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The Rockwood family enjoys an evening around the campfire at Moosehorn Campground.

Image: Douglas Burke

Laughing around a crackling fire. Drifting asleep to crickets chirping and waking to dawn’s serene stillness. Savoring beans and weenies as if they were filet mignon and crème brûlée. And getting zero bars on your cell phone. Camping’s simple pleasures make some of summer’s sweetest memories, and the Park City area offers them up by the trailer-full. Get ready to get real, get dirty, and get away.

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Making s'mores is one of camping's most traditional joys.

Image: Douglas Burke

Car Camping

Go ahead. Bring the wine, the inflatable mattress, the down comforter, and that heavy camp kitchen. Setting up a base camp that you can drive to means that anything goes. 

Timpooneke (36 miles from Park City)

The 30 campsites here provide an ideal base for making a summit bid for nearby Mt Timpanogos’s 11,752-foot peak (a 14-mile round-trip hike). Or chill out near the campground’s beaver pond. The dirt Timpooneke road circumnavigates Timp’s base, ideal for a ride in the car or a mountain bike tour. recreation.gov

Get there: Take US 40 toward Heber City; bear right on US 189. Follow through the canyon to a right on Hwy 92/Timpooneke Road, and follow the signs to the campground.

Albion Basin (43 miles via Interstate 80; 50 miles via Guardsman Pass)

Backdoor access to classic Wasatch Mountains hiking routes makes Albion Basin one of the most popular campgrounds in the state. Make the easy .75-mile hike to Cecret Lake (no swimming). Or walk five miles through Catherine’s Pass past Lakes Catherine, Martha, and Mary to Brighton Ski Area. reserveamerica.com 

Get there: Take I-80 west to I-215 south. Take exit 6 at 6200 South and then take Wasatch Boulevard south to Hwy 210 (Little Cottonwood Canyon Road) to Albion Basin. For a more scenic route, take Marsac Avenue to Guardsman Pass Road. Drive up and over Guardsman into Big Cottonwood Canyon. Follow the road to where it intersects with Wasatch Boulevard. Take a left and drive up Hwy 210 to the campground.

Moosehorn Lake (54 miles from Park City)

At close to the Uinta Mountains’ crest, this stunning natural lake—located at the base of a craggy moraine—is the definition of getting away. There’s no cell service, and the nearest landline is 17 miles away. Moderately fit kids and adults will have no trouble bagging nearby Bald Mountain; the trailhead is just two miles back down the Mirror Lake Highway toward Kamas. Or linger near the lake, SUPing, mushroom hunting, or hanging out on shore with a book. Motorized boats are prohibited. recreation.gov

Get there: Take Hwy 248 to Kamas. Take a left on Main Street and an immediate right onto Hwy 150 (Mirror Lake Highway). The campground is on the left, 31 miles up from the Kamas Ranger District fee station.

Currant Creek (78 miles from Park City)

Though this campground is located on a primo fishing reservoir stocked with cutthroat and rainbow trout, its relatively small size (300 acres) makes it a much better venue for swimming and nonmotorized watercraft. Nearly every one of the 100 sites here (including several equestrian-specific sites) affords views of the Currant Creek Reservoir and surrounding mountains. But for
direct water access, nicely spaced sites, and easy access to a playground, head to the D Loop. Hikers of all ages will enjoy the 1.25-mile Currant Creek Nature Trail. reserveamerica.com

Get there: Take US 40 east through Heber City and past Strawberry Reservoir. Take a left onto Currant Creek Road, and drive 17 miles to the campground.

