While yurts were originally designed as shelter for people who lived in some of the most inhospitable places in the world, yurts today are enjoying a renaissance of sorts in growing numbers of America's campgrounds, which use modern canvass covered yurts to accommodate people who are looking for a unique outdoor experience, according to a news release from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC).
"Yurts provide a very unique way of camping," said Dawn Rehwinkel, owner of the 230-site Merry Mac's Campground in Merrimac, Wis., which bought three yurts last year. " Kids love them," she said.
And while most people aren't familiar with yurts, they quickly embrace them, particularly when they find out that they can rent them fully furnished with beds, microwave ovens, heaters, air conditioners, coffee pots and other modern conveniences.
"A lot of people that I talk to have never heard of a yurt until they talk to us or look at our website," said Amy Bertram, office supervisor at Yosemite Pines RV and Family Lodging in Groveland, Calif., near Yosemite National Park. But once they see what they are, they are eager to give them a try.
"They are extremely popular," Bertram said.
And while families with kids like to stay in yurts for an unusual camping experience, couples like them, too.
"They are very romantic and very popular because they offer a unique experience," said Ande Rappaport, manager of Campfire Lodgings in Asheville, N.C., near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Campfire Lodgings' yurts are set up in the woods for privacy and come with their own decks with gas grills. The domed ceilings can be opened and closed, depending on whether people want privacy or to enjoy the sunlight, the stars or the evening moon.
Cheri Ault, owner of Wagon Trail Campground in Door County, Wis., said yurts are perfect for people who want to rough it, but not too much. "They appeal to people who like to feel like they're camping, but have a little more shelter around them," she said. Ault has six yurts in her campground, which backs up against a 1,500-acre Nature Conservancy preserve along Lake Michigan.
Campground operators, for their part, like yurts because they're easy to book. "Once we get into our business season, our yurt will be booked every weekend," said Carla Kaser, who owns the Beechwood Acres Camping Resort in Wilmington, Ohio.
GoCampingAmerica.com, ARVC's searchable database, does not yet have a search function to identify campgrounds that have yurts. However, the association plans to add yurts to its keyword search function this summer as part of a website redesign effort.
In the meantime, consumers looking for campgrounds with yurts can do so by running Google searches using the terms "yurt" and "campground" and the state or region they intend to visit. The major yurt manufacturers, including Pacific Yurts and the Colorado Yurt Co., also have listings of campgrounds with yurts on their respective websites at www.pacificyurts.com, www.coloradoyurt.com.