Glamping With Toddlers: The Easy Button At El Capitan Canyon

If you are looking for the easiest, most blissful camping experience that includes bringing your little littles book the Cabins at El Capitan Canyon right now. Don’t think, don’t blink, don’t breathe, Do It Now.

If camping with crib-aged kiddos sounds like the 10th circle of hell to you, be advised that I use the term “camping” quite liberally as this is nothing like sleeping on the ground in a zip up bubble moonlighting as a grizzly bouncy ball or using public restrooms while greased in bug spray, plus throwing sleep deprived TWIN toddlers into the mix… unless you are into that sort of self torture and, in that case, you’ll find that option just down the road.

However, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be blissfully pleased to find glamping at its very finest in adorable mini-cabins with en-suite bathrooms and kitchenettes (coffeemaker included!).

I’ve been pushing to get up to the El Cap Cabins for a while now and, though interested, I could feel my husband’s reticence at attempting any form of camping with our twins. I honestly can’t blame him. It’s true that whether traveling 25 minutes away or 6 hours, we basically need to pack the same amount of stuff and that’s before considering the activity-specific needs of camping and exploring the great outdoors. Being really gung-ho and having made this venture my birthday decree, the trip got the green light. Plus, I made the case that, at worst case scenario, we could still order a pizza for delivery if need be… or simply drive 25 minutes to home (if sh*t really hits the fan).

We got on the road right after nap time and arrived in the late afternoon. Driving into the canyon-nestled site was like pulling into the ideal outdoor oasis somewhere between a rustic resort and a family version of summer camp. Once through the front check-in station we drove past the Canyon Market and up the hill following the meandering creek lined with adorable cabins and gorgeous trees. The hills were literally alive with the sound of music, awash with yellow wildflowers.

We came upon Cabin 234 on the edge of a large, open lawn prime for volleyball and frisbee with a kid’s play structure and swimming pool on the far side. At first glance, it felt like a slice of heaven. The sun was warm and light magically filtered through the trees, the air was fresh with a nostalgic touch of campfire and we were greeted with a chorus of singing birds, the gurgling creek and distant children’s laughter. Even the twins were instantly amazed into a sort of dumbfounded awe.

Arrival at Cabin 234

After exploring our quaint cabin and getting unpacked we loaded the babes onto the bikes for a tour of the property, which was quite bigger than I expected. Although they have bikes available to borrow I had read reviews suggesting we bring our own, plus we have toddler seats mounted on the back. This was pure mom genius! The property is sizable and sloped so not being limited to foot was a relief and the twins are always down for a ride.

Cruising the grounds

At the bottom of the property we posted the bikes and headed to Canyon Market for a burger, fries, chicken fingers and salad to be enjoyed on the outside picnic tables with cornhole and Jumbo Connect 4 within reach. Knox and Milla loved running onto the nearby footbridge and gazing down at the rushing creek below. As the light got low and the yawns came out it was time to load up, pedal on and head into the bedtime routine. *I cannot emphasize enough how incredible it was to have a bathroom for bathing the babes and a kitchenette for bottles, coffee, etc. GAMECHANGER

Lawn games at the Canyon Market

In the morning we enjoyed hanging out on the deck, drinking coffee and appreciating our own little slice of heaven overlooking the creek. What is it about waking up to nature on your doorstep that reminds us how blessed we are in life (and not the version after having slept on rocks underneath your sleeping bag and attempting to brew coffee over a campfire)? After a quick breakfast it was hike time!

Back deck of our cabin

Most people who know me aren’t aware of my secret obsession with MerMingos & Unifllama but I’ve been excitedly waiting to head to the nearby llama farm for weeks. Legend says the farm is only a 20 minute hike from El Capitan Canyon and entirely within reach, the perfect opportunity for the babes’ 1st hike on foot (we had packed our Deuter backpacks but opted out of using them after all). Again, the experience surpassed my expectations! There was a small hill followed by a long flat following the pasture fence.

Knox and Camilla’s 1st hike (on foot)

The llamas called to me out in the distance but remained ethereally out of reach.

Dear llamas, why won’t you let me love you?

Fortunately the path took us right up to the goat and sheep pens where Knox and Milla oodled with glee.

And what luck! While enjoying snacks at the nearby shaded picnic bench the farmer himself drove up with a baby goat in his pickup and kindly let the babes enjoy their own private petting zoo. Pretty serendipitous!

*Note my husband’s shirt winning points on my birthday trip. For the record it says “I love it when my when my wife lets me watch the Warriors”

In the afternoon after extended naps (thank you hike!) we hit the playground and then dipped our toes in the pool, only to discover it was heated! This warranted a full family swim sesh followed by barbequed kebabs over our private campfire. Once again, the babes went down for bedtime like Timber (thank you swimming pool!).

Finally it was time for a little one on one hang time around the campfire with my hubs.

As we settled into our chairs the fire popped and cracked, the frogs croaked and the creek gurgled. Stars shimmered in full force through a perfect window in the trees while marshmallows toasted, awaiting their bed of grahams and chocolate. My sweet children slept peacefully in our cabin only steps behind. This was the sort of perfection I dream about: harmony and playful quality time spent with those I hold dearest.

I honestly have to say this was the best family vacation we’ve had to date. Not only did it offer a little something for everyone but with the sunshine, fresh air and the restorative energy of nature it offered a lot of peace for the soul too. Thank you El Capitan Canyon! You surpassed all my hopes and expectations, all that and a bag of chips.

Happy Glamper & Birthday Mamasaurus

Packing suggestions:

  • Bikes (with toddler seats – we have these Bell seats installed) and helmets
  • Toddler hiking backpacks- we brought our Deuter packs but did not end up using them
  • Food, plates/cutlery and cooking supplies (including pans, tongs, etc.) – glamping is still a form of camping. Do not expect a fully stocked kitchen. I made the mistake of planning for a kitchenette that included a hotplate but only found a microwave instead. It threw off my food game. Praise the heavens that the Canyon Market has food and groceries. Next trip I will be doing my homework and pre-planning the trip menu.
  • Charcoal and chimney
  • Coffee mugs – paper cups are included but never as satisfying as a great mug IMO
  • Pool towels

Here’s a great article for planning the next trip: Top 10 Glamping Sites for Families in the US

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