What’s not to love about a tent with a king-sized bed?

It’s not that I hate camping or the outdoors, but if I had the choice between a real bed or a sleeping bag on the ground, I would most certainly choose a bed. So when I was assigned a story to go glamping at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, I happily obliged.

Glamorous camping seemed to be right up my alley and in a way, it was how I could get the best of both worlds by enjoying the outdoors and nature, while also having the same luxuries offered at home. And the term glamping isn’t something I just made up. It dates back to 2005, but was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016, so yes, this is a legitimate activity that I was more than happy to participate in. 

In the middle of the summer, I made my way from Columbia to Camp Long Creek at Big Cedar Lodge with my boyfriend Jesse and our newly adopted pup, Walter. Yes, Camp Long Creek is pet-friendly! But note that the other areas of Big Cedar Lodge are not, so make sure to bring a crate for your pet if you’re planning to explore the rest of the area. 

Glamping site at Camp Long Creek. Photo—Corin CesaricTent+Treehouse=Glamour
When we first arrived at Camp Long Creek to check in, we noticed a dog park right at the entrance, then we stopped at the welcome center where an upside down canoe is used as the welcome sign. We received our keys and were on our way. Two staff members followed us to our unit on a golf cart and showed us around our serene space, then we were left to explore on our own. 

From the outside of the glamping unit, it looks as if someone combined an oversized canvas tent and a tree house, but inside, there are many lavish elements—including air conditioning! (And heating for the colder months.) The first thing we saw when we entered with our electronic key card was a large outdoor tub, a firepit, and a cozy wooden bench made for two on the stone outdoor floor.

This was our first clue that this truly was going to feel glamorous. Like any other tent, you unzip the door to enter, but the minute we entered, we realized this wasn’t just your ordinary tent. We first walked into a large bathroom with a shower and two bathrobes hanging next to it. The next room was the bedroom where there’s a king-sized bed with a chandelier above it that has feathers hanging from it.

My heavy shoes clunked on the wooden floors as I walked through the rustic space and ended up on the outdoor deck overlooking Table Rock Lake. There were two chairs facing the water and a tree stump table in between them. Speaking of trees, our tent was surrounded by them and made with them. The front and back of the tent had aesthetically pleasing tree trunks holding up the structure.

Camp Long Creek is tribute to Johnny Morris
While relaxing on the back porch area, my initial thought was, “Wow, Johnny Morris knew what he was doing when he created this space.” Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, opened Big Cedar Lodge in 1988. The addition of Camp Long Creek was opened in 2019. He’s a bit of a celebrity in the Ozarks and after staying at Camp Long Creek, it’s not hard to understand why. The area perfectly combines all of the best parts about camping and removes the less appealing aspects, such as sleeping on the ground and forgoing bathing.

The weather was warm with no clouds in sight. We heard the water crashing on the shore outside of the tent while we looked around the 280-square-foot space. There was also a mini fridge, coffee maker, television, and my favorite part—a s’mores kit. I knew we’d put that to good use later in the night.

We took Walter on a walk and passed a bocce ball court outside of our unit as we walked toward the beach. Directly outside of our private area, there are picnic tables and an additional firepit to use as well. At the entrance of the beach, we learned our new pet loves water when he laid belly first in the lake and refused to move. Next to the beach, there’s an outdoor pool and hot tub, but we skipped that since that’s the only area in Camp Long Creek that isn’t pet-friendly. We also saw a full-service marina on the walk and Canteen at Long Creek, a restaurant housed in an Airstream with outdoor tables. 

The author at Top of the Rock, Ridgedale, Mo., about 15 miles from Branson.

After we returned back to our glamorous tent, I ventured out of Camp Long Creek to discover what else Big Cedar Lodge has to offer. My first stop was the Lost Canyon Cave Nature Trail where I drove a golf cart for two and a half miles down a breathtaking trail. I saw waterfalls, caves, unique rock formations, and beautiful views of the lake.

It had been years since I drove a golf cart and I forgot how fun it could be. Afterward, I had dinner at Osage Restaurant where there are large windows overlooking the golf course, lamps made out of antlers, stone walls, and a large fireplace. Once I was way too full, I went back to our digs for the night and brought Jesse, who opted to stay back with Walter, elk soup, a salad, and my rotisserie chicken leftovers for dinner. He and Walter had just finished playing in the water. We sat on the back deck and watched boats drive by.

When I think about camping, I think of all the things I will do outside of my tent, but with glamping, so much of the enjoyable parts are actually done within the tent. I could have sat on that back porch for hours. The wooden chairs were surprisingly comfortable and the sound of the water was soothing. 

Cricket lullaby
The sun began to set so we built a fire and roasted the marshmallows that had been on my mind. Camp Long Creek was quiet at night and it felt like we were very, very far from any type of city, even though Ridgedale is less than fifteen minutes from Branson. We took one more walk and looked at the array of cabins and huts available for rent. While those were neat to see and we contemplated booking one for a future trip, the glamping tents are still what caught my eye. They glow at night in between the trees that surround them and look cozier than any tent I’ve ever seen.

We went back to our accommodation and planned out the next day before the crickets put us to sleep with their all-too-familiar lullaby. Although this tent felt much more extravagant and spacious than our usual ten by ten camping arrangement, at night I could still hear perfectly clear outside, which is one of my favorite parts of camping and now glamping, too.

In the morning, we were awakened by the crisp air and a squirrel running across the top of our tent. And I couldn’t help but be extra grateful for both the squirrel and I that it was a sturdy tent. We went to the Airstream restaurant where I had french toast sticks for breakfast and Jesse had a breakfast wrap, and then we peeked inside of Long Creek Marina. Here you can rent boats and water sports equipment and purchase all the items and services needed for a great day on the lake.    

Our checkout was in the late morning, so we packed up and turned in our keys. Although you have to check out of the unit, you still have access to all of the amenities and attractions at Camp Long Creek and Big Cedar Lodge until the end of the day. We spent a bit more time at Camp Long Creek before deciding to travel about fifteen miles west to Dogwood Canyon (another Big Cedar Lodge attraction) where Walter, Jesse, and I walked almost all the way to Arkansas. Literally!

We compared our favorite parts about our glamping experience and while Jesse typically enjoys camping in its natural form more than I do, he too appreciated a real bed, running water, and a firepit we didn’t have to build ourselves. 

Ultimately it was a perfect couple of days and I’d say the only downside is that I’ll never be able to look at “regular” camping the same ever again. Unless, of course, there’s a king-sized bed involved.

Visit Camp Long Creek at 1358 Long Creek Road, Ridgedale | BigCedar.com/attractions/camp-long-creek


Serene sights and sounds of nature at Dogwood Canyon. Photo—Corin Cesaric

More Places to Glamp in Missouri:

You can find plenty of glamping-like units on Airbnb.com or book at one of the areas below. 

Hawley Farm Glamping
3406 NE Hardy Drive, Hamilton

Wilderland Glamping Cabins

Fredrock Glampground
11288 US Hwy 67, Fredericktown

The Sundance Ranch
Excelsior Springs

The Happy Camper