Alaskan Family Adventures

Yukla Yurt Winter Camping

Yukla Yurt is managed by the Eagle River Nature Center (ERNC), and is the furthest Yurt or Cabin from the center.

We got a late start and didn’t begin our hike to the Yurt until sunset at 4:30p. We had a very clearly marked trail and the landscape was laden with snow, giving us plenty of ambient light and a clear trail all the way to the yurt. Even though we had never been to this Yurt before, we were familiar enough with the trails and confident in our ability to find the Yurt or make our way out if we didn’t.

The trails at the Eagle River Nature Center are well marked and easy to navigate. However, we highly recommend doing the trip in the daylight if you are not familiar with them.

Skiis would normally make this trip even quicker and easier.  While we were at the Yurt we also saw a handful of people skiing or riding fat bikes on the frozen banks of Eagle River, so that’s another approach you can explore.

We arrived at the Yurt a little after 6p and it had finally turned dark enough to require headlamps. The Yurt was a welcome sight after an hour and a half on the trail. The kids – 8 and 9 now – carried their own gear except for food which we drug in a sled, making this the easiest walk into a cabin or yurt yet. Even better – they did so without complaining and were enjoying the adventure!

We found the Yurt at last!

It’s always nice to get a Yurt or a Cabin where the prior tenants left a hot wood stove but we were not so lucky this time. We’ve learned through experience that the first thing to be done is to read the manual on lighting the wood stove. Each stove has its’ own quirks and lighting instructions, and it pays to get it right the first time so you don’t waste time or fire starter getting it warm.

After an hour or so we could finally unbundle and relax in the warmth.

Inside the Yurt is a bunk that can sleep 4, another bed that can sleep 1 or hold bags, and a table. There was wood and fire starter ready to go, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own fire starter and maybe even a hand axe just in-case. We actually bring a Duoflame log along on these trips to get things going quickly.

The outhouse notably had a cushion seat instead of a wood or porcelain one, so it wasn’t freezing cold, making momma and the girls happy.

After a beautiful hike in we had a very harrowing evening. The temperature rose well over freezing and it started to rain, melting the snow off of the trees. Snow was crashing into the Yurt in clumps from the trees overhead for most of the evening. The canvas of the Yurt was like a drum and amplified the noise so it sounded much worse than it actually was. The sound of Eagle River just outside of our door was relaxing enough to compensate for the snow crashing into the Yurt.

The next day all of our beautiful snow was gone from the trees which dashed our hopes of great photos. It rained most of the day and the naked trees gave the forest a haunted, surreal feel. We never considered bringing our rain gear on a Winter camping trip. Thankfully our winter gear was water resistant enough for our needs. We stayed indoors and mostly relaxed, told stories, played our little traveling ‘Settlers of Catan’ game, or read.

When we did venture out in-between bouts of rain, the kids had a great time exploring the boulders on the hillside and the iced over sections in the river.

Checking out the Ice Layers

A friendly game of Settlers of Catan while we wait out the rain

Eagle River gets very low in the winter. It largely freezes over with a minor flow going down the middle under the ice. The ice was unnerving at first and we thoroughly investigated it before letting the kids on. Even though the river was low and the water was not more than a foot or two deep, falling through ice will always ruin your day. Please exercise caution when exploring any iced over body of water.

It was quickly obvious to us that the ice was very thick on both shores, possibly frozen to the bottom. The middle channel that the river was trickling through – which was the area we wanted to avoid – was clearly marked by differences in the ice. Once we felt that we knew the safe and dangerous areas, we educated the kids and let them out on the river ice with us.

We usually bring all of our own water on a trip such as this, but we anticipated we could get water from Eagle River so we brought the water filter instead of a full load of water.

On our departure day the rain had turned the entire landscape treacherously icy. We couldn’t even get out of the Yurt without our cleats. But having them made the hike back non-eventful. We took our time and explored places on the way back that we had missed in the darkness of the hike out.

Lack of snow and icy trails make for an eerie feel

The trip was excellent and we will definitely be going back out to Yukla Yurt again – although our next trip will probably be to Rapids Camp Yurt. Here are some useful links that you can use to book one of the Yurts or the Public Use Cabin (see our trip to the Public Use Cabin here).

Eagle River Nature Center (ERNC)

ERNC Yurt and Cabin Calendar of Availability

ERNC Trail Map (pdf)

Mark

Packed up and ready to head home

Kind of stylish for an Outhouse

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