As a travel writer who loves the outdoors, glamping — “glamor camping” — has become one of my favorite ways to immerse myself in nature. Glamping gets me closer to nature without having to bring all the extra stuff camping requires, like towels, utensils, a stove, etc. Less time packing and unpacking means more time to explore and enjoy. Additionally, having a temperature-controlled environment definitely improves my overall comfort. My body doesn’t operate well in constant cold, so I love to crank up the heat, especially in the mornings. But honestly, the main reason why I am into glamping is the private roll-in shower. Without the private shower, it’s just over-priced camping.
While glamping setups may vary, for the extra bucks they generally provide some sort of kitchen or cooking setup, a bathroom and a warm roof over your head. Oftentimes they come fully equipped with gear and household supplies and sometimes even food. As demand for these types of setups has grown, so has the number of accessible options.
One of the companies capitalizing on the glamping trend is California-based AutoCamp. Drawing its name from the refurbished and retrofitted Airstream trailers it rents, the company has drawn praise for the concept and design infused into its multiple locations. Time magazine deemed it “One of the World’s Greatest Places in 2019.”
I’ve stayed at two California properties, AutoCamp Yosemite in the Sierra Mountains, forty minutes from Yosemite National Park, and AutoCamp Russian River, near the the Sonoma Coast in wine country. While AutoCamp’s signature Airstreams are super cute and iconic, they are not accessible, so both properties offer modern-minimalist designed, modified “cabins,” which in reality are closer to chic mobile homes.
These cabins have all barrier-free access with a patio, dining table and cooking grill that burns eco-friendly GoodWood. Cooking inside is an option too, as there is a kitchenette with a two-burner stovetop, microwave and minifridge (no freezer). The sink is a roll-up, making it easy to hand-wash dishes. On one side of the sink is a little countertop space for food storage and preparation, and the other side has a couple of drawers with some cookware. Above the sink, and harder to reach, is a cabinet with basic dinnerware.
The cabins also have a loveseat sofa-bed just next to the kitchenette with a few small shelves and power outlets nearby. It sits across from a large flatscreen television with the latest subscription channels. The opposite side of the kitchenette is where the large bathroom is located. AutoCamp has made these bathrooms accessible and luxurious, equipped with a roll-up sink and a lovely roll-in shower. The shower bench is mounted with adjacent grab-bars, not in one’s back, and the hand-held shower nozzle in reach. This shower set-up alone is a reason to go glamping.
The bedroom is on the opposite side of the bathroom and has the best bay-window view. It’s like sleeping in a luxurious treehouse. With just the push of a button, window shades obey the command to rise and bring nature instantly into the bedroom. Yosemite AutoCamp also includes a wireless skylight window. It was a treat to do a little stargazing warm in bed, or pop outside on the deck to see more of the Sierra night sky. The full-sized bed has a memory-foam mattress and is wedged in the right corner of the bedroom, along the bay-window, creating open access on one side of the bed. The other corner of the bedroom has a standing cabinet with drawers and lowered closet bar. A full-length mirror and wall hooks at various heights are also in the bedroom.
Both AutoCamp Yosemite and Russian River keep a roaring fire going at night inside and outside the barrier-free lodge. Near the main desk inside is a small market with some food items, snacks and beverages for purchase.
AutoCamp Russian River is within walking distance to downtown Guerneville, a cute river-town with a variety of restaurants and a grocery market. AutoCamp Yosemite is more isolated, with the closest town being a ten-minute drive away. Because of this, it offers visitors the option to purchase pre-planned meals and snacks. Once a reservation is made, visitors are given access to the online store to make selections. Campfire inspired meals like tri-tips, sausage and beans, are delivered to guests onsite and require some heating; popular items run out, so advance ordering is recommended.
The main difference between AutoCamp Yosemite and Russian River, besides the location, is the size of the property. AutoCamp Yosemite is larger, with four accessible cabins as well as a tent-cabin option. AutoCamp Russian River has one accessible cabin. The tent-cabin at AutoCamp Yosemite has a loveseat sofa-coffee table area, as well as a bed with a cooking grill outside (no kitchenette or cooking supplies). A paved pathway leads from this tent-cabin to the lodge where guests have access to a toilet and roll-in shower. Additionally, AutoCamp Yosemite has an outdoor, heated pool equipped with a remote-controlled hoist-lift. It’s located on the deck of the lodge’s second floor, accessible by elevator-lift.
AutoCamp Yosemite is an hour from one of the main entrances of Yosemite National Park on Highway 140 in the historic gold rush town of Mariposa, named after the many butterflies in the area. A butterfly festival is annually hosted by the town the first weekend in May, bringing locals, families and visitors together to celebrate spring time in the Sierra Mountains. The 1850 Restaurant and Brewery is an authentic and charming local place for burgers and a beer with a nice outdoor patio.
The road to Yosemite National Park is windy but scenic, as it makes it way through the Merced River Canyon to the iconic valley floor. Before even reaching the main loop, there are waterfalls and other natural wonders to see. One called “The Cascades” is a lesser-known Yosemite waterfall and worth a stop. The park entrance off Highway 140 is a little farther from AutoCamp Yosemite, and takes you past the historic Tenaya Lodge to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, home of two of the largest trees in the world.
When staying at AutoCamp Russian River, all of Sonoma County is at your fingertips. Guerneville has tasting shops and stores to explore, and at the edge of the downtown is the road to Armstrong Woods where you can get out of the car and get into nature by going hiking. Less than thirty miles away from the glamping grounds, you can go on an adventure in Africa at Safari West.
The Charles Schulz Museum is a Peanuts lover’s dream and only 20 miles away in Downtown Santa Rosa. The Russian River slices into the Pacific Ocean at Jenner Beach, 13 miles to the southwest, and the sight of the fresh water merging with salt creates a wildlife feeding frenzy. Birds and sealions gather in this fertile cornucopia in large numbers all overlooking picturesque Goat Rock.
Surrounded by so much to see and do at both AutoCamp locations, it’s hard to not go exploring, especially if it’s your first visit. But there is something serene and restoring about just hanging around your site, not rushing anywhere and simply relaxing.
AutoCamp Cape Cod is slated to open Apr. 1 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. For more information on any of the locations, or to book a stay, visit autocamp.com.