Backcountry Yurt Camping in Idaho


Whitney Matthews


Spring may be technically just around the corner, but for most of us, the snow’s still sticking around for a few more months. Anyone out there have cabin fever yet? 👋 I definitely have a hard time getting out in the winter, because well, I hate being cold. Rent a cabin in the mountains for the weekend and watch it snow? I’m your girl. But you’re going to have a tough time convincing me to do anything beyond that.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity get out of my cozy, indoor comfort zone a little when I was invited by some friends to head to Idaho and snowshoe to a backcountry yurt. I instantly said yes, because: adventure. Though I had no idea what to expect, and that made me nervous. I had only snowshoed once before, and as previously stated, I don’t do winter. But this trip was the perfect mix of wintertime activity and cozy cabin vibes (i.e. the best way to get ready for spring while fighting the lingering cold temps of winter).

Our Trip

Okay, first of all – Idaho is one of the most underrated places in the West. It was an eight-hour drive from Eastern Washington to the trailhead in Idaho City. And in those eight hours, we drove along rolling hills, into steep river canyons, and through cozy mountain towns before arriving at the trailhead in the snowy Boise National Forest. The coolest thing that sets this national forest apart from others is the incredibly successful and sustainable backcountry yurt system. There are six yurts in this system, each with their own amazing views. Click here to read more about these yurts and schedule your visit.

After unloading our cars and gearing up, we began the 2.5-mile journey to our yurt, along a mostly groomed trail. It took us nearly three hours to get to the yurt and the trail never got very steep. Remember, that’s coming from me, an inexperienced snowshoer who, again, doesn’t do winter.

Once we arrived at the yurt, we unpacked our gear and promptly started a fire in the wood burning stove. It didn’t take long to settle into full relaxation mode: snacking, drinking cocoa, reading books, and playing hours of Bananagrams. Each of the six yurts in this system come equipped with everything you’d need for a comfortable stay. There’s a wood burning fireplace (with pre-chopped wood) for warmth and melting snow for drinking water. There’s also a two-burner propane stove, pots and pans, plates, cups, and silverware. We brought dehydrated meals (like Mountain House or Backpacker’s Pantry) for most of our meals, but you could definitely get more creative if you wanted to. Remember, you must pack everything out when you leave, including your trash!

Things You’re Definitely Going to Want

  • Cozy indoor slippers (These were the crowd favorite from our client, Teva!)

  • Your favorite snacks

  • Cocoa, tea, or your favorite warm drink

  • Games (cards, crosswords, or our favorite: Bananagrams)

  • A good book

  • Warm cabin clothes

  • Canned wine

We woke up the next morning to a fresh layer of snow, and some still falling. We spent a few hours that morning playing around, creating a sled hill, and exploring before heading back to our cozy retreat for an afternoon of reading, games, and watching the snow fall.

Photo by  The Mandagies

Photo by The Mandagies

Photo by  The Mandagies

Photo by The Mandagies

On our last morning, we woke up to sunlight streaming into the yurt. Check out time wasn’t until 1 p.m. so we took our time making breakfast and packing up. Make sure you leave enough time to thoroughly clean the yurt before leaving— dishes need to be cleaned properly, the floor swept, the surfaces wiped down, wood stocked next to the fireplace, and toilet paper restocked in the outhouse. From there, we began the journey back to the car.

But our trip wasn’t over just yet. What’s the best way to cap off a week of winter relaxing? Hot springs! There are plenty of more rugged, natural hot springs around Idaho, but we headed to The Springs, for the full spa experience, and I definitely recommend it. There’s a large communal pool perfect for comfortable soaking, and also a smaller hot tub if you’re looking for something a little toastier. With menus around the edge of the pool where you can order food and drinks – this place was the ultimate dream. Looking for something a little more secluded? There are also private soaking tubs that can be rented by the hour. You can still order drinks and food, while maintaining full privacy from attendants. It’s the perfect way to slowly ease yourself back into civilization after a quiet week in the backcountry.

I’d be lying if I said I still wasn’t a winter person. It’s definitely growing on me. This trip reminded me of more than just the beauty of winter though. Saying yes to simple, unfamiliar things is a rewarding way to get yourself out of your comfort zone. After all, who said getting out of your comfort zone and Type 2 Fun are synonymous? While not all that technical or strenuous, I was open to trying new things and experiencing a different kind of adventure than I’m used to. The trip will definitely become a highlight of my year.

Next time you’re approached with the opportunity to try something even just a little new or scary, I encourage you to dip your toes in and try it. You may just find yourself waist deep in fresh powder and forgetting why you were so scared in the first place.