Destinations :: Backland—Beyond Glamping

Located 20 minutes outside Williams, Arizona, Backland is an eco-resort nestled amid Kaibab National Forest. Consisting of 160 private acres of heaven on the old Moose homestead, large meadows and marshland are flanked by ponderosa pines, all under the protective eyes of the San Francisco Peaks. Driven by a vision to provide a lodging experience “where people and nature benefit from each other,” the property intends to keep its minimal impact, “and even at full build-out, the land will consist of 95 percent open space.”

Gateway to the Grand Canyon

Williams is one of the gateways to the Grand Canyon, and while it is true that Backland would make for a great home base when exploring the area, the resort is a worthy destination in itself. Recently opened on September 1, 2022, 10 luxury tents loop the meadow, the common building adjacent, facing the small beach and deceptively large pond. Kayaks, paddle boards, and life jackets are provided, and there are outdoor games and activities galore. A few winding paths meander through the property, and walking them gives the perfect opportunity to use the binoculars and bird charts that can be checked out.

Even when the Sycamore Falls are not active, the trail is a spectacular place to wander.

Get Outdoors, Stay Outdoors

Backland is a destination designed to immerse you in nature’s bounty with little effort; the location is nothing short of magnificent, and everything you need is at your fingertips. It’s a perfect setup for young families who want to introduce their kids to the outdoors in a big way but still crave the experience of being pampered and a fantastic getaway destination for everyone else. After you’ve explored the grounds, just a few miles down the forest service road are a plethora of trails: the Rim Trail, Pomeroy Tanks, and Sycamore Falls are satisfying hikes rich in scenery and wildlife. Whitehorse Lake is also nearby, though the road and campground close for the season in fall.

Indulge in a spa appointment after your forays into the wild while your EV charges.

The New Face of Glamping

I hesitate to call the beautiful structures at Backland tents. Two layers of canvas are hand-stretched over a frame with insulation between them, but this is where the association ends. Unlike typical glamping tents where the canvas is closed, one end of the suite is made of large glass doors that face the meadow and open to your private patio. Screens allow for an open-air feeling, and black-out blinds keep the sun off your face when the morning comes. A glass stargazing panel graces the ceilings of Sky Suites to let you embrace the night sky as you head to dreamland. The “tents” were designed in-house by CEO Jeremy Budge and feel more like tiny homes with their quality modern-minded fixtures and furnishings atop a polished concrete floor, complete with climate control. Though practical in intent and environmentally conscious, the elegant luxury presented is equal to that of a five-star hotel.

The common area is also anything but, and its two walls of windows have the effect of keeping you “outside” as you lounge by the fireplace, play board games, look through the telescope, or nosh on delicious fare prepared by the chef in the dining area (serving breakfast and dinner). The restaurant had only been open for two weeks when I visited, and while they are already busy setting up connections with local growers and farms, the plans on the horizon include an on-site garden, bee-keeping, farm-to-table theme nights, and exclusives such as Palisade peaches straight from Colorado. The menu offerings were varied enough to delight all, and the tableware and accessories were compostable, keeping to Backland’s ethics.

Horseback riding will be offered in the spring, and plans for e-bikes are in motion. Five more pods of 10 tents each are planned and may include larger tents to accommodate bigger families and groups. Backland is near Flagstaff and Sedona and is accessible off of I-40, making it an excellent stopover for anyone traveling in the Southwest.

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A steadfast believer in the power of words, Tena can usually be found with her eyes turned toward some source of written knowledge, be it for pleasure, information, or planning her next adventure. Recognizing the value of the spoken word as well (unless it is coming from her GPS, in which case, she is perfectly capable of getting lost on her own), Tena finds there is no substitute for confabulation. Refuge from the monotony of the everyday is found by immersing herself in her surroundings—whether in an exotic locale or her backyard—and disconnecting from technology and seeking solace in the great outdoors is a cure well taken. While vehicles are a component for overlanding, she finds enthusiasm provides the only fuel required to get you there.