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Yurts to Reopen at Colorado State Forest State Park

Yurts are Back by Popular Demand to North Park

The State Forest State Park is Colorado’s only State Forest. As one of the many draws to North Park, the State Forest State Park features several well-known favorites of the area. The Michigan Reservoir, Ranger Lakes, and the Moose Visitor Center surround the community of Gould, CO. Visitors come to the State Forest for great fishing, hiking, unforgettable views, camping, and almost guaranteed moose sightings. 

Since the mid-1990s one unusual way to enjoy getting away from the crowds and traffic of the cities has been camping (or its more upscale cousin, glamping) out in the yurts on State Forest State Park. For the last few years, the yurts--once operated by Neversummer Nordic--have been closed to the public. Their future has remained uncertain--until now.

Sarah and Corey Peterson jumped at the chance to become a part of a place they have enjoyed as a family for years. It was just too good to pass up. After months of discussion with Colorado State Parks, they acquired the lease for the yurts at Colorado State Forest State Park. They hope to bring enjoyment for other visitors to a place they have grown to love so much.

What are Yurts?

You might be unfamiliar with what yurt is. The name is derived from the Mongolian word ger, and some sources attribute the word yurta to a Russian or Turkish form of the word for home. The nomadic hunter-gatherers of central Asia have been building these cylindrical tents out of canvas or hides and wooden lattice frames for thousands of years. 

The structures are designed to be semi-permanent and withstand the harsh elements of life on the Steppe. Anyone who is familiar with the mountains of North Park knows that the weather is a formidable challenge to anyone willing to tough out the elements. 

Yurts are a perfect way to withstand cold winters and high-altitude summers, since they are often equipped with wood-burning stoves and are built to be a shelter against wind, rain, snow, and sun.

A New Opportunity to Visit the Yurts at State Forest State Park

The idea was a novelty in the beginning, and at first locals seemed to think these semi-permanent tents were a little out of place in the Colorado high country. Soon enough, these little canvas and wood structures soon won the hearts of visitors to the area. 

Visitors like Corey Peterson, who has been visiting North Park since he was just a kid. When the opportunity to take over the lease on State trust land presented itself, Corey and Sarah Peterson jumped at the chance to be a part of North Park history.

Who Owns and Operates Yonder Yurts?

Corey and Sarah Peterson run Yonder Yurts, the company which has jumped feet first into the deep end with the daunting task of operating the system of yurts throughout Colorado State Forest State Park. Not only are they up to the challenge, but they are looking forward to the ride.

Sarah is originally from Minnesota and moved to Colorado in 2011. She works as a realtor in Steamboat Springs, CO, but she is no stranger to the Gould area. Her husband, Corey is a Colorado native, who grew up in Kersey. He often vacationed in North Park with family as a kid and later introduced his wife and children to the wonders of this off-the-beaten-path location. 

They love taking trips to North Park with their family all year round—especially the Gould area. They love their visits to North Park, and long drives over Cameron Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass looking for moose. The time spent outdoors in nature is time well-spent with family and friends.

Yonder Yurts: A Fine Marriage of Experience and Know-How

Sarah’s experience is with real estate at Sotheby’s of Steamboat, and a small vacation rental she used to run there as well. Corey’s profession is in operations, logistics and upkeep as Vice President of Engineering, Maintenance, and Facilities at Steamboat Ski Resort. Together, they make a winning combination when it comes to breathing new life into the yurts. 

Yonder Yurts is not a mega-corporation, but very much a new Mom and Pop family-owned business in North Park that plans to bring as much joy to others as the yurts have brought them over the years. It won’t be an easy job, but Sarah says of the whole prospect of rebuilding and managing the yurts, “It’s been such a dream!”

A Long Road Ahead for New Management

The Petersons plan on keeping their day jobs in Steamboat and using what little spare time they have to work on the yurts, once the snow melts. Much of their weekends, vacations, and holidays are going towards renovating the yurts.

Much of the existing infrastructure of the yurt system was taken down by the State Forest after the departure of Neversummer Nordic, leaving a lot of work ahead for the Petersons. They plan on starting with seven yurts and one large yurt that will serve as their main office for check-ins and service. 

Sarah says they plan to poll the community and people who are interested in the new yurts to see what they would like to have as far as amenities. She plans on starting small with the operation and building from there. The main office might provide coffee, snacks, headlamp rentals, and other hard to get items in such a remote place.

The plan is to start with a small number of yurts that will be ready for guests to access as soon as possible. Yonder Yurts is really looking for community input when it comes to what they need to build, and are welcoming discussion. Email [email protected] with any suggestions or recommendations.

Types of Yurts Coming to the State Forest

The eight yurts are currently on order and will hopefully be ready for installation as weather permits. The yurts are a hard-sided build manufactured by Freedom Yurts in Nebraska. The hard-sided construction is a departure from the traditional cloth-construction, but will allow for yurts to be built on decks and platforms as well as platted on the ground for a variety of different campsites. Yurts may or may not include wood-burning stoves or even pellet stoves, depending on the demand.

This construction is not only durable but provides for four-season operation. One of the benefits of the yurt is its ability to withstand the elements and provide comfort to the people using them. The semi-permanent structure allows for unique placement for optimal scenery, privacy, and low impact to the environment. Sarah Peterson says a huge benefit about the yurts is that you can make them as extreme or back to the earth as you want.   

When Will the Yurts be Open?

With North Park just entering the mud season, and the snow still yet to melt in the mountains, the Petersons are still waiting for conditions to be right to begin construction. Right now, the materials are on order and they are in the planning stages. Building will begin as soon as the weather allows. Sarah is optimistic that early reservations will begin in late Summer 2024. Updates on the progress of this project will be found on their website, www.yonder-yurts.com.

The Petersons plan on holding an open house after the yurts are built to allow the community to see first hand what the yurt experience will be like. The Petersons are excited to become one of the newest additions to the North Park business community and understand that success depends on cooperation with locals as much as it does tourists. 

If you would like more information about Yonder Yurts, email them at [email protected]. More information about this project will follow the building process at their website, as well as future posts on www.visitnorthparkco.com. We can’t wait to see what Yonder Yurts is planning next!

What the Yurts Bring to North Park

Right now, most lodging and accommodations are limited to the Town of Walden, Lake John Resort, and a few vacation rental properties throughout Jackson County. Yonder Yurts, along with the reopening of Powderhorn Cabins will allow visitors access to lodging at the southeast corner of North Park as visitors enter from Cameron Pass and the Fort Collins area.

Gould and the surrounding area are a four season destination for winter sports and summer recreation alike. In the springtime, visitors come to see the moose as they begin browsing the new growth of willow stands along the rivers. In fall, the aspens change into their vibrant hues of gold and crimson until the first snows of winter arrive and bring with them the return of snowmobile season.

With the addition of these seven North Park yurts (and counting) along with rooms at Powderhorn Cabins just outside Gould, CO, visitors to North Park can expect to find more flexibility and vacancies for their stay in Jackson County. This means more of North Park to go around for our visitors and more options to experience a true hidden gem of the northern Colorado Rocky Mountains.
 

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