Update, April 2021: After a year of COVID “stay at home” time, so many families are ready for a change of scenery, yet still mindful of the need to be careful and keep a distance from others. Many outdoor pursuits have seen a resurgence during the pandemic, and camping is one of them. Here’s a slight variation: camping in a yurt.
Yurts 101: The Camping Experience
These domed, nomadic structures have been used as dwellings for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The earliest written record of yurts was in the mid-400s B.C., by Herodotus.
Today’s yurts are round structures that are usually made with a latticed frame of wood or other durable material (such as galvanized steel or high-strength aluminum). Weatherproofed canvas or fabric covers the frame, and is strapped to it and the structure’s floor/foundation to insulate and secure the yurt. Many yurts have a skylight at the center of the ceiling, letting in lots of natural light. Yurts can be fitted with real windows and doors for added light and greater security.
In the Pacific Northwest, yurts have become popular shelters for camping. The materials offer more insulation from the weather than the average off-the-shelf tent, and they are less expensive to rent than a cabin or RV. Yurts are almost always furnished with bunk beds and/or futon beds to sleep multiple guests, and they sometimes have a table and chairs as well. Many yurts also have electricity, but this isn’t always the case.
Campgrounds with yurts often fit the structure with additional exterior features such as a deck or porch covering, making it feel more like a nomadic dwelling and allowing for elements like a ramp to make it ADA-accessible. Campsites are almost always supplied with a picnic table and grill or fire-pit for cooking, since fires are not normally safe within the yurt.
In addition to the state parks and campgrounds that have yurts for overnight rental, some private individuals and families have invested in yurts that they make available for rent on VRBO or AirBNB. Some of these yurts have even more special features, including running water and a bathroom with a shower, appliances, TV and entertainment systems, and even hot tubs.
Perks of Camping in a Yurt vs. Tent/RV/Cabin
There are several perks to camping in a yurt compared with tent camping or renting a motor home, trailer, or even a cabin.
The cost for a family of four to rent an RV for a couple of nights is easily upwards of $1,000, and cabins are also commonly priced around $100 per night. In comparison, yurts are typically only $50 or less per night. Also, RV rentals often require a multiday lease and cannot be rented for just one or two nights, so a yurt is a more ideal camping solution for short weekend trips.
A yurt camping experience offers far less stress and hassle than tent camping. Your preparation for a yurt camping trip requires about the same materials and supplies as a normal tent-camping trip, except that you can leave your tent and air mattresses at home. Pack your linens, food, cooking equipment and utensils, and camping accessories (flashlight/lantern, first aid kit, Swiss Army knife, etc.). But once you arrive, the yurt is already waiting for you — no need for any setup at your yurt campsite. Although you’ll be sleeping on a futon or bunk bed mattress, it’s far more comfortable than the hard ground of your tent floor.
While tent camping is certainly the method that gets you closest to nature, spending the night in a yurt is only slightly more removed from the sounds, smells and experience of the great outdoors. A yurt’s insulating materials keep the warmth inside more effectively than a tent at night, while being lightweight enough to make you feel like you’re out in the wild. The central skylight that most yurts have in the middle of the dome of the ceiling also allow sunlight and moonlight to illuminate the room naturally.
Originally published June 2016
Pacific NW Yurt Camping Destinations
The unique experience of yurt camping certainly offers some advantages for families that want to get out and enjoy nature, without the cost of renting an RV or the hassle of setup/tear-down of tent camping. In the Pacific Northwest, there are several amazing yurt camping destinations to highlight.
Yurt rentals are available at Cape Disappointment, Grayland Beach, Kanasket-Palmer, Pacific Beach, Paradise Point, Seaquest and Twin Harbors. Details: “These circular, domed tents are made of extra-heavy, durable canvas and have spacious interiors with skylights, screened windows, hardwood floors and locking doors. Traditionally, yurts served as strong shelters for nomadic people in Asia. Yurts sleep up to six people.” Details and reservations here.
With walking trails, sandy beaches, wildlife viewing areas, and second-growth forests, Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park offers almost endless fun in outdoor activities. The campground has two yurts (as well as walk-in tent sites and full-hookup sites), which can be reserved for overnight camping year round. Enjoy whale watching, beach combing, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and more. Cost: $46 per night.
One of the most beautiful natural attractions of Oregon State is Crescent Lake. Set on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains, the lake has a beautiful resort and campground. The campground at Crescent Lake has plenty of opportunities for hiking and boating during the spring and summer, and is located near a ski area for winter sports. The campground offers three yurts, which are available to rent year-round. The yurts are furnished to sleep five guests, and have wood stoves for heating during the winter. Cost: $30 – $40 per night.
Nestled in the Boise National Forest about 75 miles north of Boise, Lake Cascade State Park is a beautiful place to enjoy outdoor activities and yurt camping. The campground’s three yurts can accommodate 7-12 guests each, for fun group or multi-family camping. Each yurt has a wood stove to keep guests warm during the winter, as the yurts can be rented year round. You can bring less with you when you camp in these yurts, since they are equipped with a Coleman cook stove. Fishing, hiking, swimming, boating, windsurfing, and cycling are the popular activities to enjoy at Lake Cascade State Park. Cost: $175 – $193 per night.