I just got back from a trip to Zion National Park and I stayed at two of the most popular glamping spots: Under Canvas and AutoCamp.
Under Canvas got its start in 2012 with a camp in West Yellowstone and they’ve since expanded to 11 locations (and counting) near National Parks around the country. They’re famous for their luxury safari style tents and amenities that make camping accessible for people who…don’t normally go camping.
AutoCamp debuted in 2013 in California and serves a similar market of bringing the great outdoors to folks who appreciate a cozy bed, a hot shower, and strong air conditioning.
In Zion, Under Canvas has been welcoming campers since 2017 but AutoCamp just opened its doors this spring.
Glamping Near Zion National Park: Under Canvas vs Autocamp
I’ll hash out all the details and pros and cons below, but for starters, while both of these places could be described as “glamping” there’s a big difference: Under Canvas is all tent camping whereas AutoCamp is mostly known for their vintage Airstream trailers.
Here’s how they stack up and which one I would pick next time:
Under Canvas Zion: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Okay, let’s start off with what Under Canvas does better than anybody else…the views.
The piece of property that Under Canvas sits on is pretty special. The tents are all nested into the side of a mountain that has views that rival what you’ll see in the park.
I’ll be honest…I had pretty high expectations for Under Canvas. I’ve been wanting to stay at one of their properties for a long time after seeing so many photos and videos on social media. And when I finally pulled up, I was…really impressed.
The tents and the amenities were more or less what I expected, but the piece of land this camp site sits on is phenomenal.
Onto the tents themselves…well, it really does feel like camping ; ) But way nicer!
The safari style tents are large with pretty much all the hotel amenities you’d want except:
A door that locks
The bed is super comfortable…there’s a couch that pulls out into another bed, a wood stove, and a bathroom suite inside the tent.
The bathroom isn’t terribly private though (partitions, but not walls…duh…you’re in a tent!) so you’ll have to be sure you’re pretty comfortable with the people you’re sharing a tent with.
The only “rustic” bit about the bathrooms are that the shower is a pull chain (you pull the chain and water comes out and when you stop pulling the chain the water stops) and the bathroom faucet is a push button. It helps conserve water and it’s a little tricky if you’re trying to wash your hair, but there’s plenty of warm water and overall it’s a really good bathroom set up…for a tent.
Okay, so…no power outlets and no air conditioning…how does that work?
When you check in, they give each person in your party a battery pack with USB connectors and adaptors so that you can charge your devices plus charge the lanterns, night light, and fans in the room.
The lanterns and night light are already in your tent and fully charged and they hold enough charge that you don’t have to worry about them very much plus the power bank was more than sufficient to charge a phone and Apple watch, etc.
But the fans were…a situation. I assumed they would be pretty robust…hey, this is Utah in the summer. Temps were close to 100 degrees during the day and this place isn’t priced like a campground ($$$), so I assumed there would be more heavy duty fans.
Well what they have are just small personal fans (the kind you see people clip onto a stroller to blow on their kids while they’re in a theme park). If the fan is fully charged and blowing directly on you, it’s decent but the problem is the fans don’t really hold a charge to last through the night and I kind of struggled to keep them charged with the battery pack.
It was just kind of a poor system considering the price of the place. They should have more heavy duty fans that run off a battery charge from solar or something that the staff monitors.
Anyways, the first night we were there it was quite a bit cooler and with the canvas flaps rolled up there was a decent breeze, but the second night it was more unpleasant.
Okay…moving on…the lobby tent is open 24/7 and there’s always someone on site that you can text if you need anything which is nice.
The main tent is a nice hang out spot and I was pleasantly surprised with the food offerings. We ate dinner here both nights and the food was pretty good quality with a nice selection of variety.
Something to know (not necessarily good or bad) is that since the property is kind of terraced on the side of the mountain, the roads from the main tent up to the guest tents are pretty steep and they’re also the roads that the cars are driving on. We ended up driving back and forth from our tent to the main tent even though it wasn’t very far just because it was so steep and kind of inconvenient.
Also, it’s about a 25 minute drive from Under Canvas to the main entrance of Zion National Park so it’s definitely not as convenient as staying in Springdale but the entrance to the Kolob Terrace portion of Zion is right next to Under Canvas. This part of the park is way less visited and it’s a nice drive if you have the time.
Here’s the last bit about Under Canvas Zion: Since it’s a tent property, it’s only open seasonally from mid March through the beginning of November. Prices usually range from $359 to $679 depending on dates and the type of tent you book. If you book your dates before the season starts, you’ll usually get much better prices than waiting until it gets closer.
Autocamp: What I Love & What I Don’t Love
Now onto AutoCamp…I’ve been pretty obsessed with AutoCamp for a while now and I actually got to stay at the location on Cape Cod earlier this year so I kind of already knew what I was in for.
AutoCamp is a collection of luxury “glamping” resorts headquartered in some pretty legendary outdoor destinations…Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Cape Cod, the Catskills, and now…Zion!
While they do have some luxury tents, they’re most known for their vintage Airstreams. The resort has dozens (probably 50!) of Airstreams spread out over the property, each with its own campsite and firepit.
And the Airstreams are…NICE. Each one has been completely renovated and outfitted for modern comfort. I’m talking about a full bathroom, a comfy queen size bed, a sitting area, and a small kitchenette. Each one is basically a little hotel suite.
I think the Airstreams at AutoCamp have better amenities than the tents at Under Canvas (air conditioning, electricity, modern bathrooms with a bit more privacy, etc.) but they’re definitely much tighter on space.
