Nestled in a scenic canyon filled with oaks and sycamores and 15 miles of private hiking trails, El Capitan Canyon in Santa Barbara, Calif. is a logical spot for a traditional camping experience. But instead of filling the campground with RV and tent sites, the owners of El Capitan Canyon invested in 90 Cavco park model cabins in 2001 and helped create the genesis of the glamping concept on the West Coast.
Glamping, of course, is what people do when they want to spend a few days in the Great Outdoors without having to rough it with a traditional camping experience.
El Capitan Canyon’s park model cabins look rustic on the outside and are reminiscent of the weathered wooden structures one often finds while visiting historic Western ghost towns. But inside, they provide luxurious accommodations with polished hardwood floors, fine bedroom furnishings, kitchenettes and large bathrooms with deep soaking bathtubs. The cabins come in a variety of styles. Some have lofts, which are popular with families with young children. Others have porches and comfortable outdoor furniture. Each cabin also has its own outside picnic table and fire pit, which is perfect for roasting s’mores.
“Our park model campers are people who want a nature experience, but don’t want to camp,” said Terri Bowman, managing partner of El Capitan Canyon who has guided the development of the resort since its inception.
And while the concept a resort based on park model accommodations was practically unheard of when El Capitan Canyon installed its first 90 park model cabins, consumer demand for the glamping experience has continued to grow, prompting the resort to add even more park models as well as fully furnished safari tents and yurts, which appeal to tent camping enthusiasts.
El Capitan Canyon currently has 109 park model cabins, 26 safari tents and six yurts and Bowman has plans to add even more park model cabins in another section of the canyon in the near future.
“We’re having our best year ever right now in terms of occupancy,” she said, adding that the resort is also continuing to broaden its offering of activities and amenities.
While El Capitan Canyon has 15 miles of private hiking trails, it also provides docent led-nature walks to the resort’s organic farm and llama and goat ranch, as well as guided morning runs along the beach, which is less than a mile from the resort. Evening entertainment includes wine tastings, outdoor star talks and stories about the history of the local Chumash Indian tribe as well as an outdoor concert series that takes place every weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Outdoor movies are also offered on Thursday nights throughout the summer months.
And for those who seek a little more pampering, El Capitan Canyon offers spa and massage facilities, which are staffed by a dozen massage therapists who provide everything from trigger point therapy to foot massages, salt scrubs and herbal scalp massages. The resort also offers hot stone massages.
Bowman said El Capitan Canyon caters to families with children during the summer months. But in fall and winter and spring, the resort fills up with couples seeking a romantic getaway. The resort is also a popular location for corporate retreats and weddings. More information is available at www.elcapitancanyon.com.