Experience luxury camping at its finest while “glamping” at Camp Long Creek at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Missouri.

STORY BY PATTI VERBANAS

Erin Kern had been vacationing at Big Cedar Lodge in the hills of Ridgedale, Missouri, for a decade, enjoying the warm hospitality of the Ozarks with her growing family. When a moment came last autumn to ditch the kids and go on a couples’ escape with her husband, Russell, they looked to shake things up: They booked a private “glamping” cabin for two in the woods at the resort’s new Camp Long Creek.

Glamping (“glamorous camping”) has picked up steam in recent years—and even more so now in the pandemic era of lockdowns, during which people are yearning to stay in open-air, natural settings that are luxurious, private, and serene.

Embarking on a camping adventure certainly helps to recharge your spirit from the stress of daily life. However, not everyone who dreams of sleeping under the stars and rising with the sun flecking gold over a lake steps away relishes the rough-and-rugged experience of pitching a tent, starting a fire from scratch, and braving the elements—and those who do might want a change of pace. Glamping affords an opportunity to celebrate nature in a more sophisticated way.

This was certainly the case for Kern, a design and lifestyle Instagram influencer (@cottonstem) who is known for her well-appointed taste. “The cabin was complete with shiplap walls, a fireplace, bedroom, and small kitchen,” she says. “It looked out over Table Rock Lake and was perfectly outfitted for a cozy autumn weekend snuggled up by the fire, watching the leaves fall.” On rainy mornings, the couple drank coffee and watched the mist rise off the lake. Later, they roasted marshmallows with the s’mores kit, which was provided. 

“Russell grilled our Backyard Basket dinner on one of the many gas grills just steps from our cabin, and we played board games, explored by the water, and just rested our weary souls surrounded by natural beauty,” Kern says. “Our family always has the best time at Camp Long Creek, and our first-ever ‘glamping’ experience has become yet another addition to our long list of fond memories made at Big Cedar Lodge.”

Camping in Style

Camp Long Creek opened in 2019 adjacent to the Bass Pro Shops Long Creek Marina on the shores of Table Rock Lake. It offers 56 custom retreats that combine the rustic appeal of the great outdoors with modern amenities.

The 18 glamping units offer a king-sized bed with an overhead chandelier, a wood stove, heat and air conditioning, a cozy sitting area, and outdoor spaces. You enter though a canvas exterior with a screen layer into the bathroom, which offers a shower and private toilet room with a sliding door. The unit continues to the bedroom, with an expansive view of the lake from a raised deck. Everything you might need—books on hunting and fishing, s’mores and firestarter kits, ironing board, TV, refrigerator, and coffeemaker—are at the ready. Creative touches like a vintage trunk serving as a nightstand and a stone patio surrounded by a privacy fence with a freestanding soaking tub and shower make this space one to remember.

Accommodations beyond the glamping units at Camp Long Creek include cabin huts, one-bedroom or one-room camp cabins, and two-bedroom family units. Bring your dog along for a romp: The campsite is pet-friendly.

Your day of glamping is guaranteed to revitalize your soul, as Kern says. Birds chirp you awake, and you open your eyes to the one of the most unobstructed views of the lake available. Upon rising, the day is yours to relax, explore, and indulge. The luxury campsite is minutes from Big Cedar Lodge and enveloped by thousands of acres of gorgeous wilderness. You can enjoy nearby features such as an outdoor infinity pool with picnic pavilion, dining, a dog park, lake beach access, boat rentals, fishing, and hiking.

Head over to Table Rock Lake, where you can set off on a watersport adventure at Long Creek Marina. Rent a boat or watercraft/watersports equipment, or book a personal waterski instruction. Kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats are complimentary. You also can take a boat tour of the lake on Goin’ Jessi, an exact replica of a 1934 Chris Craft, named after Waylon Jenning’s wife, Jessi, or embark on a dinner cruise on Lady Liberty, a65-foot luxury yacht featuring live music.

Love to fish? The 43,000 acres of clear blue-green water at Table Rock are nationally recognized as a top bass fishing lake, where largemouth, smallmouth, Kentucky spotted bass, and white bass thrive. Catfish of all sizes and large bluegill also are abundant here. Try your hand at bowfishing, and learn to use this specialized archery equipment to shoot and retrieve fish.

If you prefer immersion into nature, venture to nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, a spectacular 10,000-acre nature park offering miles of trout-filled streams. Here, you’ll find towering bluffs, waterfalls, creek beds, handcrafted bridges, and wildlife, such as bison, elk, and Texas longhorn cattle.

Golfers can hit the links on courses designed by some of the top names in the sport—Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer—surrounded by the beauty of the Ozarks.

Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, conceptualized Big Cedar Lodge as a place where families can experience the area he grew up in and knows so well. Fall in love—or fall in love again—with the Ozarks by hiking the nature trails or taking a guided horseback riding session at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park. Or take an unforgettable two-and-a-half-mile journey on an electric cart to explore the Top of the Rock Lost Canyon and Nature Trail, which was created to highlight stunning rock formations, waterfalls, and views of Table Rock Lake.

Top of the Rock is a nature-based heritage preserve at the highest elevation in the county showcasing uninterrupted views of the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake and offering experiences like the Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum, and “End of the Trail” All-American Wine Cellar.

A dining experience to remember is also close at hand. For example, the Devil’s Pool Restaurant is set in the former home of Jude Simmons, the original 1920s land owner of Big Cedar Lodge, while downstairs at the Buzzard Bar, Clay Self, the Singin’ Cowboy, who has appeared at the Grand Ole Opry, entertains guests. At the upscale Osage Restaurant and Buffalo Bar downstairs, you can enjoy sweeping views of the Ozark Mountains and catch the sunset ceremony, which starts 10 minutes prior to sunset and features a bagpipe performance and the firing of a Civil War cannon.

After dinner, you can retire to your glamping home-away-from-home and ignite the fire pit to roast those sweet, bubbly s’mores, the flames dancing against the darkness and dappling light and shadow against the trees. All the while, deep in the night, the cicadas buzz and frogs peep. Now, cast your eyes skyward to watch for shooting stars and breathe in the night air. At this moment, all is very much right in the world.