At a Glance
The tented sister property of the acclaimed Dunton Hot Springs features eight luxury canvas tents with prime river or mountain views in a remote Colorado valley.
- The early-morning coffee hamper brought to your tent
- Thoughtful touches like the yoga mat and curated book selection in the tents
- Meeting for a bourbon or wine at the congenial fire pit at the end of a day
- The wooden soaking tub and sauna with spectacular views
- The easy-to-moderate hiking trails that start right behind the tents
“Just a heads up, you’re about to lose all cell service,” said Eric, Dunton River Camp’s gracious manager, as we passed through Dolores en route to River Camp, the glamping sister to the acclaimed Dunton Hot Springs.
Located in the same remote valley as the former ghost town-turned-luxe lodge, Dunton River Camp is not easy to reach, and that is by design. The owner, Christoph Henkel, fell in love with this valley, an hour south of Telluride, precisely because of its off-the-radar setting. Surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, at the foot of the Colorado Rockies, Dunton River Camp is a perfect fit for active types who love to get into the great outdoors. The list of activities on offer (some of which are included in the nightly rate) is lengthy, and highlights include excellent fly-fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing and some of the most scenic hiking anywhere in the American West.
Dunton River Camp functions much like an intimate safari lodge, with most guests choosing among the host of activities and spending the days exploring. But what a pleasure it is to return to this special setting in the afternoon, just in time for a soak in the wooden hot tub that looks across the valley, followed by cocktails or wine at the large fire pit, where everyone gathers to share their tales from the day.
Like Hot Springs, the River Camp was designed as a family affair. Delicious meals (this is a Relais & Châteaux property, after all) are served family-style at the restored wooden farmhouse that was the centerpiece of this 500-acre former cattle ranch when Henkel purchased it. Interiors continue in Dunton’s stylish vein of merging a Western aesthetic with contemporary art and European touches, like hand-painted Austrian porcelain. Amazingly, it all comes together, thanks to the fact that Henkel’s wife Katrin Bellinger is an art dealer with an excellent eye.
The sumptuous River Camp tents were designed by Christina Rossi, who co-manages the Dunton properties with her charming husband, Edoardo. The tents exude style and comfort without being too over-the-top. Elevated on wooden platforms for optimal views, each tent comes with an en-suite bathroom (showers and bathtubs are separate), and tents are fronted by a wooden deck set up with comfortable loungers, all facing the incredible views.
Inside, the canvas contraptions are light and airy, thanks to high ceilings. The centerpiece in each is a king-sized bed heaped with down comforters and soft throws, while floors are covered with animal hides. A small gas stove in the corner acts as equal parts light and heat source (nights get chilly here, even in the summer). Top-of-the-line amenities include Aesop bath products and Glereup slippers, and other thoughtful details abound, like the curated selection of books (fiction and non-fiction), the rolled-up yoga mat and mountain bikes for each tent.
Many guests combine a stay here with a couple of nights up at Dunton Hot Springs, but for active types, River Camp makes for a great base from which to explore this region in its own right, especially if you’re craving non-stop activities. And about that cell service: both Dunton properties have good WiFi, but after a few days, the majestic landscapes allow for a natural detox from your devices.
The warm, motivated, ever-active staff at both lodges plays a big role in making guests feel like they can really let go and focus on the simple pleasures that often get sidelined in our busy lives: starting (and actually finishing) a book; spending time with loved ones; making new friends; connecting over conversations, not technology. Edoardo and Christina are, in many ways, the heart of these lodges, but many team members have been at Dunton for years, as well. One notable newcomer is Activities Director Josh Callihan, who transferred in 2019 after a seven-year stint at acclaimed Blackberry Farm, because, he says, he fell in love with this region.
At River Camp, the falling in love happens to many who come here, and in the most unpredictable moments. For me, it was the walk “home” after dinner. Lit up by a gas-burning stove and brass lamps, my canvas tent glowed among the dark trees like a luminescent creature. It looked like the epitome of cozy, and walking back to it, I could not help but send thoughts of deep gratitude into the brisk air: that Henkel created Dunton to be shared; that the team here so lovingly nurtures and furthers this original vision; that I got to fall asleep and wake in these majestic landscapes. A feeling—for once—of being completely in the here and now.
Room to Get
The eight tents are the same size, and interiors differ only slightly in color scheme, so the only choice you have to make is whether you prefer to see the river or the mountains when you unzip in the morning. (During the fall, when the Aspen trees are in their full glory, go for a mountain-view tent.) The tents feel private, but they are not set too far apart, so you will see your neighbors (though, considering River Camp can accommodate at most 16 people, it never feels crowded). Contact your Trip Designer for help selecting which one to book.
Activity to Book
While you can hike on your own (some lovely trails kick off right at River Camp), it’s worth hiring a guide to take you up into the Wilson Mountain Range. For one, Colorado trails are not marked, but you will also learn so much about the local flora and fauna from an expert guide. Two favorite hikes in the area are Navajo Lake and Kilpacker.
Dunton lies at an 8,600-foot elevation, and many of the hikes and activities take place in mountain ranges at 10,000 feet and higher. Give your body lots of time to adjust; hydrate incessantly; maybe skip alcohol with your first meal; and bring along Diamox (even though River Camp also has some on hand).
Who Should Stay
The set-up lends itself well to couples (the tents have a decidedly romantic vibe), even though Dunton River Camp is also a favorite of families with older children. Active types, adventurers and explorers will be in heaven.
Who Should Not Stay
Guests expecting a vivid nightlife: After 10:30 p.m., River Camp keeps quiet hours. Travelers who cannot handle the occasional critter—you are camping, after all (albeit in the most luxurious way). And the social property is not a good fit for private types who never want to speak to another guest.
Guests can fly into Durango (a 45-minute flight from Denver), followed by a two-hour drive north. During the warm months, you can also fly into Telluride and make the one-hour drive down to Dunton.
Good To Know
Dunton River Camp is an all-inclusive price, per tent/double occupancy. The rates include lodging, all meals, all beverages (including alcohol) and a selection of activities that are shared amongst your fellow guests. You can also visit Dunton Hot Springs four miles up the road to take advantage of their incredible natural hot springs. Dunton River Camp is open from early-/mid -June through early October (weather-permitting).
Written by Simone Girner