Visitors to Minnesota state parks can sleep in teepees or one-room camper cabins, both designed to provide shelter without the need to pitch a tent. This year, there’s a new option for tent-free adventures. Yurts — those circular canvas-sided structures originally used by nomads in Asia — have opened at three parks: Afton State Park, along the St. Croix River; Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, a mountain biking destination on the Iron Range; and Glendalough State Park, in bucolic Otter Tail County.
Yurts will appeal to people who want to immerse themselves in nature, but still have a solid shelter for the night. Their locations are tucked away, said Peter Hark, field operations manager for Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources. “You don’t get to drive right up to the yurt. You can hike in, bike in, paddle in,” he said. “It’s the stuff of adventure.”
Afton State Park
This park near Hastings has two yurts in the same general area as the camper cabins. A quarter-mile-long path leads to the wooded area that make the yurts feel far from the Twin Cities, which are less than an hour away by car.
Bluffs overlooking the St. Croix River, grasslands, and forests mix at this compact park. The rolling landscape lends itself to hiking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. Bird-watchers will enjoy the variety of winged creatures, from hawks soaring above the waterway, to meadowlarks in the prairie grasses. A trail leads to a swimming beach on the river.
More information: 651-436-5391; dnr.state.mn.us/afton
At Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, near Crosby and Ironton on the Iron Range, three yurts hug the west side of Yawkey Mine Lake, near a mountain bike trail. Stay there, and you can throw in a line to angle for a trout breakfast, and then hit the bike trail.
“You feel like you are really away,” Hark said.
The recreation area, on land abandoned by mining companies more than 30 years ago, is best known for 25 miles of mountain biking trails, which range from easy to “extremely difficult.” Because the old pit mines are now clear lakes, the area also claims 25 miles of shoreline, making it ideal for canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
More information: 1-218-546-5926; dnr.state.mn.us/cuyuna.
Glendalough State Park
Two yurts at Glendalough State Park nestle on the far side of Annie Battle Lake, a pristine waterway where motors are prohibited. At this park, near Battle Lake, Minn., visitors can paddle across the lake to the yurts, reach them on foot or bike to them on the paved path that circles the lake. In winter, skiing or snowshoeing across the lake would be an option.
“Of all the [yurt] sites, this one is farthest away from cars. It is pretty neat,” said Hark.
Glendalough lies in the transition zone between prairie and hardwood forests, and is home to a range of wildlife, including raccoons, deer and loons.
The park rents canoes and other equipment.
More information: 1-218-864-0110; dnr.state.mn.us/glendalough.