Maple Canyon (108 miles from Park City)

More than 140 bolted routes pepper the conglomerate cliff walls towering above the Manti–La Sal National Forest’s Maple Canyon Campground. You’ll meet rock jocks of all levels from around the world here, drawn to one of the state’s highest concentrations of sport climbing routes (ranked from 5.4 to 5.14), many of which are shaded throughout the summer. Three steep hiking loops (Left Fork, Middle Fork, and Right Fork Trails) lead to most of the routes, as well as the Huge Cave. Don’t miss the hike to the canyon’s large arch, a half mile up the Middle Fork Trail.reserveamerica.com

Get there: Head south on I-15 to Exit 225 (Nephi 100 N exit). Head east here onto Hwy 132 to Fountain Green. Take a right on 400 South and drive 6 miles to Freedom Road, where you’ll turn right. Take another right again on Maple Canyon Road, which leads to the campground.

Green River (164 miles from Park City)

Located on the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument, this quiet, family-friendly campground offers centralized access to the new Quarry Visitor Center and Quarry Exhibit Hall, a variety of hikes, and the Split Mountain Boat Ramp—a popular take-out for those floating the Green River. Sites on the east side of the campground’s three loops are on the river (though because of swift currents and underwater obstacles, swimming is discouraged). Thanks to mature cottonwoods throughout the campground’s 80 sites, shade is plentiful. nps.gov/dino, recreation.gov

Get there: Take US 40 east to Duchesne. Continue on US 40/191 to Vernal, and follow the signs to Dinosaur National Monument.

Cool It

One sip of an ice-cold microbrew on day five of any backcountry trip, and you’ll agree: there’s a science to correctly packing a cooler. Following are a few tried-and-true cooler-packing tips from the well-seasoned river rats at All Seasons Adventures (435.649.9619, allseasonsadventures.com).

• Decide, based on needs and intended use, whether a hard or soft cooler is most appropriate to get the job done. Hard coolers are ideal for several days’ worth of food; soft coolers are best for personal use.

• Organize and label multiple coolers by day, and open only when needed.

• If possible, freeze food prior to packing.

• Have a list in mind of items you want to retrieve before getting into your cooler to avoid multiple and unnecessary openings.

• On hot days, wet a towel and drape it over the cooler.

• A few words about ice: Blocks are better than cubes, and clear ice is better than translucent or foggy. An effective option is freezing a layer of water in the bottom of the cooler covered with cardboard to help keep items dry. Frozen water bottles can substitute for ice, and you can drink the water when it thaws. Dry ice can provide a nice surprise like popsicles, ice cream, or frozen daiquiris, but it will spoil fresh veggies.

• Avoid glass; bring soda and/or beer in cans whenever possible. If glass is unavoidable, wrap each bottle in duct tape.

• Stack food appropriately (e.g., eggs should be stored in a hard case), and keep items that need to stay dry elevated or in trays.

• A fully packed cooler (no dead space) will stay colder longer.

• Sanitize your cooler after every trip. (A dirty cooler can make drinking cooler water, if necessary, rather unpleasant.) Place a piece of cedar inside your cooler when storing to minimize odors.

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More than 1,000 lakes pepper the High Uintas Wilderness.

Image: Douglas Burke

On the Shore

Even the most novice angler knows the value of being at the fishing grounds at the golden hour—just after sunrise and just before sunset. These lakefront-access sites allow campers to have their fish and eat it, too.

Juniper Campground, Rockport Reservoir State Park (24 miles from Park City)

Five campgrounds are located on this picturesque reservoir favored equally by anglers, sailors, water skiers, and swimmers. The best, however, is Juniper, featuring 23 well-spaced sites tucked into a mature juniper stand with immediate lake access. Amenities include a store, flush toilets, and hot showers. Sites 22 through 25 and 27 through 29 are right on the water, but even the outer loops are just a few minutes’ walk from the beach and boat ramp. The best shore fishing is found nearby at the dam, where the Weber River spills into the reservoir. stateparks.utah.gov, reserveamerica.com

Get there: Take Hwy 248 east of Park City, under the US 40 overpass to Brown’s Canyon Road. Take a left here and again at the dead end onto Hwy 32 toward Rockport. Bear right at the reservoir on Hwy 302 to access most Rockport campgrounds; Juniper is located on the northeast side.

