For decades, Coloradans flocked to a privately managed yurt system inside beautiful State Forest State Park, a 71,000-acre woodland just outside Walden. Then, in 2022, things got ugly. Never Summer Nordic—the longtime park concessionaire that contracted with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to operate eight year-round yurts and two cabins—quit paying its bills, forcing the agency to terminate the agreement and order the company to close its shelters and refund its reservations. Instead, Never Summer’s owners kept booking stays, pocketed the money, and ghosted would-be guests, many of whom never realized they’d been had until they tried to check in at an empty office.

It didn’t take long for authorities to get involved. In March, 19 months after CPW canceled the contract, Never Summer Nordic co-owner Bron Austin Deal was sentenced to 60 days in jail and ordered to pay more than $24,000 in restitution for a variety of financial crimes. While justice was served, the families who frequented the yurts as a cool escape in summer and a snowy basecamp in winter likely felt a bigger sense of relief when CPW announced a new concessionaire that same month.

portrait of man and woman
Yonder Yurts owners Sarah and Corey Peterson. Photo by Ben Duke

Over the past decade, Steamboater Corey Peterson had stayed at almost every Never Summer yurt. So when CPW started searching for someone to relaunch the yurt system in October 2023, Corey and his wife, Sarah, applied. Using his experience as a Steamboat Ski Resort executive and her expertise as a real estate agent, they crafted a pitch based on their deep connections to the region. It worked. “We received an outpouring of support from folks who stayed there previously,” Corey says. “People are really excited to have the yurts back.”

Finding a new yurt operator turned out to be vital for the park for another reason: The structures were left in such a state of neglect after Never Summer’s contract was revoked that they had to be removed. The seven yurts the Petersons have installed on the old sites aren’t just new, though; they’re also a major upgrade, swapping the previous soft vinyl siding for a cabinlike construction. Corey hopes the improved lodgings, which will welcome guests under the name Yonder Yurts late this summer, will help others have the same experiences in the park that his family has had, such as when a bull moose and two cows strolled right past their yurt’s deck. “My son was blown away,” Corey says. “That’s the type of thing that can create lifelong family memories.” Rates TBD;

3 Other Colorado State Parks Where You Can Sleep in a Yurt

1. Pearl Lake, Clark

With ceiling fans, window screens, and a nearby reservoir to explore, these yurts are hot commodities in summer. Available year-round; $90 per night

2. Golden Gate Canyon, Golden

Just an hour’s ride from Denver, the park’s two drive-up shelters are some of CPW’s most accessible lodgings for Front Rangers. Available year-round; $90 per night

3. Sylvan Lake, Eagle County

At 314 square feet, with two futons and a bunk bed, the yurts off East Brush Creek Road have plenty of room. Available May through November; $90 per night

This article was originally published in 5280 July 2024.
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard
Jay Bouchard is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.