Glamping is coming to the Uintas this summer
Luxury camping to be offered at Washington, Lilly lakes
Glamping will be welcomed to the Uinta Mountains this summer for the first time, with a dozen campsites near the Mirror Lake Highway slated to offer luxurious accommodations with beds, furniture and rugs.
“It’s glamorous camping,” said Zuzana Smith, assistant general manager of the Utah Recreation Company, which is providing the service. “If you don’t have all the equipment and still want to camp outdoors, we offer the tent and it’s fully furnished.”
She said that campers would be asked to bring their own bedding and clothes, but that they would arrive at a campsite with a heavy-duty canvas tent already set up that includes two full-size beds, chairs, ottomans and lanterns.
The sites cost $133 per night and will be offered at Washington Lake and Lilly Lake, two popular sites about 20 miles into the forest along the Mirror Lake Highway. The sites normally cost $24 for standard overnight use.
Smith said the program was the result of feedback from members of the public who told the U.S. Forest Service they wanted to see more amenities on forest land. The decision to offer glamping was a collaboration between Forest Service officials and those from the Utah Recreation Company, which is a subsidiary of a recreation company in California that has offered glamping at parks there for a few years, Smith said.
The Utah Recreation Company manages the 3,000 campsites in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, as well as some of the day-use areas, boat launches and guard stations.
Heber-Kamas District Ranger Dano Jauregui said he thought it was a great idea, adding that it could provide some meaningful revenue for the forest.
“They’ve had some success over on some of the other areas they manage,” he said. “… We told them to go ahead and give it a try for one year.”
The first year will be a pilot program, Smith said, with officials planning to reassess in the off-season whether to offer it again. Smith said they’ll look at user feedback and usage rates to decide whether to bring it back next year.
Juaregui said that the glamping sites might take a site away from an RV or a fifth-wheel trailer, but that it would offer a broader diversity of experiences for people who use the forest.
Smith and Forest Service spokesperson Loyal Clark indicated the relatively small number of sites wouldn’t make it much harder for campers to find campgrounds for themselves, which can already be challenging in the increasingly busy summer months.
Smith said that 10 of the 500 sites in the Kamas district would be converted for glamping, and that 114 of the 3,000 total campsites in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest would offer the service.
Washington and Lilly lakes are each planned to offer five dedicated glamping spots this summer.
The officials said the program would broaden access to the outdoors for people who might not have the equipment, knowledge or desire to venture out into the wilderness. Smith said glamping could also be an alternative for people who decide they want to go camping at the last minute without the trouble of packing.
Clark said the Forest Service had received consistent feedback indicating users would like to see this sort of experience.
“We had a lot of different users, different visitors out there that like a different experience,” she said. “Some that prefer not to stay in a developed site and want to go out to our undeveloped areas and want to have a more wild experience on their own, some would like to stay in more developed areas that have amenities such as a fire ring, running water, a restroom, others who have discovered this glamping experience is something they want to try or have tried somewhere else.”
Proceeds from the program will be reinvested in the forest, according to the forest supervisor, paying for maintenance including repairing water systems, replacing picnic tables and fire rings, repairing fences, installing new fish cleaning stations and removing hazard trees.
Some glamping sites will be installed later this month in Ogden and Spanish Fork, Smith said, but the high-altitude sites off the Mirror Lake Highway won’t be available until the highway is plowed and reopens for the season.
Smith said the sites would be available in June or July until at least Labor Day and that the season could be extended, based upon the weather.
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Jenn Armstrong-Solomon provides the services of her trauma-sensitive yoga nonprofit, Tall Mountain Wellness, free of charge to groups like the Summit County Drug Court and the county jail.