Ledgefork (32 miles from Park City)

A creek runs through 73 paved sites here, situated in a shady conifer and aspen grove at 7,800 feet above sea level on the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir. Though stocked with rainbow trout and other native fish species, wakeless speed is endorsed, making this an ideal venue for canoeists, kayakers, and SUPers. The 12-mile out-and-back Smith and Morehouse Trail begins here and leads steeply through forest and wetlands before depositing hikers and backpackers at Erickson Basin and Island Lake. reserveamerica.com

Get there: Take Hwy 248 east to Brown’s Canyon Road. Turn left, then take a right on Hwy 32 into Oakley and make a left turn onto Weber Canyon Road. Follow the road through the canyon to a right onto the Smith and Morehouse Road. Drive past the Smith and Morehouse Campground and the reservoir to Ledgefork.

Aspen Grove (52 miles from Park City)

Both anglers and water skiers flock to the mighty Strawberry Reservoir. The area’s best camp spots are found on Aspen Grove Campground’s A Loop, situated among dense stands of aspens offering nice shade and stunning color displays in the fall. (Sage dominates the landscape in the B Loop.) Bring your mountain bike to pedal all or some of the rolling, 12-mile out-and-back Strawberry Narrows Trail, singletrack that runs along the southern edge of the waterway connecting Soldier Creek to the main reservoir. (The trailhead is located at the boat ramp.) reserveamerica.com

Get there: Take US 40 east through Heber City and past the main Strawberry Reservoir. Turn right onto Forest Road 90, and follow the signs to Aspen Grove.

Mustang Ridge, Flaming Gorge Reservoir (216 miles from Park City)

Though it’s located a littler farther than the other destinations called out here, the variety of activities available near Mustang Ridge (within the Ashley National Forest) makes it well worth traveling the few extra miles. This large campground (50-plus sites) is located on a rocky pinyon-, juniper-, and sage-covered ridge overlooking the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Outer loop sites provide the easiest access to cliff jumping, swimming, and shore fishing. (The Sunny Cove Day Use Area, less than a mile away, is better for small children.) Free tours of the impressive Flaming Gorge Dam are offered daily. And, of course, the 91-mile-long Flaming Gorge Reservoir is one of the West’s greatest fisheries. reserveamerica.com

Get there: Take I-80 east for 150 miles to Exit 99/US 191 South/Flaming Gorge. Travel 58 miles over the plateau (be on the lookout for herds of wild mustangs). Take a right onto Mustang Ridge Road, and follow the signs to the campground.

Catch of the Day

Not a lot compares to the taste of fresh-caught trout. But just because you’re in nature doesn’t mean your catch can’t benefit from a little nurturing. This bright and zesty mint salsa verde, courtesy of Jordan Harvey, executive chef at Park City’s Zoom Restaurant (660 Main St, 435.649.9108, zoomparkcity.com), will take your fresh fish to fantastic.

• ½ c chopped parsley
• ½ c chopped fresh mint leavesS
• 1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
• 2 tbsp sliced scallions
• 2 tsp finely minced shallots
• ½ tbsp rinsed and chopped capers
• 1 minced anchovy
• zest of 1 lemon
• 1 c extra virgin olive oil
• juice of 1 lemon
• kosher salt to taste

Combine the chopped herbs, scallions, shallots, capers, anchovy, and lemon zest on a cutting board and mince together. Transfer to a mixing bowl and toss with olive oil. Taste for acidity and balance. Adjust seasoning with lemon juice and salt. Cover tightly and chill for at least an hour. Serve over grilled trout or chicken.

S’more Amore

A perfectly roasted marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers is, quite simply, above reproach. That said, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Try these variations on this campfire classic in honor of National S’mores Day, August 10.

