Thomas J. Story
NEAR SANTA BARBARA
El Capitan Canyon
Wake up to: Tough choices. It's tempting to sip coffee and be serenaded by birds hidden in the creekside forest. But it's also hard to pass up an early hike into the hills or a swim down at the beach.
The digs: Canvas tents with adjacent bathhouses take the edge off camping with warm comforters, willow beds, and firepits perfect for barbecuing dinner (with burgers and s'mores delivered to your front flap for an extra charge).
The dirt: 26 tents and 108 cabins from $145; 866/352-2729. -Matthew Jaffe
SANTA ROSA, CA
Wake up to: Lemurs screeching like rambunctious kids. Step outside, and you're (almost) in Africa: Giraffes stroll the grasslands not even 20 feet from your tent, and uphill, oryx and zebras roam.
The digs: The safari theme is stylish, not kitschy: Lamps glow with animal silhouettes, and wood carvings lend artistry. Perks include hardwood floors, private bathrooms, and prime savanna views.
The dirt: 30 tent cabins from $225, including breakfast; two-night minimum Fri ― Sat; three-hour Safari Jeep tour $65, $30 ages 12 and under; behind-the-scenes animal feedings and other activities from $200; 800/616-2695. -Amy Wolf
Or go on safari in Southern California:
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Wake up to: Still-sleeping rhinos, gazelles grazing in the grassy hills, and the roar of lions ― there's a reason the zoo's new program is called Roar & Snore.
The digs: The 44-tent camp borders a 50-acre savanna, home to free-roaming African species. Standard tents feature safari-themed decor and lamps; premier ones have beds and heaters too.
The dirt: Roar & Snore offered Fri ― Sat; from $109 per person, $89 ages 4-11, including behind-the-scenes park tour, bonfire with s'mores, and two hot meals; reservations required; park admission $34, $24 ages 3-11; open-air photo safari and animal feeding from $90; 760/747-8702. -Debbie K. Hardin
The Resort at Paws Up
Wake up to: About 120 miles of hiking trails. But as Lewis and Clark did in this area before, you can spend the day blazing your own through conifer forests, over rolling meadows, and across the trout-filled Blackfoot River, rushing from snowmelt. The last few hundred yards back to camp ― with aching feet, damp clothes, and (desperately) wanting stomachs ― could be tough. But then your khaki-clad camping butler meets you nearly halfway. With frosty iced tea. And, not knowing exactly what kind of mood you're in, fresh-baked cookies and fresh fruit.
The digs: When the family-owned Resort at Paws Up opened in 2005 in the Blackfoot Valley 30 miles east of Missoula, Montana, a new word entered the well-heeled adventurer's lexicon ― "glamping." At the resort's Tent City, roughing it means canvas-walled platform tents with oil paintings hanging above king-size feather beds surrounded by plush pile rugs; terry-cloth robes as fluffy as Big Sky Country clouds; elk-antler bedside lamps; turndown service with caddis flies for fishing in lieu of chocolates; private bathrooms with steam showers and heated slate floors in an adjacent bathhouse; in-tent spa treatments and much-needed massages. S'mores are available on demand, wine is served on arrival, and the gourmet fare is Montana-inspired (huckleberry pancakes or bison rib-eye, anyone?). But it's still just a tent that we're talking about, one tucked at the edge of a lodgepole pine forest on a former cattle ranch: silence broken only by the sounds of locals (deer, eagle, elk); 37,000 acres perfect for horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting, and fly-fishing; and enough stars sparkling overhead to show that no one, and especially not glampers, should settle for a hotel with a mere five.
The dirt: 6 tents available May 23 - Sep 30 at Tent City (6 more open in June at the new River Camp); from $595, including three daily meals for two; four-night minimum; 800/473-0601. -Dina Mishev
NEAR PESCADERO, CA
Costanoa Lodge & Camp
Wake up to: Waves crashing and coyotes yelping. Follow your ears to the ocean a mile down the road across State 1 to the rugged bluffs and empty coast, where you might spot a hawk wheeling by with a mouse in its talons, or an elephant seal sprawling, profoundly still, on the sand.
The digs: The downside is that, yes, you have to leave your cozy tent bungalow to use the bathroom at 2 a.m., but the "comfort stations" are exactly that: private, clean, and inviting, with skylights, saunas, and outdoor fireplaces.
The dirt: 76 tent bungalows from $115; cabins, lodge rooms, and basic tent sites also available; 877/262-7848. -A.W.
