Who says outdoor adventure just has to be in the summer?
We get it, it’s winter, and you’re sick and tired of the usual cycle of skiing and snowboarding opportunities. While these are great chances to get outside, you are craving something MORE out of winter!
You want to live amongst the forest, sit by a cozy fire at night, and sip cocoa whenever you darn well please.
Well, we’re here to tell you that you can have all of that and more – it’s all found in the Idaho City backcountry yurts.
If you’ve never been yurt camping, this is the season to start, and we’re sharing every single detail of how you can get out there ASAP within this post.
We’re sharing what the yurts look like, what you should pack, what you can do in this area, and so much more.
Read on my fellow adventure lover!
The Ultimate Guide To Backcountry Yurt Camping In Idaho
First Of All, What Is A Yurt?
If yurt camping is a new concept for you, let us explain why it’s awesome!
A yurt is a semi-permanent structure that has roots in Central Asia. It’s a circular tent, with a dome-shaped roof. The walls are made of hardy canvas and other materials to keep out the cold.
Yurts today usually include a wood-burning stove, a bed, and a place to prepare meals at the very minimum. It’s like an upgrade from tent camping – like glamping! Click here to see another cozy getaway in a yurt in Idaho.
Yurt camping is a unique experience. They can be as easily accessible as driving right up to the entrance, or as difficult as backpacking miles through the snow. We’re sharing the latter in this post!
Step By Step: From Research To Relaxing
Find The Perfect Backcountry Yurt Location
Let’s get started on where you can find yurts in the Pacific Northwest.
For this post, we are going to be covering backcountry yurts in Idaho City during the winter season. However, there are some other popular locations for yurts in the Pacific Northwest:
- Yurts In Idaho
- Yurts In Oregon
- Yurts In Washington
- Idaho Yurts Facebook Page (community sharing yurts in Idaho)
- Yurts On Airbnb (Get $40 off your first booking here!)
Idaho City Backcountry Yurts
They are continually maintained by the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department as a way to fund and maintain the beautiful trails up in the Boise National Forest.
The most popular time to book these cozy escapes is in the winter. Read below to discover each yurt’s availability, and begin planning your trip!
Reserve Your Backcountry Yurt
Like stated above, The Idaho City Yurt System has a set of 6 yurts, open for year-round reservations.
Each one is in a unique location in the Boise National Forest, but all of them have similar characteristics and basic amenities available.
These are the 6 yurts in Idaho City you can reserve:
Price Per Night: $115/per night, up to 6 people. Additional cost for more guests.
You can browse dates and availability here, to start planning your own yurt camping adventure. Here’s an example of what the online reservation system looks like:
For this example, I put in an arbitrary date, but enter your own date and make sure to choose “Any Loop”, “Any Camping Spot” and choose how flexible your dates are.
We suggest being a little flexible so you can browse more calendar dates.
And here’s the yurt availability calendar (just make sure to put in your own specific dates):
It’s important to remember that yurts in Idaho are limited, and the reservation days fill up many weeks or months in advance!
We suggest planning your trip one season ahead (i.e. reserving a winter yurt rental in the fall) and secure the proper dates for your trip at that time.
“But Wait, What Does The Inside Of These Yurts Look Like?”
Good question! Like stated above, a yurt is a circular, semi-permanent structure. The walls are made of canvas and reinforced with wood to keep their frame. These details are apparent from the interior.
In all six of the Idaho City yurts, there are places to sleep, a wood-burning stove, a place to cook, and a place to eat. Below is a picture of the Skyline Yurt, where we stayed for three days.
This is what you can expect when yurt camping, with set up and arrangement, slightly varying for each yurt.
Planning For Your Yurt Camping Trip
The most successful backcountry yurt camping trips require proper planning. Here are some things to consider when staying in an Idaho backcountry yurt.
Make A Plan For Your Car
Do you know which parking lot to leave your car? Do you have the proper parking permits?
A Park N’ Ski Pass is required to leave your car at the trailhead. For a three-day trip, the pass cost $7.50. Click here to buy and print at home for your specific dates.
Check The Forecast Before Your Trip
Plan for the weather. Bring proper snow gear, and be prepared for an emergency.
There is a low risk of avalanche in this area, but know what to do in the event of an avalanche anyway.
Download Hiking Maps and Trail Guides
Click here to download the Idaho City yurts and ski trails map. You will also get one upon receiving your yurt rental confirmation.
The Idaho City Parks and Recreation department also created free downloadable offline maps through the app Avenza. Your first three downloads are free, and you will be able to see the trails via your smartphone offline and on the trail! (Map example below)
Packing For Your First Yurt Camping Trip
First of all, you should know that all Idaho City Yurts are stocked with the basic essentials.
