Conestoga Ranch: A Glamping Resort
This super-cool spot offers high-end holidays beside the caribbean-blue waters of Utah’s Bear Lake
Benny Van Der Wal
When you imagine a luxurious high-country getaway, sleeping in a horse-drawn freight wagon might not immediately spring to mind. But the brand new Conestoga Ranch plans to change that.
Overlooking northeastern Utah’s Bear Lake—known as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its brilliant turquoise hue—Conestoga Ranch offers “glamping” (read: glamorous camping) with a historical twist. The resort’s 16 Conestoga wagons, newly handcrafted from Douglas fir and iron, pay tribute to their 18th-century cargo-hauling predecessors. But this time around they’ve been equipped for comfort with cozy beds, bunks and fine linens. And because the wagons are fully functional, they can be rolled into group encampments to suit any size party.
Perfecting the design of the wagons wasn’t an easy task, but that didn’t stop the founders of the ranch: “We couldn’t find a manufacturing group to build our wagons to the size and quality we required, so we chose to build them ourselves,” they explain.
High-end tents are also an option at Conestoga Ranch, with Deluxe and Grand models offering comfortable and stylish furnishings. “We were going for a mountain-rustic style with hints of understated elegance in our Grand Tents and Conestoga wagons, while our Deluxe Tents have a slightly bohemian appeal,” the ranch founders say.
Although each tent site has its own campfire and the wagons share a fire pit, there’s no need to rough it by toasting hot dogs on sticks (though camp-cooking purists can find Kobe-style beef versions at the onsite general store). The open-air Campfire Grill serves wood-fired pizzas and other gourmet treats, while Shakes on the Lake whips up creamy raspberry shakes in honor of the local Raspberry Festival.
If you get tired of biking, hiking, horseback riding, windsurfing or stand-up paddle boarding (for some activities, gear is available for rent and outfitters are on hand), then you might just relax and wait for the fun to come to you. Friday nights are abuzz with Western-style entertainment including live music, and each Saturday night the Bear Lake Rodeo brings the broncos and bulls right to the ranch for a traditional show.
Spacious, handcrafted Conestoga wagons, based on frontier-era models that hauled as much as six tons of cargo, now sleep up to eight weary travelers in comfy beds and bunks. With Western charm and easy portability, the wheeled guest quarters can be arranged in customized clusters for large groups. Campfires bring out the kid in everyone, and the vintage-mod pioneer style of Conestoga Ranch appeals to all ages.
Conestoga Ranch was designed with groups in mind, and reunions, weddings, corporate retreats and big parties of up to 160 guests are welcome. It may look like the Old West, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about WiFi and cellphone reception, plus the cozy mod cons of heat, electricity and mini-fridges. Forget your memories of Girl Scout camp: These tents are furnished with a contemporary rustic flair, and casual-gourmet cuisine is served at the open-air Campfire Grill.
IF YOU GO
Conestoga wagons are available in three sizes: the Couple’s Wagon, Family Wagon and Bunk Wagon sleep two to eight guests. Deluxe Tents accommodate two to four guests. Wagons and Deluxe Tents offer a rustic lodging experience with access to a luxury spa-style bathhouse in the main lodge. One- and two-bedroom Grand Tents include an en suite bathroom with shower and sleep two to eight guests. Prices start at $85/night. Open May 1 to mid-October. conestogaranch.com