Every year for the last 3 years, I’ve wanted to take my kids on a backcountry yurt trip. And every year the reservation period flies by and soon there are no nights left available.
This year I was still late to the party, BUT I did get the last 2 nights available for the Bear Claw Yurt in the Lily Lake Yurt System in Utah.
Here is our Packing List for Winter Yurt/Hut Trips with your Family
Lily Lake Yurt System – Bear River Outdoor Recreation Area (BRORA)
- (B.R.O.R.A. is a non-profit corporation whose purpose is to assist and cooperate with local, state and federal governments in promoting, developing and maintaining outdoor recreation within the city of Evanston, Wyoming, Uinta County, and the north slope of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.) For more info visit: BRORA Yurts
- Location: Uinta Mountains, Utah
- Distance from Salt Lake, UT: Roughly 2 hours
- Mileage into the Bear Claw Yurt: 2-2.5 miles depending on the route you take.
- Elevation: 8,700 ft
- We drive 2 hours to the trail head, located south of Evanston, right across from the Bear River Lodge. It is mid-afternoon, the sun is warm on our faces. We load up the backpacks and the Chariot with ski attachments – borrowed from my friend Kathy over at GoAdventureMom, and hit the trail.
- Even Kai is sporting a new jacket from Kurgo under his trail pack. The trail is flat as we head south towards the peaks. Groomed trails with freshly laid ski tracks make it easy on our girls (ages 10 and 6) who are cross-country skiing for the first time.
- Chris, our son, and myself are all on alpine touring gear – which we chose only cause we already had it, so why not use it? (Kid’s touring gear is tricky and expensive at best. Often it is also HEAVY, hence we opted for nordic gear for our girls – a good choice considering the mostly flat terrain. Next time, we’d consider getting it for all our kids unless the terrain near the yurt allowed for more alpine skiing.)
- It feels good to be off on a new adventure – one that combines our love for skiing with our love for the backcountry.
- In packing for this trip, I found that it was much simpler that backpacking. Shocking, right? Well, other than ski gear – all we really needed were two pairs of long johns to alternate under ski pants/jackets and a sleeping bag. Oh and lots of food.
- In fact, Chris was right, people eat more in the winter. And we packed a ton of food, with very little leftovers! To help with the weight of food and winter sleeping bags – pulling the Chariot was awesome. It also helped our tired kids – they just hung on the back of it for a little “daddy/mommy assist.”
- The trip into the Bear Claw Yurt is decently easy terrain, roughly 2-2.5 mile depending on your approach. For a shorter and easier approach, continue up Sage Draw instead of following the signs that say Bear Claw until you reach the turn off for the Bear Claw Yurt. (I’d suggest Sage Draw for the exit as well, being largely downhill and removing many of the rolling hills found on the Bear Claw Trail.)
- There are a few places where the trail includes a steep downhill, with a tight turn at the bottom. We helped our girls, newly on nordic skis, but those uncomfortable on the terrain could easily walk down it – it isn’t too long.
- We arrive just as the sun is starting to dip low in the sky and paints everything in a golden hue. The kid’s fail to contain their excitement as they burst into the yurt and explore our home for the next two nights.
- The yurt can accommodate up to 8 people – but that would be a crowded yurt if it was a stormy weekend and many of the hours were spent inside! We find that our family of 5 fits perfectly, leaving 2-3 bunks for spreading out our gear and drying any wet items.
- The yurt comes complete with wood stove, wood pile, axes, propane stove and lantern, a table for eating and beds for eight.
- Dishes, silverware, pots for both cooking and melting snow, matches, and tools are all found in the cupboards. (Though we did bring some of our own just in case.)
- After unpacking, we play in the snow and exploring the surrounding area (including finding the port-a-potty), Chris and Abs get to work stoking the fire and melting snow for drinking and eating.
- The kids are eager to pitch in and help, learning the details behind living in the forest during the winter. The Lily Lake Yurts are some of the only yurts I’ve found that will allow dogs to come with you! I love this!
- We cook up dinner (chicken, rice, and black bean burritos), play a few games of cards and settle in for the night. We expect to be cold and soon learn a wood burning stove is a powerful tool indeed! The yurt is down-right hot! We all lay on top of our sleeping bags in our underwear. So much for needing our winter sleeping bags!
- (Note to parents: Wood burning stoves are not “kid-friendly”. They become very, very hot to the touch. Be incredibly careful if you are using one in the presences of young children.)
Exploring the Lily Lake Area in the Winter
- I’ll be honest, I wake up glad to have slept with stars streaming through our sky light but stiffer than a corpse. 🙂 Next time I’ll bring my own sleeping pad, even though they provide them! Can anyone say hard?!
- We eat a warm breakfast and head out the door to find Lily Lake. The day is cloudier than the day before and more chilly.
- There a many kilometers of groomed ski trail throughout the Lily Lake system. Looking at the map, we can choose to explore a variety of directions. We head towards Lily Lake.
The temperature is fine while we are moving, but after touring a few miles we stop for lunch and the wind kicks up. The wind is chilly and cold, making me glad we packed our warmest layers for the outing. Even poor Kai was cold!
Yurt Life Day 2
- Our afternoon consisted of reading time, replenishing chopped wood for the stove, building our own toboggan and playing in the forest.
Time to Head Home
- Nothing lasts forever. Well… I guess there are people who choose to live in a yurt year-round! Our kids beg us to stay another night, but alas, it is time to head home. We choose to ski out via Sage Draw, a more direct approach and mostly downhill allowing the kids to ski most the way out with little exertion.
- Our first trip into a yurt was awesome and the clear weather helped for a hassle free, worry free experience!
- For reservations contact the Evanston Recreation Center at 307.789.1770.For additional information contact Joe Wright at 307.789.7588.Reservation fees are: Overnight $75
- There are 5 yurts in the Lily Lake Yurt System. Bear Claw and East Fork Yurts are the closest yurts to the trailhead.