For generations, Utah’s Bear Lake has been called the Caribbean of the Rockies, and has been a favorite area for outdoor recreation. Now, the area’s first-ever Glamping resort is preparing to make its July debut.
According to its founders, Conestoga Ranch will redefine Bear Lake camping for families and groups. In addition to serving as a compelling base camp for Bear Lake vacations, Conestoga Ranch is an ideal place to overnight for those traveling through the Rocky Mountain States. The resort is located about midway between Salt Lake City, Utah; and Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. It is about 45 minutes north of Logan, Utah.
Opening July 1, Conestoga Ranch will encompass 18 acres, accommodate up to 160 guests, and overlook the lake’s clear turquoise-blue waters. The resort is especially designed to make camping comfortable. For overnight accommodations, guests can choose from Glamping Tents and authentically styled Conestoga Wagons. Both tents and the wagons will be outfitted with beds and fresh linens. The tents will have en suite bathrooms with hot showers. Resort amenities will include a game tent, a main Lodge with restaurant and bar, a shake shack, Bath House (bathrooms, showers, laundry), and activities field. Paddleboards and other water recreation equipment will be available for rent. On-site diversions will include live entertainment and rodeos.
Resort plans call for accommodations and upscale amenities that will cater to families, couples, corporate retreats and family reunions. Located in the timber-framed Lodge, the Campfire Grill will serve breakfast and dinner, and prepare customized picnic baskets for daytime outings. The dinner menu includes gourmet, grilled steaks and salads. Guests can see the cooks in an open kitchen area create pizzas in a wood-burning oven. The Campfire Grill—and a small bar accessible through saloon-style swinging doors—will offer a carefully curated selection of craft beers and wines.
Adjacent to The Lodge will be the game tent—a kids’ place with ping-pong table, arcade games and video games—and activities field. The resort’s General Store will carry a selection of vacation essentials, along with Kobe-style beef hot dogs and S’mores for campfire snacking. The Conestoga Ranch Shake Shack will whip up raspberry shakes all summer long. Raspberries are the fruits best known, used, and exported from this area.
In addition to eight traditional-style Glamping tents, the resort will feature 16 custom-crafted Conestoga wagons for overnight accommodations. The wagons are mobile to allow formation of customized “encampments” for optimum flexibility, ideally accommodating the number of guests in each party.
Once the resort location and concept were established, the partners formed Canvas & Company and began manufacturing the tents and wagons. They are built in a shop just south of Garden City, Utah. The tents and wagons are now available for purchase outside of the Glampground.
Conestoga Ranch is a collaborative effort between Tom Hedges, Tom Hendrick, Larry Bettino, Mike Knapp and Rich Smart.
Pursuitist was fortunate to interview Tom Hedges about this unique idea, in an even more unique area.
Pursuitist: Glamping at Bear Lake is a novel idea — how was this conceived?
Tom: Last year a friend of mine and I were fortunate enough to visit Bear Lake during the summer months. We were both completely blown away with the natural beauty of the area and the unbelievable vivid turquoise blue water. However, we were just as surprised to experience the lack of good quality lodging and dining options.
Ultimately, we partnered with the owners of locally owned Smart Construction who also owned a stunning 18-acre property with views overlooking the lake. Collectively, we conceptualized Conestoga Ranch. We realized that the idea being that a complete hotel would probably not work economically due to the seasonality of the Bear Lake tourism industry. BUT! A Glamping resort would be a perfect match, as the operation could be simply shut down for the off-season.
Pursuitist: Not many people outside of Utah, and Wyoming, know about Bear Lake’s exceptional beauty. Have you been there before, and what have your experiences been this area of Northern Utah?
Tom: Two of the five partners are Bear Lake locals. The rest of us are from Jackson Hole and New York and have loved our regular visits to Bear Lake over the last year. Two of us plan to move to Garden City in June to assist with the opening and operation of the resort through our first season.
Pursuitist: When do you expect to open, and what are the price ranges?
Tom: Conestoga Ranch will open on July 1, 2015. We will offer family Glamping tents (sleeps up to 8) starting at $200/night, couples’ Glamping tents starting at $95/night, family Conestoga wagons (sleeps up to 8) starting at $150/night and couples wagons also starting at $150/night.
Pursuitist: Once this high end, comfortable camping experience is known well, the family stories of reconnection will be substantial. Is this reconnection, re-bonding idea part of your mission and vision?
Tom: In researching our likely audience, we learned that Bear Lake is one of the most popular family reunion destinations in country. As such, we decided to design the resort with an ideal and flexible family reunion option. Our tents are certainly available to all large groups, but we envision our wagon circles will likely be most popular for groups of 20 or more. The wagons are mobile, which offers us the opportunity to set up custom encampments for our guests.
We can set up an encampment of 10 wagons (some family wagons, some couples wagons and some bunk wagons) with a private campfire in the center for a 60 person family reunion. Guests can all use our bath lodge, offering private bath and shower rooms. We are hoping to become the largest the go-to group and family destination west of the Mississippi.
Pursuitist: Usually, there are two people who must define the final operation of such a project: the visionary and the operationalizer. Which had the original vision, and who was responsible for making the vision operable?
Tom: I personally have some experience in the Glamping resort development industry. So, I suppose the original vision was probably mine. The group of us have since combined minds to come up with the final vision and with bringing the project to fruition.
Pursuitist: We can see that if this project is really successful, you could use it as a template for other areas, not only in Utah, but anywhere. Is that in your future plans?
Tom: Absolutely, we are hopeful that this is just the first of many top notch Glamping Resorts. We have also built a manufacturing business called Canvas & Company, which builds our tents and wagons. This will be key as we move forward with expanding our brand to other areas.
Conestoga Ranch will have a soft opening in late June to introduce the resort to Bear Lake locals. The July 1st official opening will follow.
Reservations are now being accepted. For more info and reservations, visit www.conestogaranch.com.