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State Park yurts available for unique winter camping experience

Outdoor enthusiasts seeking a unique winter getaway are reminded that several of Michigan’s State Parks have yurts available for rental year-round.

Yurts are sturdy, round, tent-like structures – the use of which can be traced back through history for an estimated 3,000 years. The year-round yurts found in Michigan’s State Parks have become popular alternative lodging options for winter hikers, cross-country skiers and snowmobilers wishing to explore some of the most remote locations and stunning scenery the state has to offer.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon County currently offers four year-round yurts, while Craig Lake State Park in Baraga County has one yurt on Teddy Lake.

“The Porkies’ yurts are not accessible by snowmobile,” said park manager William Doan. “The yurts offer visitors an alternative experience to a traditional cabin, but they are only accessible by cross-country skis, snowshoes or by hiking in during winter months.”

Yurts at the Porkies are located various distances from parking areas, with some as close as a few hundred yards, to one that requires a nine-mile ski or hike into the forest.

“The nine-mile trek is not for the faint of heart, but is a worthy endeavor for those looking for a unique challenge and an opportunity to truly get in touch with nature,” Doan said.

Craig Lake State Park’s Teddy Lake yurt is located three-and-a-half miles from the park’s established snowmobile trails, and is an easy snowshoe or cross-country ski in from the plowed parking area. Park supervisor Douglas Barry says the yurt’s remote location is part of why people seek it out.

“One of the best things about the Teddy Lake yurt is that there’s nothing around it,” Barry said. “It’s cozy and guests who stay there often remark that they hear nothing but quiet.”

Barry added that the yurt was booked steadily through January, February and March of last year with guests coming from as far away as Wisconsin and Grand Rapids.

The yurts found in Michigan’s State Parks are 16 feet in diameter, accommodate four people, and come equipped with bunk beds and mattresses, a table, chairs, and woodstove that can serve as a heater and cooktop. Running water and electricity are not provided, but primitive restrooms and stocked woodsheds are situated nearby. Campers should bring along their own linens, lighting and water.

Along with the yurts located in the Upper Peninsula, the Glenbrook yurt at Pinckney Recreation Area and Green Lake yurt at Waterloo Recreation Area in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula each are available for rental year-round and are supplied with a heating source.

Yurts rent for $60 per night plus an $8 reservation fee. To learn more about the various types of lodging available in Michigan State Parks, visit, www.michigan.gov/cabinstepee. For yurt availability and reservations call 800-447-2757 or go to www.midnrreservations.com.

The Recreation Passport is an easy, affordable way for residents to enjoy and support outdoor recreation opportunities in Michigan. By checking “YES” for the $10* Recreation Passport ($5 for motorcycles) when renewing a license plate through the Secretary of State (by mail, kiosk, online at www.expresssos.com or at branch offices), Michigan motorists get access to state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, non-motorized state trailhead parking and state boat launches. In addition, Recreation Passport holders can experience real savings at businesses and retailers that participate in the Passport Perks discount program. The Recreation Passport is valid until the next license plate renewal date. Nonresidents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($29 annual; $8 daily) at any state park or recreation area or through the Michigan e-Store at www.michigan.gov/estore. *Starting Jan. 2, 2013, the purchase price of the Recreation Passport is $11 for Michigan residents.

Learn more about this creative way of sustaining Michigan’s outdoor recreation and natural resources at www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport. For information on Passport Perks shopping discounts or how businesses and retailers can enroll in the program, visit www.michigan.gov/passportperks.