• Crêpes inspired: Replace the chocolate with Nutella and add sliced fresh strawberries, bananas, or raspberries.
• Everything’s better with bacon: Save some bacon from breakfast and add to the traditional triad. 
• Lemon meringue: Replace the chocolate with lemon curd.
• Finger lickin’ good: Drizzle a standard s’more with warm caramel sauce and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.
• The Candyland: Replace the chocolate with peanut butter cups or peppermint patties.

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A recerational vehicle touring Capitol Reef National Park in Utah

Image: Douglas Burke

Fifth-Wheel Getaways

It used to be that a snowy hairdo and a “#1 Grandma” bumper sticker were prerequisites for hitting the road in a recreational vehicle. No longer. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, the average RVer is a spry 48 years old. Whether your ride is a chic Airstream or a practical Winnebago, after just one tent-free camping trip you’re sure to be a convert. Following are a few of our fave spots here in Utah (and beyond) to park your wheels. (Most of these places also offer cabins for rent, too.)

Wasatch Mountain State Park (18 miles from Park City)

If you’re looking for a staycation where you can hit the links, the trail, and the river, drive your rig no farther than Wasatch Mountain State Park. The Mahogany Loop is the most thickly forested (i.e., shady) of the park’s three loops, and it’s the only one offering full hookups. The south end of this campground is situated against the Wasatch Mountain Golf Course, as well. Have a large group? The park’s relatively new Eagles Nest and Falcons Ledge cabins are located close by and sleep up to eight each. stateparks.utah.govreserveamerica.com

Get there: Take US 40 east toward Heber City. Turn right onto River Road just before arriving in Heber. Take Burgi Lane at the traffic circle. Turn right onto Pine Canyon Drive, and follow the signs to the campground.

Thousand Lakes RV Park Torrey (213 miles from Park City)

Every one of the 65 large, pull-through RV spaces and 9 cabins at this tidy and friendly RV resort includes views of red-rock buttes and sagebrush-covered plateaus. On-site amenities include a mini mart, fresh coffee and muffins, jeep rentals, and even a hair salon. Capitol Reef National Park is just six miles away; Torrey’s bars, restaurants, and access to the Great Western Trail are all within walking distance. thousandlakesrvpark.com

Get there: Take I-15 south. Exit the freeway onto US 50 (Exit 188) toward Scipio. Turn right onto Hwy 260, which merges into Hwy 24 east. The RV park is one mile west of Torrey.

Fruita Campground (227 miles from Park City)

Nestled in the Fruita Historic District orchards but surrounded by stunning red-rock desert, this campground is a study in contrasts. Visit in the fall when temperatures cool, the apples and pears ripen (picking is allowed for a fee), and the leaves turn. Nearby hikes include Panorama Point, Chimney Rock, and (a good choice when it’s hot) Calf Creek Falls. Sites here are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Get there: Take I-15 south to Exit 188 Scipio. Follow US 50 east to a right onto Hwy 260, which merges into Hwy 24 east. Drive through Bicknell and Teasdale to a right onto Camp Ground Road, and follow the signs to Fruita.

West Fork Cabin Camp Cameron, Montana (361 miles from Park City)

Though its Park City proximity makes it more of a weeklong destination than a weekend getaway, if you like to cast (and even if you don’t), you’ll be hooked after just one visit to the West Fork. Located on the banks of Montana’s blue-ribbon-fishery Madison River, this throwback cabin and RV camp offers sweeping mountain views, cool temps, and cinnamon rolls baked fresh daily. Twenty-four full-service RV sites, 11 fully furnished cabins, raft rentals, and a camp store round out the accommodations here. wfork.com

Get there: Head out on I-80 west to I-15 north. At Idaho Falls take US 20 toward Rigby/West Yellowstone (Exit 119). Take a left onto Hwy 87 and another left onto US 287. The West Fork Cabin Camp is on the left side of the road.

Renting the American Dream

Getting behind the wheel of a motorhome and setting out on the open road has a wistful, almost nostalgic quality to it. This American dream can be made even sweeter by renting an RV rather than shelling out five figures to buy one. Following are a few things to consider before you sign on the dotted line.

