Steamboat couple looks to bring outdoor experience back to State Forest State Park with new venture Yonder Yurts

Work was moving along at the Grass Creek Yurt in the State Forest State Park on Friday, June 21, 2024. Steamboat Springs residents Sarah and Corey Peterson continue to push toward reopening the popular yurt system with their business Yonder Yurts.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

It’s been a busy spring for Yonder Yurt owners Corey and Sarah Peterson as they lead the efforts to place eight new hard-sided yurt cabins in one of Colorado’s most popular backcountry getaways.

“I get so emotional every time I drive in,” Sarah said as she entered State Forest State Park east of Walden last week. “Maybe because we are in the thick of it, and we are working so hard, but to see all of our hard work come to fruition, it’s really rewarding.”

The Steamboat Springs couple were named concessioners in January, and have been planning the details of getting the dormant yurt system up and running through the winter. They did not waste any time jumping into the construction phase once the snow melted.

The first step was putting new yurts in the areas where they were previously removed by the former concessioner, Never Summer Nordic Yurts.

The Petersons brought in Casey Cook with Rocky Mountain Custom Builders, who completed building new decks, most with stunning views, on June 18. He also prepped the areas for Freedom Yurts, which makes all-season, solid walled yurts. The company started setting yurts two weeks ago, with hopes that they will be ready for guests in mid-July.

That process included moving the yurts, which were delivered packaged on pallets, to the sites and placing walls, floor and the roof. By June 21, work was progressing quickly at the Creek and Clark Peak sites. Freedom Yurts was planning to complete work on North Fork Canadian, Upper Montgomery Pass, Lower Montgomery Pass, Dancing Moose, and Medicine Bow by the end of this week.

A clear blue sky offers guests scenic vistas of the Medicine Bow Mountains and Clark Peak.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“We started right when the snow melted,” Sarah said. “We have seven yurts coming up, and another yurt that will be our office — so that will be eight yurts.”

The Upper Montgomery, Grass Creek and Clark Peak are all 20-foot yurts that can house up to nine guests. Lower Montgomery and Medicine Bow are 16-foot yurts with room for up to six people.

Dancing Moose is also a 20-foot yurt with room for nine people and is accessible for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Grass Creek, Medicine Bow, North Fort Canadian and Clark Peak all have decks.

A mother moose keeps an eye on her newborn while hiding in the trees near where the Dancing Moose Yurt will be placed.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The yurts offer a wood burning stove, electric cooktop, solar power, kitchen package, bunk beds, storage cabinet with essentials, and outhouse facilities. Guests will just have to bring their sleeping bags, food and water.

“We chose to go with a little nicer product to make our guests more comfortable,” the Petersons stated on the Yonder Yurt website, where potential guests can will be able to book reservations once work is complete. “These yurts have better insulation and a higher R-value than soft-sided yurts and provide more protection from the elements and wildlife. They also last longer.”

The largest yurt, located off Bull Mountain Road near the entrance of State Forest State Park, will be used as an office. This yurt will include living space for staff members who will be on hand to greet guests on arrival, answer any questions and give guidance to guests on reaching their yurts.

North Michigan Reservoir is just one of the draws of the State Forest State Park near Walden.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“We will have an office near the park entrance to address guest needs, but our yurts will resume their self-service model as they have in the past,” Sarah said.

The experience has been a whirlwind for the Petersons, who learned they had been selected to be the concessioners at the start of the year. This summer, they will be in charge of renting seven yurts to guests, and will also manage the popular Nukho Hut and Agnes Creek Cabin after the sites are remodeled.

The project is part of an effort to reestablish the yurt system in the area after the former concessioners were notified by authorities that they were in violation of the concession contract in August 2022, and had their contract canceled in December of the same year. The company was asked to remove its yurts and remediate the sites by the end of June 2023.

The Petersons, who have long enjoyed the area, threw their hat in the ring to take over the sites when the contract came up for bid late last year — and were thrilled to be selected. However, because the old yurts on State Forest State Park were owned by the previous concessionaire, they were all removed.

This spring, Yonder Yurts is placing new yurts in the same popular locations, with the exception of Ruby Jewel Yurt. Because of an eroding hill on the site, it was not suitable for new construction.

A packaged yurt sits next to where the Yonder Yurts offices will be located on Bull Mountain Road.

The work has been plenty for Corey, Sarah and the Peterson family as they spend their time completing a long list of tasks. They have contracted with Freedom Yurts to place the new structures, but there is still ample work to keep them and their crew busy.

Yonder Yurts will announce the reservation release though its newsletter and on social media at, or @yonder_yurts. Sarah said that after the first six-month reservation release, the schedule will be to released six months at a time, three months prior to the first reservation.

“Every day I get an email, a phone call or a message,” Sarah said. “They ask when are the reservations going to be released? We’re so excited that the yurts are coming back and if you look on social media, that’s what everybody has been mentioning.”

Construction crews from Freedom Yurts work on the roof of the Grass Creek Yurt.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
The crown of the Grass Creek Yurt frames majestic pine trees.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Light pours through the hole where a skylight will be placed at the top of the Grass Creek Yurt as Sarah Peterson talks with Freedom Yurts employee Benjamin Sanchez.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
The site of the Dancing Moose Yurt.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
The new decks are in place as crews work to get eight new yurts placed and ready for guests.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Sarah Peterson stands in the 36-foot yurt. Once completed, the space will be used as an office and to house staff. For now, the space is being used to store insulation.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Todays

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.