If your idea of roughing it is a hotel without room service, camping hasn't been on your vacation wish list. Until now. "Glamping"—glamorous camping—combines the splendor of the great outdoors with the comfort of a top-tier hotel. Intrigued? Here's how luxe trips compare with traditional outings.
Camping: Hot dogs roasted over a fire
Glamping: Grilled rack of lamb prepared by a campside chef
Forget fiddling with your pocketknife to pry open that can of beans. At average rates from $300 to $500 a day, glamping trips include mouthwatering meals prepared by professional chefs. For instance, a four-night hiking trip to Havasupai in the Grand Canyon, run by Austin Lehman Adventures ($1,698 per person; 800-575-1540; austinlehman.com), gives you three nights at a fully provisioned camp, where a chef sets up near a 100-foot waterfall. And Far and Away Adventures (800-232-8588; far-away.com) offers Idaho trips that feature five-star fare such as pork tenderloin with five-spice seasoning or Kobe beef tenderloin salad. Dinners are presented on white linen tablecloths and paired with wines preselected by the company's sommelier, which ups the elegance factor.
Camping: Unguided forays through the wilderness
Glamping: Escorted, effortless journeys
You'll have no worries about getting lost, because glamping trips include experienced local guides. For instance, Far and Away Adventures specializes in rafting trips (starting at $1,680) along the Middle Fork of Idaho's Salmon River, leading glampers through remote and rugged territory. And Abercrombie & Kent's Cataract Canyon River Rafting (six days from $2,415; 800-554-7094; abercrombiekent.com) takes participants on routes that go deep into Utah's Canyonlands National Park, so you can explore Pueblo ruins, learn about ancient petroglyphs, and hike secluded side canyons. At adventure's end, board a private plane for a scenic flight to your starting point.
Camping: Struggles to pitch your tent
Glamping: Preset shelter complete with comfortable sleeping quarters
No need to fumble with the canvas; you'll find your tent already set up. Boundless Journeys (800-941-8010; boundlessjourneys.com) includes roomy tents on its kayak trips off Vancouver Island (six days, $2,995) and Baja and the Sea of Cortez (seven days, $1,895). If you'd rather "glamp lite"—that is, provide and cook your own food and create your own escapades—you can still find nighttime luxury at Falling Waters Adventure Resort ($84 a night; 877-247-5535; fallingwatersresort.com). Located 12 miles from the southern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in western North Carolina, eight yurts (circular, domed structures) are spread across the five-acre camp. Each yurt comes with a queen bed and futon, small refrigerator, coffeemaker, and CD player. You'll also find four shared private bathrooms and picnic areas. There may not be a sommelier, but your champagne under the stars will be just as sparkling.