A “glamping destination” isn’t quite the right way to describe Yonder Escalante in southern Utah. “Campground” does this desert dreamscape even less justice. And “resort” sounds too pretentious. But it makes sense that it’s hard to find the right description for this former RV park – which opened in the town of Escalante in 2021 after an extensive renovation – because there’s no place quite like it.

Yonder Escalante is the inaugural property from Yonder Hospitality, which bought the run-down 20-acre RV park and drive-in movie theater with a specific vision: to provide travelers a new way to experience America’s most beautiful national parks.

And Yonder’s prime location in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument does just that. Not only is it set within the Monument’s sprawling backcountry of towering sandstone cliffs, mesmerizing slot canyons, and jaw-dropping panoramic vistas that stretch for miles and miles. But it also positions guests about an hour from Bryce Canyon National Park, and roughly two hours from Zion. (I drove to Escalante after leaving Moab, Utah, where I visited Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. I also hit Capitol Reef along the way, and explored Bryce and Zion while staying at Yonder – allowing me to see all of Utah’s “Mighty Five” National Parks in one epically scenic trip.)

The hospitality group kept 35 spots reserved for RVs or campers, but they added two more lodging options: 10 vintage Airstreams refreshed with light, bright interiors, plus 22 modern and minimalist A-frame micro-cabins that were custom-designed for the property. I opted for one of the tiny cabins, which felt much more spacious than its humble square footage would suggest, thanks to high ceilings and glass walls with views of the surrounding trees. Each design-driven cabin is outfitted with a mini-fridge, comfy daybed, cozy blankets, modern shelving, and its own private seating area and firepit.

Yonder Hospitality also kept the drive-in movie theater…but they cleverly reimagined what “seating” can look like. Guests can now catch classic movies like Cool Hand Luke and 1980s favorites like E.T. from the comfort of one of nine classic cars kitted out with speakers, and heaters for chilly desert nights. (What type of wine pairs well with Reese’s Pieces? Visit the Airstream concession stand before the show starts to find out.) The backdrop? A stunning Utah desert landscape that’s worthy of a film set in and of itself.

Many other communal spaces and amenities were added, including a sleek, modern “lodge” with ample seating for groups to hang out and sip microbrews by the firepits, an oversized pool and hot tub, and high-end grills.

There are also two shared bathhouses…but if the term “communal bathrooms” makes you cringe, rest assured that these modern water closets, sinks, and outdoor showers are constantly cleaned, and feel more like the facilities at a spa than a state park.

The General Store sells an eclectic array of low- to high-end snacks – everything from 50-cent cylinders of Smarties and $1 boxes of Red Hots to sandwiches, salads, s’mores kits, and cheese and charcuterie platters, to complete par-cooked dinners ready to be thrown on a grill or campfire. There’s also a great selection of wine, beer, and bottles of bubbly. A cute vintage food truck serves up breakfast burritos, egg sandwiches, and French toast sticks every morning – plus burgers, chicken sandwiches, and ice cream on the weekends.

While the WiFi is reliable, the whole experience is designed to give guests the relaxed home base they need to enjoy the majestic natural landscape, and to travel back to the nostalgic feel of a simpler pre-cell phone era.

Yonder’s Vanlife/Campsite rates start at $59/night. RV site starting rate: $129/night. Cabins from $189/night. Airstreams start at $239/night. Visit stayyonder.com for more information and to book, and check out Yonder’s Instagram for additional photos.

For a primer on Utah’s majestic “Mighty Five” National Parks, check out VisitUtah.com.

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published 2022-08-27 16:14:36