IT’S A TENT! IT’S A CABIN! NO, IT’S A YURT!
Are you the type of happy traveler that’s looking for a funky spot to overnight in Pennsylvania? If you’ve already had a cabin escape, or if you’re looking for something a little more weather-proof than a tent, yurts might the alternative retreat be for you.
Yurts aren’t quite cabins, and they’re certainly not tents.
The word might make you smile even if you already know that a yurt is a round-walled, hard-framed, and fabric-wrapped shelter that man has used going back centuries to the nomads of Central Asia.
Newfangled ones — substituting vinyl laminates for animal hides — began popping up at Pennsylvania state parks in 1999 and have proven to be very popular shelters in a sweet spot that’s not quite camping and not quite a cabin.
Erected on wooden platforms, the state park yurts are like tents but with a lockable hard door and windows, including one on the dome top with a view of the stars. Guests can use a fire ring and picnic table outside, where they also get their water and use the bathrooms. But the interior has amenities that include bunk beds to sleep four or five or six people, a refrigerator and a stove top and maybe a microwave, electrical outlets, and even electric heat.
COOL IN THE SUMMER MONTHS. WARM AND COZY IN THE COOLER MONTHS.
During the summer season, (second Friday in June – third Friday in August), yurts must be reserved for a minimum stay of one week. The minimum stay for the rest of the year is two nights. Guests bring their own bed linens or sleeping bags and cooking and eating utensils. Some yurts allow dogs (for an additional $3 to $15 a night). For fun, you could bring ingredients for a Mongolian-inspired noodle dish — with or without the traditional mutton or lamb.
Fourteen state parks now offer a total of 34 yurts, but you must reserve early, because the yurts are almost always full. Some stay open as late as mid-December, but state park yurts close mid-winter and then reopen in as early as March.
Some private campgrounds and other places across the state, such as Presque Isle Passage Yurts, near Erie, and Lake Raystown Resort, near Altoona, also offer this funky and funny-sounding accommodation, sometimes spruced up from camping to “glamping,” April through November.
And for those already thinking about winter escapes, one yurt that can be booked in the later months is wood-walled The Yurt at Rafferty Manor in Ohiopyle.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND A YURT IN PENNSYLVANIA?
State parks where yurts are open almost year-round include:
- Clear Creek State Park, near Clearfield in the northwest, the park that had the first yurts.
- Bald Eagle State Park, near Lock Haven in the central part of the state.
- Ohiopyle State Park, in the southwest, which has four.
- Shawnee State Park, near Bedford in the south-central part of the state.
Find and reserve yurts at all the parks that offer them at the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more traditional, check out some of the cabins and B&Bs Pennsylvania has to offer.
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