GIANT SEQUOIA NATIONAL MONUMENT, CA
Sequoia High Sierra Camp
Wake up to: Absolute silence, views that run deep into Kings Canyon, and ― before a day of hiking, fly-fishing, and swimming in the surrounding 2 million acres of wilderness ― breakfast prepared by Bruce Springsteen's former chef and served in an open-air pavilion. As the sun sets, Ryan Solien cooks an impressive five-course dinner too (foie gras mousse, braised lamb shank; fleece jackets suggested).
The digs: Clinging to a steep hillside are 36 canvas bungalows linked by pine-needle-strewn paths illuminated by solar power at night. Feather pillows and Pendleton wool blankets keep you snug at 8,282 feet, until the midnight stroll to the bathhouse pulls you away.
The dirt: To get to camp, choose between an easy 1-mile hike or a strenuous 12 miles along the Twin Lakes Trail. $250 per person, $100 ages 11 and under, including breakfast, picnic lunch, and dinner; 866/654-2877. -Rachel Levin
SAN JUAN ISLAND, WA
Lakedale Resort at Three Lakes
Wake up to: Boisterous boys zipping around by bike, pigtailed girls singing along to their iPods, and small fish rising in Neva Lake below, one of (no surprise) three on Lakedale's 82 woodsy acres.
The digs: Admittedly, they're more camp-y than luxury. Among traditional tents, RV sites, and lodge rooms are new canvas "cabins" with retro lanterns, flannel sheets, s'mores fixin's for your private firepit ― plus a basket of cushy towels and Molton Brown products to cart to the shower. Lakedale doesn't serve lunch or dinner, but Duck Soup Inn ($$$; 50 Duck Soup Lane, Friday Harbor; call 360/378-4878 for hours), the best restaurant on the island, is within walking distance.
The dirt: 14 cabins (4 are adults-only) from $139, including breakfast; 800/617-2267. – R.L.
NEAR HALFMOON BAY, B.C.
Rockwater Secret Cove Resort
Wake up to: The falling scale of bald eagles calling to one another as gentle waves break against this ragged stretch of the Sunshine Coast, accessible only by air or water.
The digs: A clutch of roomy canvas tent-house suites replete with king-size duvets and bathrooms with hydrotherapy tubs for two. You can book a "bliss massage" ($106 U.S. for one hour) on the rocky bluff at the outdoor Spa Without Walls and ― get this ― order room service.
The dirt: 13 adults-only tent-house suites from $252 U.S.; hikes, horseback rides ($66 U.S. for four hours), and sea kayaking ($46 U.S. for four hours) available on-site; 877/296-4593. -Deana Lancaster
RENDEZVOUS ISLAND, B.C.
Wake up to: Views of the deep inlets and rangy peaks rising from mainland British Columbia. Steps from your tent, you'll see giant purple sea stars clearly through emerald water, clusters of mussels and barnacles, plus small schooling fish, dolphins, and seals.
The digs: Island-style, of course, as Rendezvous Island is part of Discovery Islands, the jigsaw puzzle of land masses scattered between Vancouver Island and B.C.'s mainland. Queen-size beds on driftwood frames ? perfect for sinking into after a day of paddling or fishing ― are tucked into four cozy tent cabins. Lounge on Adirondack chairs over Drew Passage, or warm up by the woodstove in the Bluff Cabin with a book or magazine from its library.
The dirt: $280 U.S. (two-night minimum), including meals; hikes, sea kayaking, fishing, and bear tours all arranged on-site; 250/203-4433. -D.L.
NEAR TOFINO, B.C.
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
Wake up to: Thousand-year-old cedars towering overhead and a vast expanse of rain forest and coastline beckoning you from the comfort of your duvet-covered bed. After breakfast ― served on china and silver in the ranch-style log house, with its ceiling-high fieldstone fireplace ― choose your activity of the day: a guided hike or horseback ride, whale- or bear-watching, river or ocean kayaking, prime salmon fishing, or basking in a cedar hot tub overlooking an estuary.
The digs: Imagine the most elegant penthouse suite, covered in canvas and plunked down in the middle of a lush green wonderland. Think opulent rugs, lots of candles, remote-control propane fireplaces, and antique dressers, plus cedar outbuildings with eco toilets and all the amenities, so you can look your best.
The dirt: This place isn't easy to get to (you've got to hop a float plane from Vancouver, B.C.) or cheap (nearly $4,700 for a three-night stay), but if anything is worth a splurge, this is it. From $4,678 U.S. per person for three nights, including meals, activities, and float-plane arrival/departure; 888/333-5405. -A.W.