If there’s a sight that is lovelier than the warm glow of a wood-stove fire through the snow-dusted windows of a backcountry yurt, we’d be hard pressed to think of what that could possibly be. As Ullr finally awakens from his too-long snooze and graces our playgrounds with fresh dustings, we’re waxing our skis, repairing straps on our snowshoes, and plotting our winter weekend getaway wish lists. No surprise here, many of them are set in quiet backcountry yurts.
Planning for an overnighter in a remote backcountry yurt is no simple feat, and it requires quite a bit of gear in addition to seasoned knowledge—here’s your signal to seek local Avalanche 1 and WFFR course options! Most yurts are equipped with bare necessities like a wood stove, an outdoor toilet, and if you’re lucky, a cot or two. But for an overnight stay, plan to hike in plenty of fuel, a full winter sleeping setup, and perhaps even firewood and a satellite phone. Pro tip: befriend someone with a snow sled. Better yet, make your own investment! But when things start falling into place, and preparedness and backcountry know-how converge with a yurt trip, there’s little else that can upstage the magic that is rising in complete solitude with nothing but "enjoy" on the agenda.
Take a peek at our top 10 picks below, and for those that might not be prepared for a backcountry ski mission, we’ve included three excellent and less logistically challenging yurt stays.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.
Phoenix Ridge Yurt: As if the show-stopping views of the 13,000-foot La Garita Mountains weren’t enough, in wintertime, this yurt—situated in the San Juan Mountains near the southern border—is the perfect launching point for a 1,000-foot ski descent to the forest road below—skinning back up the road is simple, making this an excellent option for beginner backcountry skiers.
Geyser Pass Yurt: The short story: the La Sal Mountains are incredibly underrated as proven by this yurt situated at the heart of the range. Access includes Mount Mellenthin, which is privy to staggeringly beautiful views of Canyonlands and Arches national parks. As an added bonus, there are two bunk beds, and both bottom bunks can easily sleep two.
Fishhook Yurt: Sun Valley Trekking is a commercial outfitter that owns two cozy backcountry yurts—Fishhook being one of them. So, if you’re considering stepping into the world of wintertime backcountry overnighters and unwilling to let your eager friend be your sole guide, this is an excellent option, though you may also rent the yurt through them for an unguided trip. Plus, the terrain is very mellow and incredibly safe. Bonus views include Redfish Lake.
Pioneer Yurt: This is the other yurt owned and operated by Sun Valley Trekking. Situated deep in the Pioneer Mountains of central Idaho, you may either hire the outfitter to deliver you to the yurt via snow sled tow, or you can make the long skin hike in from the trailhead. Once there, the terrain offers a stunning variety of terrain from beginner to expert. Expect incredible views.
Williams Peak Hut: Whether you fancy a fully-guided trip or one that’s all your own, this one is choice. It is located just outside the Sawtooth Wilderness boundary near the summertime Alpine Way and Marshall Lake Trail. It’s so well-renowned that it’s typically booked a year in advance—so get planning!
Commissary Ridge Yurt: Beyond its incredible terrain and abundant snowfall, this yurt overlooks the western Tetons—all converging to earn its ranking as one of the top 10 yurts in the United States. Snow sleds are allowed in the area, so towing in gear is simple, but it’s important to keep an eye out for other snowmobilers while lapping runs.
Three Creek Lake + Tam McArthur Rim Yurts: As evidenced by the dreamy glowing header image of this blog post, this is a backcountry haven. It's a 6-mile snowmobile shuttle into the yurts, so bring your own snowmobile or arrange a pick-up through Three Sisters Backcountry for $40 round trip. But once you’re there you’ll find a propane-fired kitchen, a wood stove, a dining table, and bunks to house six. Huge bonus: There’s a wood-fired sauna for your sole use.
Wallowa Lake State Parks Yurts: Nestled into one of Oregon’s most pristine backcountry skiing playgrounds, these yurts are at the gateway to hundreds of miles of trails and even winter fishing on Wallowa Lake. This is an excellent low-barrier-to-entry option.
Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park Campground: This campground and the one that follows rarely get much snow, but the misty, incredibly lush foliage that engulfs the Oregon Coast in the wintertime is a downright lovely consolation. Plus, for seasoned surfers, wintertime swells can pose a delicious challenge.
William M. Tugman State Park Campground: Packed with year-round amenities, this is an excellent choice for surfers or those looking to spend the night in a yurt without having to hoof in pounds of fuel. Plus, it’s hard to beat the stunning sights of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area underneath a blanket of wintertime mist.