degrees year round. Both of these get their water from an actual hot springs flowing from the ground that is fed into a spray system that looks like a waterfall in the larger pool, cooling as it comes down. The water is loaded with minerals which they say is great for the body.
Apart from the pools, Keough’s Hot Springs is a perfect stop on a road trip along Hwy 395 or as it’s own destination. There is space for tent and RV camping as well as canvas tents available for those looking to spend some time here. Each tent cabin is equipped with a mini-fridge, heater, outdoor fire pit and of course beds with down comforters. This is definitely not a luxury destination and the reasonable prices reflect that. Note – during the Fall when leaves are changing colors, rooms are sold out quickly.
Yurts at Lake Cachuma
The ultimate in family camping fun will be had in the yurts at Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County. The yurts are a cross between a tent and a tepee, featuring beds to sleep 3-6, a lockable door, lights and electrical outlets. It is recommended to bring all the necessities of tent camping, just not the tent.
When booking your yurt pay special attention to how close or far your yurt is to the bathroom and/or playground. If you go with kids, try to stay near to the playground to avoid having to trek back and forth (because you know that’s what will happen!).
In addition to the yurts, Lake Cachuma also offers 8 wooden cabins including bathrooms and kitchenettes for an even better glamping experience. Prices are quite reasonable for both the yurts and cabins, which means they book up quickly. Reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance. For summer months and holiday weekends, book well in advance.
Cabins at Jalama Beach
The cabins at Jalama Beach, located just north of Santa Barbara are booked through the same site as the Lake Cachuma cabins and yurts listed above. There are three large cabins (sleep 6) and four medium cabins (sleep 4) perched on a hill with spectacular views over the ocean from the porch. The wooden cabins all have electricity, bathrooms, kitchenettes, living rooms, private porches and fire pits. All you need to provide is your sleeping bags, pillows and groceries. If you don’t feel like cooking, there is an on site cafe that has good basic food on offer. As noted above, cabins book up quickly, so plan well in advance!
KOA Ventura Ranch
KOA Ventura Ranch, nestled at the foot of Ventura County’s highest mountain provides a range of camping and glamping opportunities for families looking to get out into nature without all of the work. Guests can go rustic (tent camping) to Indian styled teepees with beds to the deluxe cabin with electricity, all while enjoying a forest setting close to a creek with plenty of wildlife, beautiful views and only 15 miles to the beach.
One of the main draws of KOA camping sites are the vast amount of family friendly amenities available. With arts and crafts, a huge jumping pillow, playground, zip lining and organized nature walks, your family will be busy enjoying time together in a beautiful setting.
Hicksville has two wonderful locations for people looking to get out into nature – one just outside of Joshua Tree National Park and one in the beautiful hills of Idyllwild. The “secret” Joshua Tree location consists of an amazingly awesome set-up of themed trailers, ranging from western themes (The Pioneer), sci-fi (The Integratrailor) and of course the downright crazy (the Pony Stall or glowing wig heads in the Fifi). The trailers are all centered around a small pool and hot tub area with lots of cool activities for everyone. Read the descriptions on the trailers carefully as some have shared bathrooms and/or no AC.
In Idyllwild, the Hicksville Pines Chalet & Motel also provides unique accommodation options ranging from 3 bedroom apartments to unique rooms like the Christmas Tree room and the Nerds place with bunk beds for the kids! Just like at the Joshua Tree location, there is an abundance of cool things to do such as the tipi with a firepit, a rec room for game time and of course a hot tub for those cold nights.
While these accommodation options may not include all of the luxury some of the other options here may provide, it will undoubtably lead to a very fun weekend away with lots of stories to share.
Not quite what you might be thinking, no tents necessary here. AutoCamp is a unique type of lodging experience. Instead of car camping with a tent, your home will be a modern, luxuriously outfitted Airstream minutes from downtown Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara location is not as nature inspired as some of the other glamping recommendations, however it is inspired by camping on a great American road trip.
First established in 1922, this camping location was where old world travelers stopped for an overnight while traveling up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. This is a perfect stop for your own modern day family road trip along the PCH. Each Airstream sleeps up to 4 comfortably with prices starting at $200 a night. If you happen to be in Northern California, check out their awesome location on the Russian River.
The Treebones Resort is a premier exclusive glamping resort located in the Central Coast of California (so not quite southern California!). Located in one of the most beautiful sections of California, this is the ideal glamping retreat for couples and small families with children over 6 years old. With only 2 family yurts, families need to book well in advance. In addition to the yurts, there are also campsites for your own tent camping as well as the unique ‘human nest’ campsites.
If you really want a special experience, treat yourself to the luxurious 500 square foot cocoon tent perched on the edge of the property with out of this world sunset views. All stays at the resort include a buffet breakfast, use of the pool and hot tub as well as the 24 hour shower and restroom facilities. Treebones is a real treat and one of the top notch resorts for a luxurious glamping experience.
None of the above options meet your needs? Head over to Glamping Hub to search for some of the best, most unique accommodation options throughout California. Glamping Hub has accommodation options ranging from the rustic tepee and yurts to Airstream trailers, to luxurious cabins nestled high in the mountains. Think of this as your nature inspired home away from home with the added bonus that each of the listings were handpicked for their amazingness. Glamping Hub provides beautiful accommodation options located across the globe, with a great number of extraordinary properties located right here in California.
Do you have a favorite glamping site that we have not included? Please share it with us below. We are always on the hunt for unique places to stay and share with you all!
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