Toss the tent: Discover a better way to sleep in the wild | SummitDaily.com

Toss the tent: Discover a better way to sleep in the wild

Katie Coakley
Special to the Daily

Of all the activities that are enjoyed in the summer in the Vail Valley, camping may be the most idolized and anticipated. The idea of sleeping under the stars, cooking on a campfire and experiencing nature in all its wonder and glory is one that beckons to many visitors and residents. It's a quintessential mountain experience, one that is discussed and planned out to the Nth degree: where to go, who to go with and what to bring.

Cabins

Starting at the easy end of the spectrum, cabins are perhaps the most "set it and forget it" option for camping. Available at scenic sites around the valley and the state, renting a cabin is an easy, low-key way to experience the great outdoors. Perfect for those who are craving a bit more comfort (hello, real beds) or are coping with camping newbies or large groups, cabins can be an ideal way to ease your way into the wilderness.

There are lodging options dotted all around the wilderness, from the well-known 10th Mountain Division Hut Association huts to the cabins that are situated on picturesque lakes around the valley. The benefit to a structure, though, is evident when the famously fickle Colorado weather rolls in. Not only are you sheltered from the rain, but you get an elevated camping experience that's welcome for folks with kids. Sweetwater Lake in Gypsum, Sylvan Lake in Eagle and Piney River Ranch in Vail all have cabins for rent.

From large groups to families that aren't quite ready to rough it, cabins are a great opportunity to experience nature year-round in a more user-friendly way.

Yurts

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Moving up the scale of comfort and ease, yurts are the next step. Less solid than a cabin but with the outdoor feel of a tent, yurts are portable, round structures native to the steppes of Asia that are covered with canvas or other materials. In Colorado, these pseudo-tents are used year-round, and, while they provide the roofs and walls found in cabins, there is still an element of the outdoors with the fact that they're not insulated.

Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby provides a wide variety of camping options, from lodge rooms to campsites to cabins to yurts, with yurts being one of the popular options. The Burgher Yurt Village opened in 2010 and was so desired that the 12-yurt Schlessman Village opened earlier this summer.

Yurts have been adopted in many locations around the state, including places closer to home such as Piney River Ranch and Sylvan Lake.

Portaledge camping

For those who are ready to eschew the structure altogether, consider portaledge camping. Essentially a ledge strapped to climbing ropes on the face of a cliff, portaledge camping is a necessity that has been endured by wall climbers for years, yet recently entered the mainstream for extreme campers.

If sleeping anywhere from 150 to 350 feet above the ground on a sheer cliff face is something to which you aspire, then Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Estes Park can make your dreams come true.

Well-established in the guided rock-climbing business, Harry Kent, owner of Kent Mountain Adventure Center, set up his first portaledge camping experience for a television show. However, after the attention that the experience received, the company started offering this "on the ledge" option for anyone who had the nerve to try it.

Sleeping on a portaledge is not like a traditional camping experience. Weather, nervousness and all sorts of other elements play into the experience. However, if you can brave the unknown, then the result is simply amazing.

Glamping

But then again, sometimes tents are best — if you can make it the best possible experience. Enter glamping: a portmanteau of "glamour" and "camping." Taking the stress (and planning) out of camping, glamping is the best of all worlds: tents with all of the amenities of a five-star hotel.

At the Vail Collective Retreat at 4 Eagle Ranch in Eagle, it's a full five-star luxury experience for guests, but with tent accommodations. From a king-sized bed with a wood-burning stove to an outdoor deck and full bathroom, the accommodations at Vail Collective Retreats are above the typical tent situation.

From five-star tents to ledges on the edge, camping can be as luxurious or as extreme as the occasion calls for. So toss the tent and experience something a bit more exotic this weekend.

Try it out

Ready to toss the tent and test some optional sleeping arrangements? Here are some spots in Colorado to (not) stake your tent.

• Piney River Ranch, Vail — Cabins, yurts and glamping tents; cabins start at $359; yurts start at $429; and glamping tents start at $199 per night. Call 303-905-4439, or visit pineyriverranch.com.

• Sweetwater Lake, Gypsum — Cabins, campsites and motel; cabin rates start at $140 per night; motel rates start at $85 per night; camping sites are $15 per vehicle. Call 970-524-7344, or visit http://www.brinkoutfitters.com.

• Sylvan Lake, Eagle — Cabins and yurts; small cabin is $80 per night, large cabin is $180 per night, yurts are $80 per night. There’s an additional reservation fee of $10 and additional fee of $10 per night for pets (yurt No. 3 and cabins No. 2 and No. 8 only). Call 800-678-2267, or visit cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/sylvanlake/pages/cabins.aspx.

• Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby — Cabins, yurts, lodge rooms and campgrounds; cabins start at $159 per night; yurts start at $99 per night; and lodge rooms start at $79 per night. There’s a two-night minimum stay for cabins, except for Labor Day weekend and then it’s a three-night minimum, and a four-night minimum stay for yurts until after Labor Day. Call 888-613-9622, or visit snowmountainranch.org.

• Kent Mountain Adventure Center, Estes Park — Cliff camping; $800 per person for two people or $1,200 for one person. Call 970-586-5990, or visit kmaconline.com/cliff-camping-colorado.

• Vail Collective Retreat, Wolcott — Glamping rates start at $500 per night for two people. There’s a two-night minimum for weekends; three-night minimum for holiday weekends and no minimum for weekday stays. Call 970-445-2033, or visit http://www.collectiveretreats.com/vail.