While many hotels, glamping resorts, lodges and campgrounds boast being a basecamp for adventure, we got to experience the opening of the new AutoCamp outside of Zion National Park, and believe me when I tell you, the bar has been raised.
This is the next best thing in family adventure travel. Although the idea of restored campers and these types of glamping set ups with decks, firepits, and communal areas certainly isn’t new, you might consider AutoCamp, well, elevated. It’s really the ideal basecamp for quality family time and making core memories in the outdoors, and if you’re into staying in sweet, retro-styled campers like we are, here’s your ticket into the game. Interest in outdoor experiences with families continues to hit new highs, and families with young children make up a growing share of AutoCamp’s customer base.
AutoCamp is “great design meets the great outdoors”, so my interior designer wife was also in hog heaven when we had the opportunity to attend the launch of the brand’s newest location, including a riverside dinner with Sarah Glover — the Tasmanian outdoor/pastry/Instagram/multi-book-deal wonderful human being of a chef — for a quick weekend of open fire cooking, glamping, and exploring the area. When we weren’t hanging out at the pool or on the deck of our 31-foot Airstream, we toured Zion National Park, went for trail runs, and chillaxed while our kids played with other families there for the weekend.
Just a 2.5 hour drive from Las Vegas and a 4.5 hour drive from Salt Lake City — or you can fly right into St. George, Utah — the property features an all-season pool, indoor and outdoor event spaces, river access, a big lawn, and a communal fire pit. The event space was the bomb, perfect for family friendly yoga or would be an incredible spot for a wedding or big special event. Design-forward, year-round accommodations on property include Airstreams, wall tents, and other various tiny houses.
I actually didn’t realize AutoCamp had been around for 10 years, and has been recognized by Interior Design 2021 Best of Year Awards, USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice 2021, Bloomberg Pursuits as one of the Places to Travel 2020, TIME as World’s Greatest Places 2019, Hospitality Design’s Award for Lodges + Camps 2020, and Hospitality Design’s 2021 Openings Hot List. And AutoCamp now has six locations in Sonoma, Yosemite National Park, Cape Cod, Joshua Tree, Catskills, and Zion National Park — with upcoming locations planned in Asheville, Texas Hill Country, and Sequoia National Park.
This is the brand’s first Southwest location, adjacent to Zion National Park nestled between the Virgin River and the iconic landscape of Southern Utah desert, AutoCamp Zion is a 16-acre property, featuring 72 custom Airstreams, 10 BaseCamps, 9 X Suites, 5 ADA Units, and the brand’s signature Clubhouse, all of which are equipped with HVAC systems for all-season weather. One thing that’s important to note is that these are not remodeled or revamped old Airstreams like you find at most/similar types of campgrounds/camping resorts that also offer campers like old Fleetwoods or Airstreams for rent. No sir, these are brand new Airstreams, designed from the ground up with all the latest in space saving, LED, Bluetooth, energy saving technology. The Airstream model is built exclusively for AutoCamp and features private bedrooms, living and kitchen areas, black-out curtains, TVs, and storage. Each Airstream sits on a custom-designed outdoor living space with a fire pit and handmade outdoor lounge furniture. AutoCamp and Airstream have worked together since 2016, when AutoCamp opened its second location in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. That said, they are cozy, and big families need to consider what they will need, and travel efficiently.
“Zion is one of the most incredible sought-after destinations with endless options when it comes to outdoor exploration,” said Neil Dipaola, CEO and founder of AutoCamp. They also partner with local experience guides and businesses to offer experiences tailored for families of all ages and background levels. Several locations have specific outdoor educational programming, arts and crafts, coloring books and kits upon check in, and more. They partner with AllTrails and provide curated lists of hiking trails.
A focal point of every AutoCamp property, The Clubhouse at Zion is inspired by the brand’s nod to mid-century modern architecture while weaving in elements influenced by the desert landscape. Overseen by global design firm HKS, the Clubhouse carries clean lines and utilizes natural materials like wood and stone. Serving as the heart of AutoCamp’s property, the low-slung structure blends seamlessly in with the surrounding Utah landscape, offering large expanses of glass inviting guests to enjoy uninterrupted views of natural beauty.
“In designing this project with such a dramatic desert backdrop it was vital we incorporate the natural and soothing elements of the area,” said Michael Strohmer, Regional Practice Director of Hospitality and Partner at HKS. “Our design intent was to provide a rare, luxurious, contemporary take on the glamping experience. The Clubhouse not only serves as a beautiful space to relax and rejuvenate but a place to find a sense of calm and tranquility.”
Inspired by rich red rocks and earth of Southern Utah, the interior of the Clubhouse offers a smooth transition between indoor and outdoor. Led by Narrative Design Studio, the color palette showcases earthy plaster, bronze tones, and wood that feels warm and welcoming. The emphasis of a tactile and sustainable approach to materials is evident, with organic elements like cork being used throughout the spaces on both walls and furniture. Outdoor pavers were used to clad the large L-shaped bar, creating a subtle ombre effect reminiscent of rammed earth.
The Kitchen, inside the Clubhouse, serves as the hub of AutoCamp’s food and beverage program. The General Store inside the Clubhouse carries local provisions, ready-to-cook family friendly meal kits and snacks, a selection of beer and wine, breakfast, lunch, and dinner ingredients, and specialty AutoCamp merch. Additional programming offered on property includes Zion experiences with Zion Adventure Co., such as guided trips and courses, as well as fireside chats, yoga and meditation classes, movie nights, local beverage tastings, and more.
AutoCamp Zion’s commitment to the community is reflected through their partnership with Zion National Park Forever Project, the official nonprofit partner of Zion National Park. Their work extends across every aspect of the park experience, inside the gates and beyond. Projects like trail restoration, attention to Zion’s flora and fauna, and empowering future generations to care for public lands, are all funded through donors and supporters. In partnership with Zion Forever Project, AutoCamp Zion will donate $1 from every nightly lodging reservation directly to the park’s highest priority projects.
I still dream about the dinner we prepared and shared with Chef Sarah Glover on the bank of the Virgin river, a whirlwind weekend to say the least, and relive the experience every time I pull out the Benchmade knives I received to test and play with as part of this experience. High West Whiskey was also on hand, down from Park City to join the party, and I’ve never been mad about that. Australian beef, spring garlic, Japanese pumpkin, mushrooms and other local veggies and ingredients came together over massive Barebones open-fire grills rigged especially for the occasion.
// photos by Tory Morrison
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