Some father-son trips include fishing, golfing, or kicking back with brews and a view. Not so for James and Charles Tate, who scoured the American West in search of land to plant roots for their lifelong dream of opening a lodging retreat together. Inspired by and nostalgic for the great American road trip, they searched high and dry in the Utah desert for a place that was remote, but would appeal to modern, city-minded travelers. When they discovered a deserted drive-in movie theater and RV park with twenty acres of open space within Grand Escalante National Park in southern Utah, they leapt, immediately purchasing the property and enlisting ROY Hospitality Design Studio to bring their vision to life. Thus Yonder Escalante was born.
"There is a lack of hospitality in the national parks market," says Yonder CEO Hannah Colins and founder of ROY. "We are excited to offer a new type of hospitality in a very rural setting."
The team trucked in ten vintage Airstream trailers and completely renovated them on-site in a mid-century style with hardwood floors, full-sized beds, and eclectic decor. Twenty-two A-frame cabins built in Canada have exposed birch framing and giant glass walls that allow for stellar desert views from within the spacious bedroom and living area decked out in vintage, Western-inspired leather decor, daybeds, mini refrigerators, and private patios. The bring-your-own-RV crowd can take advantage of 67 pull-in sites with fire pits and private bathhouses with outdoor rain showers.
"The property strikes a nice balance between hotel and camping," says James Tate, who was quick to add that the property should not be considered "glamping."
An 8,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor Clubhouse serves as the hearth of the property, with ample low-hanging seating for lounging, reading, playing cards and other games, and listening to the collection of vintage records on the record player while starring at the desert views. Yes, they have hi-speed WiFi if duty calls. An adjoining general store serves coffee, batched cocktails, and grab-and-go picnic goods for day ventures. Bryce Canyon is only a 45-minute drive away, but with the less populated Grand Escalante National Park surrounding the property, you're already mere steps from beautiful hikes amid red-rock hoodoos and slot canyons and exhilarating off-roading adventures along the 55-mile Hole in the Rock Road.
At most accommodations at national parks, after-dark activities end at s'mores. At Yonder, they're just getting started. A soak in the 40-foot pool and jetted hot tub will relieve any post-hike aches under the cotton candy sunset. Come dinnertime, pre-prepped meal kits (available at the general store) for roasting over the fire including flank steak and roasted veggies. From Thursday through Sunday, classic movies and spaghetti westerns are streamed at the drive-in, where an array of '50s and '60s classic cars — some found on the property and others collected by James and Charles — are parked ready for guests to step in. A nearby Airstream serves as a concession stand, with freshly popped corn and nostalgic candies like Milk Duds and Red Hots.
This summer, Yonder Escalante will host live music and art partnerships, as well as dark sky experiences, guided hikes, and leather branding workshops. Yee-haw, everyone.
Yonder Escalante is the first for the Tates, who are seriously the coolest father-son dream team ever. They plan to grow the brand and have already broken ground in Groveland, California, for Yosemite National Park Yonder, set for 2022.