There’s one queen size bed plus the futon couch in the sitting area pulls out in a bed that could sleep another adult or two kids.
If there are just two adults in the trailer, there are plenty of places to put your stuff, but if someone’s sleeping on the pullout then it’s pretty tight.
Packing Tip: There are two small counter tops in the bedroom where you can put a suitcase, but it needs to be a duffel bag/open top suitcase and not a clamshell.
A note about safety: It’s not fun to think about and maybe if you’re a regular tent camper this is just something you’re used to, BUT…you’re definitely a lot more vulnerable sleeping in a canvas tent than in a trailer with a door that locks. Yes, Under Canvas felt safe and there are staff onsite 24/7 but traveling as a woman it’s just something I was aware of.
About the property itself…while Under Canvas feels like a luxury campground, I think the AutoCamp here in Zion feels more like a resort.
Everything is laid out so well around the common spaces and there’s just more convenience so it feels a little more like a camping themed hotel than an actual campground.
I mentioned that the property/views were better at Under Canvas, and it’s true. But the setting at AutoCamp isn’t bad at all ; ) You don’t feel quite as surrounded by those jagged red mountains and plateaus, but you definitely still have good views all around.
Also it’s good to know that the main road through this area does go right by AutoCamp, but I didn’t think there was much noticeable noise.
And honestly with everything on the table, it was overall a much more pleasant place to sit around and enjoy the evenings at the AutoCamp. The common spaces around the property were really designed to show off the sunsets and wide open views.
ALSO THERE IS A POOL. It gets pretty blisteringly hot during the summer, so I cannot stress enough how big of a perk this is. Especially if you’re traveling with kids, or you just want to add an element of “vacation” to your trip.
Since it gets so crowded at Zion during the summer, it’s probably a good strategy to be in the park super early to hike and then leave by early afternoon. And it’s so nice to have a pool to come back to.
For me, I think one of the big downsides of AutoCamp (all of their properties) is the food situation. It leaves a little to be desired.
There is an onsite “restaurant” that serves a pretty limited menu but it’s not very substantial. There are some coolers in the little shop area where they stock some snacks and drinks, but overall the food situation isn’t quite as good as I wish it was.
If you’re staying for more than a couple of days, you’ll definitely want to stop at a market and stock up on snacks and light food (there’s a small fridge in the trailer) or else plan on driving into Springdale to eat your meals.
Here’s the last bit about AutoCamp Zion: AutoCamp is open year round (the tents are only offered seasonally) so there’s a much bigger price range here but overall it’s usually quite a bit less than Under Canvas. Prices usually range from $130 to $450 depending on dates and the type of tent you book. If you book your dates before the season starts, you’ll usually get much better prices than waiting until it gets closer.
Under Canvas vs AutoCamp Zion: Which One Is Best?
To wrap it up… I’m so glad I finally got to experience Under Canvas. It really felt like an EXPERIENCE, and it made the whole trip to Zion a lot more memorable. But I think it’s probably a “one and done” for me. They have 11 different locations in National Park destinations, but I’m not sure I’ll seek them out. However, I am scheduled to stay at ULUM (their luxury concept) in Moab next month and I’m really excited about it. For me, I think for the price of Under Canvas it’s just not quite as nice as I’d like it to be. But from everything I’m reading and seeing, I think ULUM is the solution to that. We’ll see!
BUT… on the flip side, I’m kind of committed to trying out different AutoCamp properties now! After staying at Cape Cod and now Zion, I’ll definitely go out of my way to stay at their properties in other places (looking forward to the ones in Asheville, the Texas Hill Country, and Sequoia National Park opening next year!)
It’s just more my vibe!
If you’re really torn and want to experience both of these places, you might consider splitting your trip and staying part of it at AutoCamp Zion and the other part at Under Canvas Bryce Canyon. Bryce Canyon is at a higher elevation so the lack of air conditioning won’t be such a problem, and you’ll get to try out both concepts!
One last thing about booking…Under Canvas has a 30 day cancellation policy and they require payment IN FULL at the time of booking. I book a LOT of hotel rooms, and honestly that policy is a big deterrent for me. AutoCamp has a 3 day cancellation policy and they don’t charge you until you check in.
Other Glamping Options Near Zion
Zion is really jumping on the glamping trend and there’s a handful of other places in the area that offer really nice looking glamping options. These are some that I would personally check out:
Wildflower Zion Resort: This place is right by AutoCamp and they have a pretty wide variety of options (luxury tents, covered wagons, bungalows) plus they’ve got a pool.
Zion Ponderosa Ranch: This place is on the east side of Zion so it’s closer if you’re also planning to go to Bryce Canyon. Besides luxury tents, they also have cabins and luxury vacation rentals. They also run a lot of activities and tours.
Open Sky Glamping Zion: These “tents” are truly luxurious. Plus they’ve got air conditioning ; )
Where to Stay Between Zion & Bryce National Parks
In the southwest Utah area, most of the destination type accommodations are being developed in Springdale and Virgin which is really convenient for visiting Zion National Park, but a bit further if you’re also wanting to visit Bryce Canyon or even the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
But GOOD NEWS…if you’re looking for the perfect CENTRALLY LOCATED town to stay in for visiting Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon…that’s Kanab, UT!
Kanab is 35 minutes from the eastern entrance to Zion, 1 hour and 20 minutes to Bryce Canyon and 1 hour and 30 minutes from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.