This means they all include a wood-fire stove, beds with mattresses, a propane stove, benches, tables, foldable chairs, solar lights, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and fire starters.
The yurts even have a plastic bin where visitors can leave non-perishable food for the next guests if they choose not to bring it back down.
So, What Are You Responsible For Bringing Yurt Camping?
You are responsible for bringing enough propane, your own food, bedding, and clothes.
Read below for a more detailed list of exactly what we brought on our backcountry yurt camping trip, or download our printable PDF below to use as a checklist!
Yurt Camping Packing List
- Sleeping bag
- Backpacking backpack
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Matches and/or lighter
- Trail snacks
- Water bottle
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Wool blend socks
- Breathable windproof/waterproof jacket with hood
- Sandals or “camp shoes”
- Sunglasses (necessary for bright sunny days)
- Lip balm and Sunscreen
- Any medications you may need
Coming in the winter? Backcountry yurt camping in winter requires specific gear to keep you safe, dry, and warm. Consider these additions when packing for your trip:
Winter-Specific Yurt Camping Additions
- Down sleeping bag good for negative temperatures
- Set of ski poles
- Insulated Nordic Skiing boots or similar insulated snow boots
- Synthetic long underwear
- Polar fleece mittens (waterproof is best)
- Long sleeve wool/synthetic layers
- Waterproof Ski/Snow Pants
- Pair of down booties
- Wool Hat
- Knee-high Snow Gaiters
- Avalanche shovel
- Plastic tarp for emergency shelter
Yurt Camping First-Aid Must-Haves
- First-aid tape
- Ace bandage
- Chemical heat pack
- Anti-acid tablets
- Ibuprofen tablets
- Latex gloves
- Nail clipper/scissors
- Small mirror
Emergency Kit Must-Haves
- Swiss-army knife or multi-tool knife
- Duct tape
- Extra set of batteries for a flashlight
- Safety pins
- Waterproof container for matches
Hiking Into Your Backcountry Yurt
Now that you’ve packed for your stay in a yurt, it’s time to start your adventure!
Below, you’ll find tips on how to reach your destination, and what to expect on the Boise National Forest backcountry trails.
Before You Leave:
Know which Idaho Park ‘N Ski lot to leave your car. Each yurt has a specific parking lot to use, and you’ll receive that information along with your yurt reservation details via email.
Stop by the Forest Service office to confirm the route. The Idaho Parks and Recreation Office is on the way up to Idaho City from Boise, and they are more than happy to answer any questions or clarify any details for you.
Keep a shovel in your car. The groomer may come and block your car in with snow, and a shovel will be helpful to dig it out upon your return.
Don’t leave any valuables in your car. Carry them with you, or leave them at home!
The Idaho City Ski and Snowshoe Trails
The Idaho City Ski and Snowshoe trails provide over 60 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails, ranging from moderate to challenging.
There are two trail options when hiking up to the Skyline Yurt. On the ascent we took the Summit Trail, and on the descent we took the Skyline Trail. Both trails provide their own unique views and experience.
Click here for a more detailed description of the trails around the Gold Fork Parking Lot.
The Summit Trail provides incredible views of the surrounding mountains on a clear day. The total trip length from the Gold Fork Parking Lot to the Skyline yurt via the Summit Trail is 2.5 miles.
The Skyline Trail winds you through the forest with lots of curves and bends. This trail is often groomed, and the trip includes a very gradual elevation change. The total trip length from the Skyline Yurt to the Gold Fork Parking Lot via the Skyline Trail is 2 miles.
You’ll notice that this area has a lot of bare trees. The Pioneer Fire of 2016 swept through this area, destroying around 190,000 acres of surrounding forest.
While this was an unfortunate part of the Idaho City history, the bare trees allowed us to see farther across the horizon and created an unusually beautiful scene on this Idaho winter hike.
Settling Into Your Yurt Cabin
Congratulations! You successfully made it to your Idaho backcountry yurt. Here’s what you can expect to find when arriving for the first time.
The Exterior Of The Yurt
Below the deck, you’ll find the wood storage. Behind the yurt is a picnic table (which we did not use because…cold) and just a little farther is the outhouse.
The outhouse does not have a door, but it faces the mountains away from the yurt view. Make sure to announce to your group when you go, so you don’t have any surprise visitors while doing your business. Enjoy the view!
The Interior Of The Yurt
Inside the yurt, you’ll find enough sleeping space for up to 6 guests (two bunk beds, and the futon folds down into a bed). There are foldable chairs, a communal table, hangers to dry your clothes, and some towels.
There is a server cabinet, fully stocked with dishes, pots, pans, and other kitchen accessories. All the Idaho City yurts are also stocked with paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and fire starters.
A propane stove is provided as well, but you must remember to bring your own propane!
