Dwell has long been a fan of the iconic Airstream—some call it a mild obsession. So when AutoCamp reached out to give us a first look at their newest property, we hit the road for the three-hour journey from San Francisco to seek enlightenment at one of America’s most beloved national parks: Yosemite.
Yosemite is hot—in temperature (my gum melted in my purse on our drive up) and in trend (you'll be hard-pressed to find a Californian who hasn't visited)—so it came as no surprise that AutoCamp chose this area for the third installment of their wildly popular outdoor hotels comprising decked-out Airstream suites, luxury tents, and cabins.
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AutoCamp's design has a personal, familial vibe throughout the site, which is exactly what you want in a space like this. I have many fond memories of camping near the Sierras as a kid—swimming in a lake down the road from my family's campsite, buying ice cream and hot dogs at the cafe by the canoes, hiking up dusty trails under a canopy of pines—and if there was ever a perfect, grown-up version of the motor lodges and tents I stayed in, this would be it.
From start to finish, AutoCamp Yosemite took a surprisingly short two years to complete. That's because they used the same dream team they worked with for their Russian River location—Anacapa Architecture and Geremia Design. Building on the desire to make the space homey and authentic, they took inspiration from the area and brought in local talent and hometown favorites every chance they got. Architect Dan Weber sourced the tents from a company based in his hometown; local designers contributed much of the site's wall art, decor, and building fabrication; and a vast majority of the furnishings and decor were designed or sourced from the designers' friends.
You can feel the earnestness and hard work tucked into every corner of the new space. It took many hands to create, and the payoff is like something out of a dream: AutoCamp is where great design meets the great outdoors.
Upon checking in, we were given a tour of the grounds, which once hosted a Kampgrounds of America location. The site proved to be both a design challenge—how best to redesign the existing pool?—and a blessing in disguise. AutoCamp Yosemite was able to open to the public faster than expected because all the permits from the previous campsite were already in place.
"AutoCamp’s mission is to connect people with the outdoors and each other, and AutoCamp Yosemite represents a landmark moment for our team, the local community, and for travelers that are looking for new and unique ways to experience the outdoors." —AutoCamp founder and CEO Neil Dipaola
In total, the accommodations include 80 deluxe Airstream trailers, 15 luxury tents, three cabin suites, and five ADA suites. Working in tandem, Dan Weber of Anacapa Architecture and Ryan Miller of AutoCamp designed the Airstream suites, each of which was assembled over the course of three days in Airstream's factory in Ohio.
The Dwell team was lucky enough to snag some Airstream suites sitting across the natural pond from the clubhouse. We were more than a little impressed by the interiors: a walk-in shower? Cool ceramics in the cupboards? We all agreed that the mattresses felt like sleeping on clouds after a long day in the heat.
What I liked best was that the interior design is aspirational, but not inaccessible. Every item is labelled (I now am in desperate want of Malin+Goetz shampoo for my own apartment), and staff are happy to give you more information. The "camp store" near the reception area is filled with mugs, Ursa Major face wipes, artisanal sodas, and other tchotchkes stocked in the suites.
Reaching the park is easier than you think. AutoCamp is located just outside the charming town of Mariposa, and it’s a 45-minute drive into Yosemite (a typical trek from most hotels and lodges that aren’t the park itself). Once in the national park, we took a short hike—it was absolutely gorgeous, and the small entrance fee was more than accounted for by the priceless experience of breathing fresh air and being immersed in a landscape of waterfalls, boulders, and trees.
AutoCamp Yosemite is now open for reservations.
Project Managers: Jessi Finnicum-Schwartz, Geoff April
Design Team: Jose Sanchez, Saba Zahedi
X Suites Design: M-Rad
General Contractor: Quiring
Structural Engineer: Ashley & Vance Engineering
Civil Engineer: RRM Design Group
Electrical Engineer: JMPE Electrical Engineering