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Idaho Parks and Recreation manages backcountry yurts north of Idaho City

Posted at 11:58 AM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 15:01:37-05

The Idaho Parks and Recreation Department features yurts in the mountains past Idaho City that the public can reserve for a unique backcountry adventure.

Leo Hennessy built the first yurt in 1996, he has since retired, but his legacy lives on with six yurts, including one named after the longtime non-motorized trail coordinator.

Now, DeEtta Petersen is carrying on the torch, she has been the yurt coordinator for eight years and she tries to deep clean each yurt every three weeks.

"That entails completely wiping everything down, restocking everything, making certain that everything is in operable order and making sure the next person that comes in is happy," said Petersen.

She is in phenomenal shape. She snowshoed two miles uphill with a sled full of supplies to clean the Banner Ridge Yurt ... just another day at the office.

"We were at negative two degrees and now we have the sun shining, it’s going to be beautiful," said Petersen. "I'm looking out my office window right now."

Basically she is an extreme housekeeper, but it takes a lot of work to get to the yurts and clean them. The yurt system relies on guests to pick up after themselves and there is a sign in the yurt that says leave it better than you found it.

"Just consider the next person that is coming up," said Pedersen. "Or another way of putting it, is pay it forward. If you show up and it is great condition make sure the next person gets to have the same opportunity."

This is a true backcountry experience, especially during the winter. For sure, people need to take safety into account when they plan a trip to a yurt, if they are lucky enough to snag a reservation, as the yurts have become very popular.

“I direct them to our website which has information on the road conditions and weather conditions," said Petersen.

I snagged a reservation and ended up not even trying to go to the yurt because of how much snow was up there. It's important to make good decisions in the mountains because being caught in a storm can quickly turn dangerous. We still needed the help of an ITD snowplow driver to get my car out of the parking lot.

People should tell others where they are going and when they expect to be back. Cell service comes and goes, so a satellite communication device is a good idea, as well as extra food, water and clothing.

"It is a backcountry yurt experience, backcountry is in the title," said Petersen.

Each yurt has a wood stove to keep the yurt warm, a propane stove for cooking, it sleeps six and provides plates, utensils, games and solar power for lights. Reservations are tough to get and they cost $115 a night.

The yurts are also located in the Idaho Parks and Recreation Park N Ski area that allows people to snowshoe and cross country ski with groomed trails at four different trailheads.

People need to buy a Park N Ski pass at $7.50 for a three days or $25 for an annual pass, but it's a really good way to get some exercise.

"I really like to workout," said Petersen. "I love my job, I love how hard it is, I love the work and I love being out in the mountains."