Most yurts are found on the Tundras of Mongolia. However, a few Yurts have made there way to the Uintas to provide winter skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers with a unique winter camping experience. For the past 3 years I have celebrated the New Year in the Ridge Yurt near Lilly Lake. While I don’t recommend going on New Years -because I’ll be there- the yurts are definately worth visiting for any snow shoer or cross country skier looking for an adventure.
For those of you who just want the basics, here is the Skinny:
The Lilly Lake Yurt Systems is made up of 6 different Yurts
Where: The Yurts are located 30 miles from Evanston Wyoming. In Evanston take Highway 150 to the end of the rate (gate closed in winter)
Distance: Closest Yurt is 1.5 miles up the trail the farthest is 7 miles
Fees: Yurts can be reserved overnight for $30 on weekdays and $60 on holidays and weekends.
For more Yurt information: http://www.yurtsofutah.com/yurt-pdf-files/LilyLakeSystem.pdf
What is so Great about the Yurts?
All the yurts are located in beautifully pristine pine forest and offer breath taking landscapes and quiet solitude for you and your party. Side trails abound for day trips on snow shoes, cross country skis or snowmobiles. Plenty of snow also allows for snow scultping, snow caving, snow ball fights and just about any other activity you can think of that involves snow.
On a clear night many stars and constellations not visible in civilization are bright and inspiring, and the warm fire offers a rustic comfort enjoyed throughout the ages. Perhaps the greatest thing about the yurts are the relief they offer from a busy world, you can leave all your troubles at the parking lot and truly go into the wild, for a guaranteed great adventure in a very simple environment.
What are the Yurt’s like inside?
Most of the yurts sleep 6-8 people on bunks and have a table, chairs, propane stove & lanterns and most importantly a wood burning stove. I say most importantly a wood burning stove because this is the primary source of heat in the yurt. While it may be frigid outside, the wood burning stove keeps the yurt toasty warm on the inside. Temperatures can range at the yurts anywhere from 20-30s in the day to below 0 at night. This year was my coldest year at the year, it hit -24 at midnight on New Years Eve.
The yurts are typically stocked with pots, pans and kettles for all of your cooking needs. Firewood is also stocked just outside the Yurt, however it may require some splitting, which is a good way to warm up in the cold.
All the yurts offer great views of the surrounding landscape and great day adventures forsnow shoeing, cross country skiing and snowmobiling. Each yurt is isolated from the next by a mile or more offering quiet solitude for you and your party. While staying at the yurt is fun, getting there is half the fun.
Getting to the Yurt
The yurts are located in the Lilly Lake area at the end of highway 150. From Evanston, WY take highway 150 for about 30 miles until you come to where the road is closed for winter, on the left is a parking lot where you can park your vehicle (A small fee is required to park here).
From the parking lot a trail is marked and groomed for snowshoers and skiers to begin their journey. This part of the trail is well groomed and also offers day skiers a good course for cross country skiing. This trail is just over two miles and is not open to snowmobiles. Both the East Fork Yurt(1.5 miles) and the Bear Claw Yurt(2 miles) are on this trail and therefore are only accessible by snow shoe or cross country ski.
At just over two miles the trail connects with the Lilly Lake trail which is open to snowmobiles. This trail is only groomed about once every 2 weeks, but is heavily used by snowmobilers. The trail winds through pine forests and open meadows.
About 1 mile up this trail is the Lilly Lake Yurt, which is about 1/4 mile from Lilly Lake itself. Lilly Lake is covered by snow in the winter.
The Ridge yurt is located just over 2 miles from Lilly Lake, on top of a ridge of course. Total distance from the parking lot to this Yurt is about 5 miles. Much of the trail is flat to a slight incline, except for a monster hill at the end to get to the top of the ridge. Depending on the condition of the trail, and the strength left in your legs, you may want to take off your skis and walk up this hill.
Two miles beyond the Ridge yurt is the Boundary yurt. It is located in an area that is not open to motorized vehicles so snowshoeing or skiing is your only way in. From the Ridge Yurt the trail to Boundary becomes more difficult and should probably be left to experienced cross country skiers.
What to take to the Yurt?
While the yurts are stocked with cooking utensils, they do not have eating utensils so be sure to pack a mess kit or paper products, as well as some TP for the outhouse. Also don’t forget to bring good food. Sharing good food with friends/family is a great evening activity at the Yurt, so bring your favorite meals you can prepare on a stove or with a fire.
While the Yurts do have bunks to sleep on and some have pads you’ll need a warm sleeping bag. I always back an extra blanket and air mattress in case whoever has fire duty lets the fire die at night. You’ll also want to bring a water filter. You can melt snow on the wood burning stove and then filter the water to provide all the water you need for cooking and drinking.
You’ll also want to dress appropriately for winter and bring plenty of warm clothes. You’ll stay pretty warm on your way to the Yurt, but once you arrive and stop moving you’ll want to bring some dry clothes and a parka to change into. As always I recommend that you take the 10 essentials with you.
Traveling to the yurt can be done in many ways, but I think cross country skiing in is the funnest. If you are going to cross country or snowshoe in I recommend pulling a gear sled with all the food for your group. Typically we will put our personal gear in a backpack and then take turns pulling the community items in the sled. Such sleds can be rented from many of the places that rent camping and skiing gear.
To learn more about the yurts or how to make reservations visit http://www.brorayurts.org/ If you found this article helpful and are planning other adventures in Utah consider signing up for our e-mail list (simply go to the top of page and click subscribe - it's free!) to get the latest adventure posts. You can also sign up to be a member here to share comments at the bottom of our posts and in our forums. Most importantly don't forget to get outside and find your adventure!