What is a Yurt Anyway?
It sounds like a hip new kind of on-the-go yogurt for kids. Or maybe something you do after you eat too many Girl Scout cookies. But yurt is not just a funny word. (For the purposes of this article, by the way, it’s both a funny noun and a funny verb: One goes yurting in a yurt.)
Originally functioning as a kind of mobile home for nomadic people who were doing their thing in the steppes of Central Asia, yurts today are basically just big round tents set on large wooden platforms, halfway between a cabin and a tent, that sleep several people. (Hopefully these people are friends, because you’ll probably be on bunk beds.) There’s usually a latticework wall structure that’s covered with canvas or another synthetic material, and a tension band around the top of the wall that supports the cone-shaped roof.
But the fine points of the construction really don’t matter so much because in Utah, most… let’s call them yurters… aren’t going to be setting up their own rig. Yurting is more a destination kind of thing, already set up and ready to rent, whether you prefer a bare-bones nomad setup to the outdoor version of the high-roller suite at a Vegas hotel.
A basic yurt is going to have bunk beds with mattresses (definitely bring your own sleeping bags), tables, chairs, some kind of cooking setup (wood-burning or gas stoves) and utensils. After that you’ve got yurts with solar-powered lighting, porches, wood-fired saunas, and get this: some even have a second level inside. (Hello to you Genghis Khan pretenders, shouting commands at family and friends from your yurt balcony!)
Be Alert When Booking a Yurt.
Most yurts are reserved through recreation.gov or stateparks.utah.gov and some you can actually find on Airbnb. (Those bookings tend to be more on the “glamping” end of the spectrum.) You’ll also need to get on it now if you want to yurt as some get booked up a year in advance.
Everybody Yurts, Sometimes.
Who should try yurting? Just about everyone. It’s a great format for a group of like-minded friends or a family — who may or may not be like-minded, but so what, they’re your family. It’s also a good setup for families with a few kids since you don’t have to get distracted by setting up and tearing down a campsite, thus leaving you vulnerable to fights breaking out while you’re not watching. Also pets aren’t always welcome so be sure and check that out ahead of time.
What Kind of Yurting Can Yurters Do in Utah Yurts?
First, keep in mind that a yurt can be used for different purposes. It can serve as a kind of base camp for a lot of winter or summer activities like backcountry skiing, showshoeing, cross-country skiing, fishing, etc. Some are accessible from park roads or up a short hike from a parking lot. But then there are yurts that are sort of destination yurts, so to speak, where the trip to the yurt is part of the experience. (Ok, we might be using the word too much now). So figure out what seasonal activities you want to do and plan from there. One thing you don’t usually have to worry about though is being cold. Yurts get real warm. That’s why the Mongolians designed them that way.
Show Me Where (and When) it Yurts.
Depends what you want to do. There’s winter and summer stuff to do and the booking windows reflect that. For example, the seasons for the Grizzly Ridge Yurt at Ashley National Forest are December 1 – March 31 and June 1 – October 31.
If you’re looking for the safety and security of local government administration, all the state parks have yurts available in seasons. You can book at Dead Horse Point State Park, East Canyon State Park, Goblin Valley State Park, and Rockport State Park on the State Parks website here.
The super-deluxe winter yurt experience would have to be the The Yurt at Solitude, where you take a guided snowshoe trip out about a mile into the woods that ends with a high-end four-course dinner cooked on-site in an ultra-cozy yurt. (Yes, that many hyphens.) It’s about $135 a person though so some might consider this one-percenter yurting.)
If you want to Yurt in the Uintas, the Castle Peak Yurt is your main option. Do you want long, beautiful views? Well, they all kinda have this but the Escalante Yurts offer a pensive daytime panorama and Escalante’s trademark heart-expanding skies at night. Want to do some real fishing? See the Grizzly Ridge link above, but here it is again.
If you’re down for the swankiest yurts available and looking to learn more about upper-crusty camping, glamping.com is a great place to earn the derision of smelly outdoor purists.
Know Yurt Audience.
Yurting comes with its own culture, its own tips and etiquette. We recommend you call bottom bunk, for instance. (They can get hot, even in the winter.) Also, even though you’re paying for it, remember that it’s not a hotel room. So you gotta clean up after yourself. Shovel out the ashes from the stove. Tidy up. Take out your trash, etc. You can find more advice here.
Look, we’ve said the word “yurt” here about 39 times in this article (well, now 40) because it’s extremely fun to say. But don’t let our cavalier use of the word fool you: Yurts are a seriously good time. It may seem silly to go on and on about a funny-shaped tent/house hybrid, but there’s something magical in there. Check out the links above or talk to your yurtin’ hippie friends because sometimes, in Utah, word of mouth is the best way to find that secret hidden golden yurt that only a handful of people know about. Good yurtin’ with you. (Ok, that’s enough.)