It’s the middle of summer and you haven’t yet been on that obligatory summer vacay. You don’t want to fly anywhere and you refuse to go too far. But isn’t that the beauty of living in Cali? You don’t have to. Chances are there’s a vacation lurking right in your own backyard.
Behold, El Capitan Canyon, one of SoCal’s best kept secrets. Located just past Santa Barbara, the dreamlike locale is made up of Adventure Yurts, Creekside Cabins and Safari Tents. “El Cap” caters to luxury campers and features all the services and amenities typical of a traditional resort, yet in a camping setting. Truly, glamorous camping at it’s finest.
Glamorous camping = Glamping.
But what to pack to Glamp? Throw in a pair of overalls, a couple flannels and a Stetson in the suitcase, and then—what the heck?—spice things up with a fancy purse, maybe a dress or two, and a freakin’ hair dryer to boot. Who cares if you’re a bit high maintenance? El Cap is equipped to handle you.
The easy two-and-a-half hour drive from LA will have you surrounded with ocean on one side and mountains on the other for the majority of the drive. Arriving into the canyon you’ll be surprised at its size. Along with the neighboring State Park there are over 2,500 acres of protected land that promise tons of adventures. The Canyon itself features a heated pool, a spa, playgrounds, a “petting zoo” and multiple hiking trails. Additional seasonal activities include yoga, storytelling hour, mountain biking, guided beach runs and a summer concert series.
The lodging options are first class Glamp. The Adventure Yurts offer two beds underneath a skylight and the Canvas Safari Tents are built on large decks and have screened windows and doors with zip-down flaps. Both the yurt and tent options are bathroom-less but are located close to the public restrooms which are maintained multiple times a day and are much nicer than your typical “camp washrooms.”
The Cedar Cabins resemble rustic ski-lodges complete with fresh towels, hot water and hotel amenities like shampoo, conditioner and soap. Complete with a queen-sized bed you could melt in, as well as a loft, kitchen, and floor-to-ceiling windows, you will feel completely equipped to take on the outdoorsy life.
To start things off meander over to the Canyon Spa and Garden which is tucked away in the trees by the creek and is so private walking outside in just your towel to get a breath of—extremely—fresh air is totally okay and won’t come with an indecent exposure charge. Licensed professionals offer up a variety of amenities like Hot Stone or Canyon Herbal Scalp Massages that will have you feeling serenely pampered.
That is until you take a guided hike to the “petting zoo” where you are faced with more than enough goats and llamas who all want to show their love and affection for you with head-butts. They will routinely nudge you until you give them more hay. Always. More. Hay. They won’t stop until all the hay in your hands, is in their mouths. And then, just like that, they’re finished. They’ll forget you ever even existed. You’re done, they’re done. Bye goats!
To unwind from that love/hate sort of relationship, check out a couple of free beach cruisers from the main entrance kiosk and bike across the street to El Capitan State Beach. In less than five minutes it’ll be you, your bike and the ocean. Feel free to veer off the bike path onto the sand and ride along the water’s edge for a sort of relaxation even the best spa service can’t provide.
After a while trade in your bike for a pair of hiking shoes and explore some of the Canyon’s three popular hiking paths: The Bill Wallace Trailhead, Selma Rubin Trail and Paradise Point Trail. The steep Selma Rubin Trail offers a spectacular view of the ocean and of the neighboring organic farms. The hiking options are seemingly endless and you can hike all day if you desire. After a bit of steep inclines however, what you’ll really fancy is some food, happy hour and a bit of shopping, because let’s face it, you’re really here to put the glam in Glamp.
The West Market is a specialty boutique featuring higher-end knick-knacks and unique souvenirs created by local artisans. The Canyon Market and Deli is a popular hangout amongst guests (live music and dancing throughout the summer!) and has an extensive menu giving guests options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They offer craft beers, local Santa Barbara wines, organic produce, fresh-to-order sandwiches and BBQ packages featuring chicken, salmon or tri-tip. The BBQ packages are stocked with firewood, a slab of meat, beans, salad and even a S’mores kit. The meat is perfectly seasoned and everything else prepared for you before it is delivered to your campground complete with kitchenware. Hands down, everything you need for a proper BBQ, without any of the work.
Once back at your lodge, while reflecting back on the favorite points of your exciting and adventurous day, and while enjoying your made-to-order campfire dinner, you glance up at the stars. Minimal light pollution in the middle of the woods calls for thee most fulfilling stargazing experience. It’s enough to almost think, Hey, maybe I’ll just camp out here tonight, but then out of the corner of your eye you glimpse that cozy bed in your own little forest chalet and change your mind. It’s time to dissolve into that thing. It was a long and glamorous day for you, and you, you courageous little camper, need your beauty sleep before Round Two of Glamping starts at sunrise tomorrow.
Well, maybe it’ll start at noon. You should probably have yourself some breakfast in bed first.
Lindsay DeLong is the Managing Editor of The Fullest. If you can’t find her getting her Glamp on in the wilderness try her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @lindizzaster.
Photos by: Jack Lungu