Factor costs: For families, renting an RV is cheaper than staying in hotels but definitely more expensive than tent camping. Expect to pay between $125 and $150 per night plus a mileage fee—typically around 35 cents per mile traveled. Bring your own dishes, pots and pans, and cooking utensils to avoid having to rent a kitchen kit. And then there’s fuel—most RVs get a meager 7 to 11 miles to the gallon. Take advantage of an RV’s outer girth or indoor space to bring along bikes, eliminating the need to burn a gallon of gas to grab a bag of ice or marshmallows from the store.

Think small: This is not the time to indulge your 18-wheeler fantasies. Smaller RVs handle noticeably better than larger versions, particularly on winding and narrow roads. And you’ll be less likely to feel like you’re about to tip onto two wheels when meeting up with a crosswind on the open highway.

Make reservations: More than 16,000 campgrounds across the US welcome RV campers. But the RV spaces tend to fill faster than tent-only spots. (Be sure also to secure a space with a grill, as most RV kitchens do not include an oven and/or stovetop.) RV parks (versus campgrounds) are slightly more expensive but offer amenities like pools, laundry facilities, and playgrounds.

Keep it legal: A standard driver’s license is all that’s required to drive an RV. Before setting out, however, become familiar with your vehicle’s wider-than-typical turning radius, low clearance, and extended height. Shaving off the top of your rental RV while driving into a parking garage can put an obvious damper on any vacation (which is why it makes sense to buy the rental insurance).

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Be sure to pitch your tent at least 100 feet away from water sources.

Image: Douglas Burke

Backpacking

The Uinta Mountains’ claim to fame is that it is the highest east-west-running mountain range in the contiguous United States. It is also, hands down, one of the best backpacking destinations in the West, which is why all of the routes and campsites that follow are justifiably located in this gorgeous and very-close-by natural treasure. (Be sure to hang your food at night, as bears are common throughout the Uintas.)fs.usda.gov/uwcnf​

Four Lakes Basin (Highline Trailhead, 46 miles from Park City)

You’ll find no better introduction to backpacking in the craggy, alpine lake–studded High Uintas Wilderness area than making the 8-mile trek to Four Lakes Basin. Begin at the Highline Trailhead (from which the entire 78-mile-long Highline Trail traverses the Uinta Mountains’ east-west spine), located 2.5 miles northeast of Mirror Lake along Highway 150 (Mirror Lake Highway). Enjoy numerous elevation gains and losses as you pass through dense pine forest, swampy marshland, and eventually rock-strewn foothills. Stay headed east (straight) past junctions leading to the region’s other lakes until, at around 7 miles in, you reach the junction with the Four Lakes Basin Trail. Head south here for a mile to Jean Lake, the first of the four lakes. Camp along Jean or any of the other three lakes here—Daynes, Dale, and Dean—and spend your time fishing for cutthroat, brook trout, and grayling or exploring the surrounding ridgelines and peaks.

Get there: Take Hwy 248 east from Park City to Kamas. Take a left on Hwy 32 and an almost immediate right onto Hwy 150, the Mirror Lake Highway. The Highline Trailhead is located 34 miles up the highway on the right side of the road.

Clegg Lake (Bald Mountain Trailhead, 50 miles from Park City)

This relatively flat route provides easy access to one of the Uintas’ prettiest lake areas and is an ideal first-time backpacking sojourn for families with younger children. From the Bald Mountain Trailhead, head east on the Notch Mountain Trail. Clegg Lake is just 1.5 miles down the trail and, because most backpackers pitch tents a mile farther at Notch Lake, is a less-crowded place to set up base camp. Spend a couple of days here fishing, poking around the glaciated-rock shoreline, and (if you packed a map) exploring the area’s other nearby lakes (Dean, Bench, and Reid’s).

Get there: 29 miles up the Mirror Lake Highway from the Kamas Ranger District fee station; trailhead is on the left.

