‘Glamping’ in Seward: An outdoor adventure, with a twist

SPONSORED: No camping experience is needed to stay cozy at Seward’s new Howling Wolf Glamour Campground.

Presented by Seward Hospitality Group

There’s no one way to visit Seward. Travelers to the idyllic Kenai Peninsula community can choose from a variety of hotels and campsites alongside Prince William Sound’s western shores, which boast face-to-face access to massive glaciers, dense forests and stunning wildlife viewing opportunities.

This summer, visitors who don’t want to choose between the comfort of a hotel and the rugged adventure of a tent have a new place to stay. Howling Wolf Glamour Campground is the latest from Seward Hospitality Group, a locally owned company that operates Alaska Adventure Park, Puffin Fishing Charters, and several hotels and popular restaurants in the community.

Howling Wolf is an experience in glamorous camping, known as “glamping,” which has become an increasingly popular way to travel.

Carissa DeLeone, area general manager of hotels for Seward Hospitality Group, loves to camp. Like many residents, easy access to the outdoors is one reason she’s made the Kenai Peninsula her home.

What makes the Howling Wolf property so special is that visitors don’t need to have any camping experience, or even know how to build a campfire, she said — all they have to do is show up and enjoy the surrounding 34-acre property and riverside.

Glamping is growing in popularity, so what is it?

Palmer residents Claire Griffith and Jo Terwilliger stayed at one of Howling Wolf’s glamping cottages on a recent weekend with a group of friends. The cottage, located near the Resurrection River and surrounded by mountains, was private and cozy, they said.

“The location is spectacular,” Griffith said. “Our cottage backed onto the creek, and we could hear it babbling away. It was truly a wonderful sound to relax and fall asleep to.”

Glamping is an alternative way to travel that combines elements of camping with comfortable amenities. It is growing in popularity across the world as travelers seek out relaxing wilderness escapes, eco-tourism and active lifestyles, according to an industry report.

“If you are someone that enjoys comfort but still being outdoors, and hearing the creek run right by your bed, you would love this. It was heaven camping while having a warm bed to curl up in,” Terwilliger said.

People are also increasingly choosing to book “staycations,” traveling to destinations that are close-to-home. Locals are seeking to experience their communities in new ways, including glamping.

Howling Wolf’s glamping cottages were custom-built by Seattle-based company Rainier Outdoors. They are made for up to four people to enjoy.

“You walk into a canvas tent with beautiful log furniture, queen bed, large table with two benches and what looked to be a queen size futon. Each bed had quilted comforters on them. It was quite cozy,” Terwilliger said.

Cottages have electric lighting and a space heater, just in case, and a porch with wooden rocking chairs. Each site has an outdoor area with a fire pit and quick access to a nearby bathhouse with showers.

On Griffith and Terwilliger’s first night at Howling Wolf, it rained. So, the group of friends stayed up late talking and playing games.

“The sound of the river along with the patter of rain on the canvas was serene and added a special ambience to the trip,” Griffith said.

The next morning the group took in the scenery. “On opening the curtains there was a lower fog layer on the mountain, it was absolutely stunning, a perfect view to sit on the covered porch in the rockers and drink a morning cup of coffee,” Griffith said.

Howling Wolf has 20 cottages available for rent and plans to open 20 more in coming seasons. The campground also offers parking for RVs with and without hookups. Or, travelers can book nightly RVs rentals, giving families and groups up to 10 people a chance to explore nearby the national park and campgrounds in comfort.

Staff is always available for round-the-clock help and ideas for local activities. “We can give you 15 different ideas of things to do,” DeLeone said, including nearby hikes and fishing holes.

A new brew pub breaks ground

Howling Wolf is the newest addition to the Seward Hospitality Group family of businesses, but it won’t be the last.

Sean Ritz is a marketing specialist with Seward Hospitality Group. He said the campground is one part of an all-inclusive experience for Alaskans and out-of-state travelers alike who are looking to get a taste of all Seward has to offer, from fishing charters to incredible views along the Resurrection River — even if guests don’t want to leave the property.

“We want people to come and be well-rested, with amenities right in their backyard,” said Ritz.

CEO Elliot Jackson has spent the last several years adding on to the group’s property, which houses the aerial park out front and extends back to the campground and river. Jackson has worked in the service and hospitality industry since he was a teenager, starting with his family at Taco Dan’s at the Alaska State Fair. Since 2007, Seward Hospitality Group has purchased several local restaurants and accommodations in the town.

Now, he’s bringing new ideas to Seward and building his businesses. He said the possibilities feel endless.

“The more I dive in, the more ideas I have,” Jackson said. His goal is to build out an entire experience visitors can package together, rain or shine, to fill a whole weekend.

Next summer, he plans to open Howling Wolf Brew Pub on the property. The brew pub will have a restaurant, bar with a full liquor license and brewery. Laundry facilities, a game room with additional bar and a gift shop are also planned. Depending on business, the brew pub may stay open in the winter, he said, creating a year-round spot for locals to gather.

‘Just what this soul needed’

Seward draws thousands of tourists to the shores of Resurrection Bay every year. The majority come from out of state, trickling in by sky, sea and railway.

But the city brings in its fair share of Alaska visitors, too. Jackson, who was born and raised in Anchorage, said the newly-opened aerial activity park was created with Alaska visitors in mind.

Aerial Park Manager Morgan Shepard said the park has been gaining traction with locals, with roughly 60% of visitors arriving from Anchorage.

While in Seward, Griffith and Terwilliger planned a fishing trip, but it was canceled due to stormy weather. Instead, they toured around town, learning its history, drinking and eating, visiting the library and museum, and taking a historical walking tour.

“Seward is a perfect fishing town with good food and cute shops,” Terwilliger said.

On their second night at Howling Wolf, the rain stopped. So, the group of friends “sat around the fire, roasted s’mores, drinking wine and listening to the creek,” Terwilliger said. “It was an absolutely perfect setting for catching up, laughing and enjoying the beauty of Seward.”

They rounded out their weekend with a Sunday hike and visit to Alaska Adventure Park where they threw axes and drove in side-by-sides.

“It was an absolute blast,” Griffith said.

DeLeone, who works and plays in Seward, is a big fan of the aerial park. She suggested packaging a trip to the park with a stay at the campground or an excursion in Resurrection Bay.

Howling Wolf Glamour Campground and surrounding property have something for everyone, she said.

“The main objective is to get people to have a good time in a more freeing space,” DeLeone said. “You have a yard, a firepit — a space like home that just happens to be nestled on the side of the river.”

For Terwilliger, the weekend spent glamping offered a reprieve from life’s hectic pace.

“The scenery is so peaceful and beautiful … Slowing down and enjoying nature is just what this soul needed,” Terwilliger said.

Seward Hospitality Group’s mission is to offer a welcoming environment for those seeking to explore the beauty of Alaska, while treating employees, guests, and friends like family.

This article was produced by the sponsored content department of Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with Seward Hospitality Group. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.