Too often, the joy of America’s pristine wilderness is spoiled by dehydrated camp food and the blisters formed getting there. But there’s no reason a sunset on Idaho’s Salmon River or a starry night in Arizona’s Havasu Canyon should be reached through perdition. A new breed of safari combines spacious tents, gourmet meals and exclusive access, and these four outfitters bring five-star service to the wild. With purple mountain majesties, hot showers and sundowners, natural beauty has never felt so good.
Utah and Beyond: O.A.R.S.
American rafting pioneer George Wendt’s Grand Canyon tour is iconic, but his trip to Utah’s Cataract Canyon is unforgettable. Guest lecturers describe desert wildlife; astronomers, stars; and historians, ancient civilizations of the Southwest. Chefs serve multicourse dinners on white linen tablecloths illuminated by candlelight. And there’s no need to pack: Send along your sizes and O.A.R.S. assembles all the gear you’ll need. From $1,466 per person; oars.com.
The Southwest: Off the Beaten Path
These journeys through Arizona, Utah and New Mexico focus not only on the land but also on the people who live there. After a ten-mile hike into Arizona’s Havasu Canyon, travelers relax at Off the Beaten Path’s deluxe camp (Aerobeds, room-sized tents, gourmet meals, hot showers) before joining Havasupai elders who share their stories of the Grand Canyon corridors. Custom trips start at $1,500 per person; offthebeatenpath.com.
New Mexico: EcoNewMexico
Chip and Sandy Cunningham specialized in Africa, Australasia and Latin America for decades, and now they offer excursions in northern New Mexico. During the six-day Llama-Chama Adventure, guests raft through Georgia O’Keeffe country to a camp complete with beds and a decadent Dutch-oven chocolate cake before spending a night at the sacred Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, then trek, with some help from llamas, up to the Taos wilderness camp. From $2,995 per person; 888-326-4440.
Idaho: Far & Away Adventures
The Salmon River’s Middle Fork is one of the most beautiful and pristine U.S. waterways. Guests can raft down its 100 rapids over 100 miles with a 3,200-foot elevation drop or hike along it. The Big Five—elk, wolf, bighorn sheep, bear, moose—are seen either way. At camp, guests enjoy chef-prepared organic feasts with wine and Pacific Northwest microbrews before retiring to tents lit by solar lanterns. From $1,840 per person; far-away.com.