Red Castle (China Meadows Trailhead, 127 miles from Park City)

One of the most picturesque and rewarding backcountry treks accessed from the Uinta Mountains’ north slope leads to a trio of lakes located at the base of the Red Castle buttress. The 10.5-mile walk begins at the China Meadows Trailhead. From here, follow the East Fork Smiths Fork Trail through lodgepole pine stands (many of which are dead thanks to the pine bark beetle) to the sweeping Broadbent Meadow. (Be respectful of other trail users along the way, which include horseback riders and even sheepherders.) At the north end of the meadow, you’ll cross a bridge and start up a steeper switchback section, offering your first glimpse of Red Castle. Camp in Broadbent Meadow along the way and/or in the established sites on the largest of the three lakes—aptly named Lower Red Castle. Be sure to spend an additional day or two exploring the other lakes and nearby rocky crags.

Get there: Take I-80 east past Evanston, Wyoming, and exit at Mountain View/Hwy 414. Drive south about 8 miles to a junction. Go straight ahead onto a dirt road (number 246 on maps). Drive for 11 miles to the junction with the Henrys Fork road (left/east). Continue straight for 7 more miles past many campgrounds to another junction near a lake. Turn left and drive the last mile to the trailhead at the far end of the China Meadows Campground loop.

Amethyst Lake (Trailhead at Christmas Meadows Campground, 99 miles from Park City)

You will not be alone on what is likely the Uinta Mountains’ most popular backpacking route, the 6.5-mile trek to Amethyst Lake. But once you glimpse this lake’s seemingly depthless azure-green waters, you may decide solitude is overrated. Be wary of moose as you set out from the trailhead, located on a spur road on the upper end of Christmas Meadows Campground. After four miles the trail hits a fork: to the right is the Ryder Lake area; to the left, Ostler and Amethyst Lakes. The first two miles after the junction are steep and rocky, but the trail soon levels out, and you’ll arrive at a meadow offering a more protected area to make camp versus next to the exposed lakeshore. Leave your pack in the meadow and hike the final mile to the breathtaking lake unencumbered.

Get there: Drive 46 miles up the Mirror Lake Highway, and take a right onto Christmas Meadows Road.

King’s Peak (Henrys Fork Trailhead, 130 miles from Park City)

Ask any dedicated (and self-respecting) Utah backpackers or hikers, and they are sure to tell you that they either have bagged or plan to bag King’s Peak—which, at 13,528 feet above sea level, is the highest point in the state. Though there are multiple approaches to this storied summit, the easiest is a well-traveled, 23-mile, out-and-back route from the Henrys Fork Campground. Follow the trail through the junction for the North Slope Trail. Here you can continue south along the more direct route. (Dollar Lake, the only lake along this route, is frequented by sheep herds in the summer.) Or add just over a mile and take a right, following the North Slope Trail briefly to the more scenic and less populated West Side Loop, which passes by half a dozen lakes ideal for camping before rejoining the main trail. (Many King’s Peak backpackers take the West Side Loop on the way up and the more direct route on the return. And almost all camp at one of the aforementioned lakes and continue their summit bid as a day hike.) The trail continues two miles up a series of switchbacks to Gunsight Pass. The peak is 4.6 miles from Gunsight down through Painter Basin and up a marked trail located between King’s Peak’s east face and the south face of the Highline Ridge Trail.

Get there: From Mountain View, Wyoming, take Hwy 410 south toward Robertson. When 410 makes a hard right (west) in about 6 miles, stay due south for 12 miles, and then turn east onto FR 077 towards Henrys Fork. Drive for 11.5 miles, and then turn west for the .75-mile drive to Henrys Fork Campground.

Llama Love

Janet Thimmes had dreamed of owning a camel since she was a child. But raising camels on her and her husband Tim’s 16-acre property in Marion would be a tad impractical. Luckily, keeping llamas (members of the same family as camels) is not, so 10 years ago the Thimmesespurchased four as pets.

