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Sat, May 30

Under Canvas provides rural quality camping experience without the hassle
Luxury in the Backcountry

Under canvas provides a camping experience for visitors who may not have their own equipment or simply don't want to rough it while taking in the unique high desert landscape. Suite tents (above) provide ample space for a family of four. (Erin Ford/WGCN)

Under canvas provides a camping experience for visitors who may not have their own equipment or simply don't want to rough it while taking in the unique high desert landscape. Suite tents (above) provide ample space for a family of four. (Erin Ford/WGCN)

VALLE, Ariz. — If the idea of sleeping in a tent under the stars sounds appealing but you’re not in love with roughing it for a few days, Under Canvas has you covered.

The company provides luxury camping with modern amenities at a secluded location just west of the airport in Valle. Property Manager Anthony Stickler said the company, which owns luxury camping sites in other national parks like Zion, Glacier and Yellowstone, had been planning on building at Grand Canyon for about two years.

Valle is centrally located between three popular areas — Grand Canyon National Park, Williams and Flagstaff. The 160-acre camp offers 69 luxury tents, ranging from smaller safari-style set-ups to platform tents complete with a porch, ensuite bath and even a panel that allows visitors to gaze at the night sky.

Stickler said the star-gazer tents are some of the most popular.

“The night sky is really amazing out here,” Stickler said. “Especially for guests who may have never really seen the stars before.”

Stickler said Under Canvas aims to give guests an experience they may never have had before while providing all of the amenities they’d expect at a higher-end hotel. The reception area is complete with a full kitchen and indoor-outdoor dining area serving breakfast and dinner, a yoga deck, lounging area and full-service concierge.

“We work with most of the tour companies in the area,” Stickler said. “If we don’t, we can certainly call and make reservations for you.”

The restaurant serves a full menu in addition to buffet-style breakfasts each morning, and while it isn’t open during lunch, boxed lunches can be arranged for guests to take with them or eat elsewhere on the property. Stickler said the restaurant can accommodate dietary needs and prepare vegan or vegetarian options.

Room service is one thing the property doesn’t have. Stickler said guests are encouraged to keep food out of tents as much as possible to prevent resourceful critters from trying to get in.

Even the tents have upgrades one wouldn’t expect from a camp.

From the small safari-style tents to the large suite tents, visitors will have king beds with luxury linens, a personal stove with firewood for chilly nights and leather deck chairs to watch the sunset. Deluxe, stargazer and suite tents also come with ensuite baths, complete with a flushing toilet, sink and pull-chain shower. While the safari-style tents don’t have their own baths, there are communal bathhouses providing hot water showers and private toilets.

Stickler said Under Canvas strives to have as little environmental impact as possible, and mechanisms like the pull-chain shower help conserve precious water, which the company hauls in.

“We can save anywhere from 83 to 87 percent more water this way,” he said.

The company also uses minimal landscaping, incorporating native desert plants and cinder roads between units to alter the high desert landscape as little as possible. The property is child-friendly, with teepee-like tents called hives available to house adventurous children or teenagers looking for a bit of privacy. While none of the units are built specifically to ADA standards, Stickler said many of the units are on flat ground without stairs and ADA parking is available. The communal bath houses have ramps and are accessible, but guests with accessibility concerns are encouraged to call ahead and discuss their specific needs.

As for certain modern amenities many travelers don’t want to be without, Stickler said Under Canvas has that covered, too.

“We do have chargers for phones and mobile devices,” he said.

Other amenities include guest activities, which are included free of charge. Current offerings include morning and sunset yoga on the deck, game night, paint night, a guided nature walk and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

While the location seems to be miles away from everything, Stickler said the property employs at least one staff member 24 hours a day, including a night audit, but said guests should treat their stay as they would if they were at any other campground.

“We encourage guests to keep valuables locked in their vehicles and we will provide a lockbox if needed,” he said.

Stickler said Under Canvas has also made sure the tents are built and installed properly to withstand the elements, and the property has installed a drainage system to control water runoff, meaning there won’t be any worries or surprises during Arizona’s wet and wild monsoon season.

The property held a soft opening for two months last year, Stickler said, opening about a third of the tents for use. After closing down for the winter, Under Canvas opened its flaps April 25 with about 75 percent of the units already rented. Stickler said the company is looking at an expansion of about 22 more tents at a later date.

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