By Maria Wyllie
WEST YELLOWSTONE – Ten minutes from the western entrance to Yellowstone National Park rests a secluded luxury camp offering guests a new way to experience the outdoors.
Grazing cattle welcome visitors as they drive down the long dirt road running through Bar-N-Ranch. A small sign with the words “Yellowstone Under Canvas” and an arrow pointing straight assures hesitant minds that they are, in fact, headed in the right direction.
White canvas tents dot the landscape, and the serene atmosphere makes it hard to believe you’re so close to bustling downtown West Yellowstone during its busy summer months. But that’s the draw – rather than staying in a hotel, Yellowstone Under Canvas offers guests a way to connect with the outdoors without having to rough it.
Clients can enjoy the comforts of home inside one of the deluxe safari tents. Furnished with a chest of drawers, plush bedding, a wood burning stove and a cowhide rug atop wood flooring, guests enjoy slumberous nights and rise in the morning to the sounds of nature just beyond their tent flaps.
Sarah Dusek, who founded the operation with her husband Jake, says Under Canvas is a good halfway point between camping and staying in a hotel, offering visitors advice on bear management safety practices, helping them use a wood burning stove and providing other outdoor tools for those less familiar with camping.
“For the most part people love it, which is why our business is growing,” Dusek said. “People are really intrigued by the idea of being able to camp in style without it having to be too much hard work.”
Originally from England, Dusek spent a number of vacations on safari in Africa. After moving to Montana in 2009 with her husband Jake, who grew up 20 miles north of Havre, Mont., Duseck saw a similarity between Montana’s prairie and landscape and the African bush.
So, the couple decided to bring the idea of the African safari to Montana. Starting first in 2009 with Sage Safaris, North America’s only wing-shooting safari, the Duseks offer the luxury of African safari with elite upland bird hunting on nearly 40,000 acres of open land on the family farm near Havre each fall.
Building on their success with that business, the company has grown to include Yellowstone Under Canvas, as well as Under Canvas Events, which provides tents for music festivals, weddings, retreats and other events around the country.
“It’s such a simple concept that can be adapted to any location,” said Sasha Dingle, events assistant for Under Canvas Events and guest services supervisor for Yellowstone Under Canvas. “The landscapes in the background really create the experience.”
Not only is staying in the tents a fun alternative to a hotel, but it also lessens environmental impacts, Dingle said. Under Canvas partners with Leave No Trace, a center for outdoor ethics dedicated to teaching people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.
“At the end of the season, we re-seed,” Dingle said, adding that they take the tents down every fall. “It will be like no one was even here.”
Yellowstone Under Canvas has at least doubled its capacity from last summer, Dingle says, and it has been fully booked all summer. Rapidly growing, the company now also hosts a camp in Moab, Utah, called Moab Under Canvas and has plans to expand to Montana’s Glacier National Park.
Under Canvas Events is also growing, Dusek says, in terms of both bookings and expansion.
Placed in urban and rural settings, the tents are a convenient option for special events where everyone wants to remain on site together, she added.
“Those are really fun because they are usually a weekend or a week long, and we get to know everyone really well,” Dusek said. “We get to bring their ideas to reality and create the environment they dreamed of.”
For information on booking tents for your own event, visit canvasevent.com. Find more information on Yellowstone Under Canvas at mtundercanvas.com