It was on a Kenyan safari that the owners of Cresto Ranch in Cresto, a tiny town in southwestern Colorado, figured out a new use for their historic property: they’d pitch African-style canvas tents in an alpine clearing and introduce full-frills resort camping to the Rockies.
A year later, the original 19th-century log farmhouse had been turned into a base lodge and dining room. And eight canvas tents were fitted with cast-iron gas stoves, writing desks, teak lounge chairs, en-suite bathrooms, and, most notably, king-size beds made up with glam-rustic linens (all thanks to designer Christina Rossi).
Days at the newly renamed Dunton River Camp are spent horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, doing yoga and Pilates–and recovering in the spa tent. As Vogue put it, “The only survival skill one needs is the ability to book a massage.”
Above: Each tent has a view of either 14,000-foot Wilson Peak or the rushing Dolores River. The tents rest on 16-by-40-foot wooden platforms and consist of a steel framework hung with heavy cotton duck that’s water-repellent and mildew-resistant. Inspired by four-star African safari accommodations, they were custom-designed by Reliable Tent & Tipi of Billings, Montana. The resort is open in the summer only; at the end of the season, the canvas is removed from the frames and stored in the tents’ weatherproof bathrooms.
Above: Each tent sleeps two, in a king-size bed or two twins. Laura Aviva of L’Aviva Home masterminded the linens: She cloaked the beds in white cotton duck that echoes the tent fabric and fits crisply over the sheets and blankets. The slipcovers work well in the rugged setting and provide a clean backdrop for L’Aviva Home’s frazadas, vibrant traditional blankets handwoven in Bolivia. Frazadas were also repurposed as pillows backed with Belgian linen. And yes, the tents have electricity and running water–hot and cold.
Above: The frazada throws, reimagined versions of age-old Andean designs, are made of alpaca, a miracle fiber that’s hypoallergenic and as soft and luxurious as the best cashmere.
Above: The platforms extend 10 feet beyond the tent to form a deck. The teak steamer chairs were sourced from Golden Teak.
Above: The bathrooms are shed-like structures within each tent. They’re built from Zipsystem’s weatherproof roofing and wall sheathing and are clad in corrugated tin, with beadboard ceilings and slate floors. Each has twin vanities (with towel warmers) and a 6-foot-long, extra-deep tub that doubles as a shower.
Above: Dunton River Camp’s owners, businessman Christoph Henkel of Canyon Equity and old master art dealer Katrin Bellinger, are German and love biergarten-style outdoor dining. The pine-and-steel biergarten tables and benches on the lodge’s deck are made by Roost and available from Scarlett Alley.
Above: Dunton River Camp’s sister resort, the equally luxe Dunton Hot Springs, is just four miles downriver. Set in a restored 1885 mining town in a spectacular mountain valley, it’s open year-round. Elevation: just under 9,000 feet.
Above: Dunton Hot Springs resort consists of 12 handhewn log cabins, no two alike.
Dunton was built around hot springs and still has its original bathhouse, now fully restored and offering indoor and outdoor soaks. The resort is so picturesque that Ralph Lauren and the Sundance Catalog recently staged holiday shoots on the premises. And the food and wine (from Dunton’s own vineyard down valley) are first-rate, too: Bon Appetit magazine ranks it the country’s No. 4 getaway for food lovers. All of this, of course, comes at a cost: The rates at these all-inclusive properties are comparable to those at a luxury hotel. For full details on both, see Dunton Hot Springs.
For more on tenting made easy, read about a pop-up luxury camping service at Glamorous: Shelter Co. in California, on Remodelista. And for more lodging off the beaten path, this time in Oregon, see Earn Your Wilderness Stripes at the Minam River Lodge.
This is an update of a Remodelista post originally published July 11, 2013.