Easy Yurt Camping Hacks
1. Melt And Boil Snow For Water
Keep two pots above the stove – one for retrieving snow, and one for melting snow.
Combine the two pots for quick melting and make sure to boil water on the stove for 10 minutes before drinking!
Going in the summer? You’ll have to carry up enough water for your time at the yurt!
2. Make A Hearty Fire Right Before Bed
It’s likely that the fire will die down in the middle of the night, leaving you waking up cold!
You can combat this in two ways. 1.) Make a VERY toasty fire in the evening, and then set it on low to burn slowly throughout the night. 2.) Sleep with a down layer on, and wear a wool cap to bed to preserve your body heat.
Stock up on wood inside the yurt so you don’t have to go outside and retrieve more from below the deck at night.
3. Turn The Lights Off During The Day / Preserve Energy
Make sure to turn off the solar lights in the morning to let the system replenish its power stores. Use the lights only when necessary so that you have enough energy to last the evening.
Used up all the energy? No worries, we did that one night too. Just make sure to pack headlamps so you can continue your evening games!
4. Shovel Off The Deck Upon Arrival And After A Snowfall
To prevent ice forming on the deck, make a point to shovel the deck after each snowfall, and upon arrival.
This will help keep the snow piles to a manageable level and allow you to have full access around the yurt.
Activities To Do Around The Yurt
When backcountry yurt camping, there is no wifi and no cell service. So what are you to do?
Keep scrolling to read some of our favorite backcountry yurt activities:
1. Sledding and Playing In The Snow
If your yurt is located on a hillside, lucky you! Bring a lightweight disc sled and create a designated hill for sledding.
Note* Sledding on shovels was probably not the best idea, and we don’t encourage this activity. We didn’t bring sleds, but we highly recommend that YOU do!
2. Playing Games
50% of our time at the Skyline Yurt included getting cozy, sipping cocoa, and playing games. There are literally endless options for camping games, so choose games based on your group dynamic and get ready for some fun!
Lightweight games to pack for a camping trip:
- Decks of Cards (endless options for games!)
- Exploding Kittens
3. Relaxing In The Yurt
The falling snow, crackling fire, and cozy drinks can make these Idaho backcountry yurts a hard place to leave.
Make the most of your time here and settle in with a good book, take a long nap, or sit by the warm fire and visit with friends!
4. Shooting The Stars
Deep in the backcountry of Idaho, on a clear night, the stars are extremely visible! We took some time playing with long exposures to capture the stars.
Pro Tip: If you are interested in capturing images like the one below, set your camera’s settings on a low aperture. (This one was taken with a 16-35mm lens, at f2.8 and ISO 800)
Make sure to pack a lightweight tripod to give your images more stabilization as well.
Read More: Our Complete Travel Photography Gear List
Yurt Cleanup Best Practices
The Idaho City Yurt Program is an incredibly unique feature of the Southwest Idaho area. The caretakers of these yurts spend many hours and funds to maintain these spaces to keep them available for us to enjoy year round!
As a guest of the yurt, it’s common courtesy to prepare them and create a clean space for the next visitors to enjoy. Here are tasks that you should expect to do when the time at your yurt comes to an end:
1. Wash Any Dishes
Use the three bucket method (Soap > Rinse > Sanitize) to wash any dishes included in the yurt rental. Make sure to put them away only when they are completely dry.
Be mindful to dump the used dishwater into the grey water disposal drain, located on the outside of the yurt. Don’t dump it out just anywhere on the yurt’s exterior, as the snow surrounding the yurt is collected for drinking water in the winter.
2. Pack Out Your Trash
All trash, including empty propane bottles and recycling, should be packed out with you. Garbage bags are provided in the yurt.
3. Sweep The Floors
Take extra care to sweep under bunks and around the wood stove. Shake out the mats and replace them inside.
4. Replenish Wood Supply
Fill the wood supply inside the yurt, so that the next visitors can start a fire ASAP.
There should be a handy firewood carrier stored on the wall inside the yurt. Use that to carry large loads at once and prevent splinters!
5. Leave Shovels Outside On Hooks
In case of heavy snowfall, it’s important to leave the shovels OUTSIDE, so that visitors can dig out the yurt door if necessary.
There are designated hooks on the outside of the yurt to hang the shovels.
6. Resupply Toilet Paper
Make sure there is a fresh roll of toilet paper outside for the next guests. That way there are no surprises!
And There You Have It!
We had such an incredible time staying in a yurt during winter that we want to make it an annual tradition! We hope that this post can provide you with all the information necessary so that you can have as much fun as we did!
Remember, this is all our land to care for and steward, and we are honored to have you protect it alongside us!
Or A Montana Detour…seeing Kootenai Falls and the Kootenai Falls Suspension Bridge!
Have you ever gone backcountry yurt camping? What was your experience like? Share with others in the comments below!
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