Everyone meet Becca! She's hear to tell us about Yurts, camping in the winter and cross country skiing with kids!
When I tell people that we are going on a yurt trip, I usually get the response, “What’s a yurt?” Then I excitedly tell them, a yurt is like a tent-cabin hybrid and also the key to back-country awesomeness. Yurts actually originate from Mongolia and surrounding countries and are used by nomads. Luckily we do not have to travel quite so far to enjoy the comforts of these round back-country forts.
The Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance or B.R.O.R.A maintains 5 yurts in the Uinta Mountains. All five must be hiked or skied into at varying distances. This is a winter adventure that is definitely doable with kids, no snow caving or freezing involved! As an added bonus, if you don’t want to carry everything in on your back, you can pull it on a sled behind you. We first took our kids when they were 8, 6, and 1.
This year we decided our two older kids would enjoy skiing into the yurt, in past years we have just walked in, or pulled our kids behind us on a sled. The trails are groomed and well packed down so usually walking in is just fine. We rented the kids cross country skis from the purple sage golf course in Evanston, Wyoming. Their prices are awesome-just 7 dollars for a kids rental package for 24 hours. It is close to the yurt, with pretty good access of of 1-80, which made picking up and dropping off the skies easy.
After a quick stint in Wyoming the road to the trail head takes you back into Utah. The kids think it is awesome to visit a different state, if only for a few minutes. At the trail head parking lot there is a self pay envelope for your parking fee. It is six dollars for 3 days. After stopping at the pay booth and finding a parking spot, we were ready for our magical adventure to begin. If winter in gray and inversion prone areas of Utah makes you groan, I promise you will find a new love for winter if you try out this adventure-or make your way to the mountains somehow to enjoy the fresh air and magical views.
We were all carrying our clothes on our backs, except our four year old, who filled her backpack with My Little Ponies. My husband loaded up his sled with our huge duffel bag full of sleeping bags, food and a few other necessary supplies; like toilet paper. There are special sleds for this kind of thing, but we just load up our plastic sledding sleds and jimmy a harness like belt thing to put around our waists. I pulled a sled also, in case the resident four year old got tired of walking, which happened about 4 minutes out of the parking lot.
It didn’t take very long for our kids to get the hang of Nordic skiing and we were so glad that we were all skiing in this time.
About a ¼ mile from the trail head is a fairly steep hill down to a bridge that crosses the Bear River. We took our skis off and walked down, hoping to avoid crazy accidents. The Sage Draw trail is well marked and includes a few hills, but nothing too steep or hard for the kids. Eventually after at least an hour, we found the Bear Claw Yurt, tucked up in the trees and were happy to go inside because it was getting dark and snowing.
My husband got the fire going in the wood stove, the kids claimed their bunks, we hung up all the snow things and settled in for the night. Although the yurts are equipped with pots and pans and dishes, we have been slightly wary of how clean they actually are, so we pack in our own dishes (paper bowl and cups) and usually prepare food ahead a time or bring things that only require boiled water, like cup of soup and oatmeal. There is a camp stove there with two burners so no need to pack in a stove. There are also two propane lanterns and plenty of firewood.
After eating dinner, we got the lanterns lit, popped popcorn and played some card games until bed time. It felt like bedtime at about 7 pm. Our kids hung up a blanket above a top bunk for a changing room that also make for a great shadow puppet show.
Life is great at the yurt and all is well until nature calls and a visit to the outhouse is necessary! That is probably all I need to say about that! The phrase freezing your buns off will take on a whole new meaning.
Sleeping is maybe the one not so magical part of our trip this time. There was quite a storm that night and the wind was loud blowing up against the side of the tent. Our fire was a little too cozy and the yurt reached tropical temperatures inside. Sleeping bags we unnecessary until the wee hours, when the fire died down. I’d rather be hot than cold though, and it is so amazing to have a warm place to sleep out in the mountain wilderness.
With the morning came sunny skies and accusations of who snores the loudest. These of course were met with even louder denials. We stayed in our sleeping bags and let our 12 year old boy scout start up the fire. My husband and I snuck away for a quick ski through the fresh snow after breakfast. Breathing in the fresh air and and taking in the winter beauty was so refreshing for the soul.
The kids did a lot of playing and a little sledding, after lunch it was time to pack up and clean up. It is important to take care of the yurts and leave them cleaner than you found them. Also you get to do some old school chores like, chopping wood from the pile outside to bring in, to replace what you burned, and scooping your ashes out of the fire. Our kids love to help with these chores also. Chopping wood is way more exciting than cleaning your room.
As I wiped down the table and the benches and swept up the floor I was feeling sad, I’m not sure that one night is enough. I wasn’t ready to leave the sanctuary of this place, its beauty, and the simple life without distraction that it provided us.
After packing everything back up and loading up the trash that we could not burn, we headed back out on the trail toward the car. The ski out was great, way faster and more fun than walking. Our kids really enjoyed it, especially the 4 year old princess being pulled on the sled.
Back at the car everyone was tired but happy. For some reason it has become tradition to visit the Evanston McDonald's on our way home. For me it is mostly to use the real bathrooms with running water. The kids like to play a little at the play place and maybe eat some fries. Then it is home to a hot shower and a greater appreciation of running water!
The memories that we have made on these trips are unforgettable. Our four year old kept telling us she was going to take her kids to the yurt too. These are an amazing resource! So if you want a great winter adventure, check them out.
Important tips, details and links
This is the website for the yurts. All the important info it there, the number to make reservations, and gps points for each yurt and directions. The yurts are about 75$ a night and can sleep up to 8 people. Check in time is 2:30 check out is 2:00. A permit is required also, but filling out the paperwork beforehand and emailing it in will save you a stop before your trip.
This is the link to where we renting cross country equipment. Universities usually rent this also, as well as REI and other sports equipment stores.
Make sure you pack
- lots of water, if you run out you can always boil snow
- trash bags, you have to bring home your own garbage-you can burn all of your paper and food waste
- clorox wipes and wet wipes
- hand sanitizer
- paper towel and toilet paper
- sleeping bags
- card games or books
Looks like an incredible trip for the family. Also I'm going to point people to this page when they ask how Yurts hold up in the snow lol.