It’s starting to feel like spring in the valley, but the mountains north of Boise are still under three feet of snow. In search of one last Idaho winter adventure, we took to the hills last week. We strapped on snowshoes and pulled sleds full of camping gear behind us like Explorers bound for the South Pole (or like sled dogs, your choice) to one of the Idaho Parks & Recreation Yurts north of Idaho City.
There are yurts all over Idaho (learn more about that here) but we found ours and booked two nights through the Parks & Rec website (here’s their yurting page). They emailed us maps and instructions, so we had no problem finding our way.
The Stargaze Yurt is only and hour and a half away from Boise, located in the hills between Idaho City and Lowman off of Highway 21. We parked at the Beaver Creek Summit Park N’ Ski area, and from there snowshoed 1.2 miles up a marked trail to where the yurt is perched just below Stargaze Point.
This place is exactly what you hope winter camping will be: feet of snow, trails for snowshoeing, hills for sledding and skiing, stunning views of snow crested hills, but comforts of a cabin like bunk beds, a big deck, an outhouse, and plenty of firewood for the stove.
We brought our own food, wine, sleeping bags and bottles of propane, but the yurt is well stocked for a backcountry basecamp. It has solar lights and propane lanterns, a big skylight, a kitchen area with dishes and supplies, a box of dried goods and extra propane bottles that other guests left, board games, and decks of cards.
We arrived and immediately started the fire for melting snow into drinking water. Then we spent the two days enjoying the 270 degree views of the forested hills Payette River Valley and distant Sawtooth Mountains.
The yurting experience was what my family’s cabin used to be like before there was cell reception and wifi. Time stretches out a little slower. The stillness and solitude is startling at first, and then comfortable. We spent hours reading, cooking, playing games of Farkle and Five Crowns. I wrote in my journal while Jesse built a snow fort. We stoked the fire, went sledding, and photographed the night sky, without ever worrying about our apps or being in touch.
Jesse looked over from his book one night and said, “I wonder if anyone’s looking for me…” And while we both cracked up about how it sounded like I’d kidnapped him and was holding him captive in the Idaho mountains, I realized it had been too long since we got off the map like this. Its good sometimes to be out of touch, unreachable, and absolutely content with wherever you are.