Seeking a new bike trip destination this summer? Here’s an idea to consider: Pack your gear and bike to one of the new yurts at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. Seven yurts opened earlier this year at Afton State Park in Hastings, at Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake (northwest of Alexandria) and at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in Ironton (northeast of Brainerd.)
Modeled after the traditional yurts used by nomads in Central Asia, modern yurts are wood lattice-framed structures with heavy-duty reinforced fabric sides and insulated liners. They have windows, a domed roof and wood floors. Interior furnishings include bunk beds, a table and chairs or stools, and a wood-burning stove. Outside the yurts, visitors will find a picnic table, fire ring and nearby drinking water and vault toilets.
“We continue to seek innovative ways to connect people to the outdoors and provide unforgettable experiences at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas,” said Peter Hark, operations manager for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “Yurts are very popular in other states, and we expect them to catch on quickly here, too, particularly with people who don’t have tents of their own and with those who want to try something new.”
Two of the seven yurts were built in the southeast corner of Afton State Park, near the camper cabins and Group Camp; two at Glendalough State Park on the southeast side of Annie Battle Lake; and three at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area on the west side of Yawkey Mine Lake, near the park’s mountain bike trails. Following an evaluation of this pilot project, additional yurts may be developed at other locations.
Six of the yurts are 20 feet in diameter and sleep up to seven people; one at Glendalough State Park is 16 feet in diameter and can accommodate a maximum of three people. Overnight visitors will need to bring their own bedding or sleeping bags. They should also bring a lantern, headlamp or flashlight, because electricity is not available.
Although parking is nearby, it is not possible to drive all the way to the yurts. Getting to them is intended to be part of the adventure and requires walking, wheeling or paddling a short distance to simulate a nomadic experience. The yurts at Glendalough State Park, for example, can be reached from the park’s newly paved bike path. Three of the yurts—one at each park—are fully accessible, in accordance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.
The yurts rent for $50 to $65 a night. Reservations can be made year-round, up to a year in advance, either online at www.mndnr.gov/reservations or by calling 1-866-857-2757.
Construction of the yurts was made possible by the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.
For more information, visit www.mndnr.gov/yurts or call the DNR Information Center at 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367) between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.