My fascination with yurts began one summer while I was in college, the one summer I lived in Washington, D.C., when I spent my afternoons and weekends riding the subway to all corners of the city. On one of these weekends, I happened across the Smithsonian’s fabulous Folklife Festival. That year’s theme was robust—the Silk Road—and I spent a few days immersed in the music, food and culture that defined the countries along the Silk Road in years past and continue to permeate these societies in the present day. One of these countries, of course, is Mongolia, and it was at this event held on the National Mall that I became utterly smitten with the idea of traveling along the Silk Road and spending the night in one of the tents-turned-homes that these people live in—a yurt.
My interest in yurts resurfaced again while we waited for our Peace Corps assignment in 2004. For a brief time, we thought we were going to be placed in Central Europe, and though that’s not necessarily yurt country, it did get me thinking about that part of the world again. And so, when I finally sat down to make my Life List a few years ago, one of the first things I added was my desire to spend a night in a yurt.
At the time, I was picturing myself in a legitimate yurt, a place where people live, a place where, when I walked out in the morning, I’d be greeted by the (I’m assuming) wide open spaces of Mongolian wilderness. So imagine my surprise when, while working with the Cedar City/Brian Head Tourism Board in Utah regarding details for a summer trip, I got an email punctuated with exclamation marks that my dream of staying in a yurt could be recognized just a few hours from the front door of my house in Las Vegas. The catch? Staying in this yurt would be a glamping (glamorous camping) experience, not a rustic one.
But a yurt is a yurt, right? And so I eagerly said yes, and now I can cross one more thing off my Life List: Spend the night in a yurt.
This particular yurt was located at Summit Mountain Lodge, located at the end of a winding, hilly, dirt road that requires visitors to use a high clearance vehicle in the summer and a SnowCat in the winter. Right now, Summit Mountain Lodge is in a state of transition. It is under new management and there are a variety of new projects and developments in the works, but a few things are certain:
First, Summit Mountain Lodge is a true retreat. It’s tucked far from anything and is blanketed with a thick black blanket of stars at night. And it is quiet. Sitting back in the woods, both the main lodge and the yurts are sheltered from any sort of standard city sounds.
Secondly, we stayed in the honeymoon yurt, and it was truly luxurious. Even though it didn’t have a full kitchen, it was definitely bigger than the first apartment my husband and I lived in together—for three years! The bed was comfortable, the furniture rich and the top of the yurt’s covering high. A ventilation hole at its peak let us watch lightning hiding in the clouds while laying in bed. Though this was the largest yurt on the property, there are several others, making Summit Mountain Lodge a quick, easy and romantic weekend getaway.
Because the offerings and activities scheduled at Summit Mountain Lodge are in a state of flux, I can’t say with any certainty what is being offered today and what will be offered tomorrow. What I can say is that guests can take advantage of a volleyball court, climbing wall and playground. The owner of the property has a fleet of ATVs and is happy to provide tours of the surrounding area if time allows.
In nearby Brian Head, there is skiing available in the winter and hiking available in the summer. Outfitters in the area provide guided tours on horseback. And this part of Utah has plenty of beautiful, scenic hikes, mountain biking routes and overlooks scattered around, so with a car there really is no shortage of things to do.
But of the yurt I’m certain. It may be nothing like what I had in mind when I added my desire to spend the night in a yurt to my Life List, but our two nights spent glamping in a yurt at Summit Mountain Lodge really were spectacular. So spectacular, in fact, that I’d happily add ‘spend the night in a yurt’ back on the list things I’d like to do again someday.
Disclaimer: Our trip to Southern Utah was hosted by the Cedar City/Brian Head Tourism Board, but all opinions are my own.