The vibe: The upscale sister brand of Under Canvas
Location: 147 Looking Glass Rd., La Sal, Utah 84503 | View on Google Maps
Book now: Website
The AFAR take
In the American Southwest, Moab, Utah, has long beckoned adventure seekers and nature lovers with its quick access to both the sandstone pinnacles of Arches National Park and the buttes and mesas of Canyonland National Park. In recent years, the area has become so busy that nearby Arches National Park has had to implement a reservation system. Yet despite the area’s popularity, lodging choices have skewed more toward campgrounds and motor lodges. That recently changed with the May 2023 arrival of Ulum, the new sister brand from Under Canvas, a glamping company known for its 11 tented camps near U.S. national parks. Open seasonally from the end of March to the end of October, Ulum Moab offers a more high-end experience, upping the ante on design, amenities, programming, and dining.
Ulum’s air-conditioned main lodge incorporates design details that embrace the natural elements of the resort’s surroundings (like a chandelier made of quartzite rocks gathered onsite). Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the ochre desertscape, famed for its hiking, biking, and canyoneering. Inside is a gift shop, an Adventure Concierge desk, a full-service restaurant, and a café featuring packaged lunches for guests to take on their daytime adventures. Outside are hot and cold dipping pools, a yoga deck, firepits, and a sprawling patio, from which local musicians play acoustic sets under the stars most nights.
Who’s it for?
Adventurous couples and solo travelers looking to spend their days exploring nearby national parks and monuments and their nights dining on thoughtfully crafted meals under the stars. Dog owners who wouldn’t dream of leaving their four-legged companion behind. Under Canvas devotees looking for a few more creature comforts beyond a firepit and fast-casual food. Traveling groups aiming to book an outdoor-focused space for special occasions.
Ulum Moab is surrounded as far as the eye can see by protected land (from multiple national parks, monuments, and Bureau of Land Management parcels) 25 miles south of Moab, Utah. It’s set on its own 221 acres of SITLA (School and Institutional Trust Land Administration) land with juniper trees, rabbit brush, desert sage, pinyon pines, black-eyed susans, and tumbleweeds. Ulum pays rent to SITLA each month; the proceeds go directly to the public school system of Utah.
If you stand facing away from the main lodge patio and look left to right, you’ll first see Abajo Mountains and Elk Ridge, both part of Bear Ears National Monument, where there’s a high concentration of petroglyphs, pictographs, Indigenous dwellings, and pottery shards. Then, on the horizon line, where the topography is flat, is the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park—you can’t see the colorful spires of the park because it dips into a valley, but they’re about 50 miles away by car. On the right-hand side is Looking Glass Arch, the focal point around which the resort was designed, situated on Bureau of Land Management property a few minutes’ hike from the lodge. The main building is surrounded by 100-foot rust-colored cliffs on three sides, which form a natural amphitheater.
There are 50 suite-style tents on the property, all of which are 400 square feet and include a king-size bed, a bathroom with a rain shower and Aesop products, a seating area with West Elm sling-back chairs and coffee tables, and a private patio. They are equipped with both evaporative coolers and wood-burning stoves to help guests find their preferred temperature. For chillier nights, there are Pendleton blankets at the foot of the bed and the back of the couch (which turns into a sofa bed for families with children), and cobranded Ulum/Parachute robes hang by the bathroom door.
Most of the tents are angled toward Looking Glass, though a handful face the canyon wall.
The food and drink
Unlike other Under Canvas properties where guests order their meals from a counter and get a number to place on their table, Ulum’s restaurant offers a more traditional restaurant experience.
Breakfast options lean heartier, with options including a Breakfast Focaccia Sandwich topped with cage-free fried eggs, bacon, citrus marinated kale, and tomatillo mayo, with a side of fingerling potatoes or Honey Corn Cakes, accompanied by bison sausage gravy, eggs, green onion, and shaved gruyere. Because most guests opt to spend lunchtime off-property, there’s no designated lunch menu. However, there are plenty of grab-and-go dishes and snacks in the café, such as sandwiches, salads, hummus and vegetables, trail mix, fruit leather, and granola bars.
The dinner menu is filled with nourishing items that appealed to me after a long day of hiking. Stand-out dishes include the Salted Beets appetizer, which is served on a bed of avocado with cashews and pickled peppers, and the Bison Burger, topped with bacon, pimento cheese, pickled red onions, red wine barbecue sauce, and arugula. Where they can, Ulum chefs partner with local farm Easy Bees for their produce, which also appears as garnishes in the beverages on the cocktail and mocktail menus.
After sundown, the staff lays out the fixings for a complimentary s’mores station, including marshmallows, graham crackers, and a variety of chocolates.
Staff and service
The staff are helpful (quick to offer blankets if you’re sitting on the patio after dark) but unobtrusive. Should you need anything, they’re just a phone call or text message away.
Staff also lead on-site programming based on their own talents and passions, which range from yoga classes and watercolor painting sessions to jewelry-making classes and tea blending lessons. All classes are complimentary to guests.
Because Ulum is technically zoned as a campground (a designation with looser accessibility requirements), it’s not fully ADA-compliant. However, the main lodge and one tent (number 11) meet ADA requirements, with handicap accessible bathrooms and a lack of stairs.
Staff is also on hand to give guests golf cart rides anywhere on the property, which is helpful for guests whose rooms are up a hill.
Going above and beyond
Ulum strives to both maintain a light footprint and to help preserve the natural beauty that surrounds it. One of the ways the retreat does this is by providing Rivian Waypoints Level 2 chargers to allow guests with electric vehicles of any kind to charge their car overnight. Ulum also follows International Dark Sky principles with such practices as making sure solar-powered lights on walking paths are angled down and only turn on when a guest walks by to help protect the night sky (and, importantly, views of the Milky Way) from light pollution.