Intertwined with Andean culture, llamas are natural trekkers, and before long the couple started taking their llamas into the nearby Uinta National Forest for picnics and camping weekends with friends. The Thimmeses now own seven llamas and say using a pack llama can make any backcountry foray—whether for just a few hours or a few weeks—twice the fun, as long as you know how to respect these interesting animals. Following are few tips to remember before hitting the trail, llama-style.

• Well-conditioned adult llamaas can carry an 80-pound evenly distributed load. Use a scale to make sure each loaded pannier is within a pound or two of the other.
• Don’t try to walk next to your llama along the trail as you might lead a horse. Llamas are trained to walk single file behind whoever is leading them.
• Llamas have feet with two toes instead of hooves, which makes their impact on the trail minimal. But because they don’t have hooves, sharp shale or scree fields should be avoided.
• Llamas prefer to drink from standing water rather than streams. Bring a bucket if your itinerary does not include ponds or lakes.
• Llamas are very cute and cuddly looking, but they tend toward aloofness and don’t particularly like being hugged or petted.
• Llamas spook most horses, so if you encounter horseback riders on the trail, stepping aside and letting them pass is good backcountry courtesy.
• Llamas hum when they are stressed and, like camels, will occasionally spit, but not typically at people.
• Secure llamas by tying a rope between two trees and attaching the llama’s lead with a carabiner, which will allow the llama to graze and wander while secure.
• Finally, before heading out, learn to identify larkspur, a common mountain wildflower that’s poisonous to llamas.

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The Shooting Star's drive-in movie theater in the desert.

Image: Douglas Burke

Silver Bullet Escape

Glamping, old Hollywood-style, at the Shooting Star RV Resort

Whether a symptom of continuously shortening vacation time or simply a result of the desire to avoid the more unpleasant aspects of camping (e.g., pitching a tent in the rain or forgetting to pack toilet paper), the latest trend in getting outside—dubbed “glamping”—means camping is no longer synonymous with roughing it.

 For the uninitiated, glamping is that unlikely place where sleeping outside and a luxury hotel room meet. The tent is pitched, the sleeping bag unrolled (or, more typically, the bed made), the fire built, and the cooler stocked. Other amenities may include tents with showers and flush toilets, flat-screen TVs, maid service, and hot tubs. All you need to do is show up.

Glamping opportunities abound in Utah from north to south (glampinghub.com), but one of the state’s most extraordinary twists on this global trend is the Shooting Star RV Resort (2020 Hwy 12, 435.826.4440, shootingstar-rvresort.com), located a mile west of Escalante on scenic Highway 12.

The Shooting Star features eight vintage Airstreams, each decorated like an old Hollywood movie-set trailer and named, appropriately, for a film star or classic film. There’s Bogie’s Boathouse (Humphrey Bogart), The Kid’s Hideout (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), and Ann’s Cabana (Ann-Margret), to name a few. Amenities include luxury sheets and towels, down pillows, air conditioning and heat, gas grills, freshly ground coffee, and permanent decks outfitted with Adirondack chairs. (Fifty additional hookups are available for those who would rather trailer their RV to the 17-acre property.)

The opportunity to explore south-central Utah’s serene desert landscape is the Shooting Star’s obvious main attraction—it’s just 50 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park and 75 miles from Capitol Reef National Park. “You could easily spend a week here and still not see and do everything there is in the area,” says co-owner Michelle Levandoski.

A second, more Tinsel Town–esque draw is the Shooting Star’s classic outdoor drive-in movie theater, where guests can screen films several times a week from the seat of a vintage automobile (including a ’69 El Camino and a ’65 Galaxy convertible). The cars are parked with front wheels poised on berms in front of the huge screen. Audio is piped through the cars’ FM radios and outdoor speakers. Cost to reserve a car for the evening is $20. Otherwise, drive-in movie enthusiasts can pull up a lawn chair and enjoy the show—a perk that truly drives home the notion of glamorous camping.

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