State Forest State Park
Hut system:
Never Summer Nordic
Nearest town:

The sound is difficult to place. It’s something like a loud zipper that ends with a precordial thump. Lying awake, tucked warmly within the sleeping bag you brought to Ruby Jewel Yurt in north-central Colorado, you might hear it. Your heart will race, and you’ll consider a bear, a serial killer, a yeti, or a very coordinated attack from the family of chipmunks living near the pile of firewood. After hearing it for the third or fourth time, though, you’ll figure it out: Mini avalanches of snow are sliding off the yurt’s canvas roof and dropping onto the surrounding deck below.

Early September still feels like summer in most of Colorado—Denver’s average high temperature hovers close to 80 degrees—but on the far side of Cameron Pass, just to the west of the aptly named Never Summer Mountains, snow can materialize on almost any day. So even if you brought shorts and hiking boots to explore the 2.25-mile fir-laden trail from the yurt to Jewel Lake during a sun-warmed afternoon, nighttime temps can plummet—making you thankful for Ruby Jewel’s wood stove, some warming red wine, the piping-hot steak you seared on the outdoor grill (pack charcoal), and the cup of Swiss Miss you heated on the propane burner before bedtime.

With three inches of the white stuff frosting the ground the next morning, you’re also grateful you decided to steer your four-wheel-drive vehicle right up to the yurt instead of hiking the two-mile route from the two-wheel-drive parking lot. The easy access means you and your close-knit group (family and/or good friends will be most comfortable in the small, round, privacy-less space) can have a leisurely morning, sipping coffee from the provided percolator and playing cards you found in the cabinet before facing the reality that you do, in fact, have to leave your warm, secluded, yeti-proof paradise in the pines.

Photograph by Lindsey B. Koehler

If You Go

Accommodations: Ruby Jewel Yurt sleeps five people on three single bunks and one full-size bunk. The kitchen is well-stocked with pots and utensils plus a double propane burner, paper towels, dish soap, and most anything else you might need. The yurt has multiple solar-powered lights as well as a propane light in the kitchen. There is a detached outhouse stocked with TP.
Your Pack List: Food (if you’re not hiking in, bring a large cooler, which can hang out on the deck), water (for drinking and cooking), sleeping bags, pillows, headlamps for the outhouse, slippers
Getting There: The Never Summer Nordic yurt system is located in State Forest State Park, a two-hour drive from Fort Collins. From Old Town Fort Collins, take College Avenue north until it turns into U.S. 287. After about seven miles, take a left on Poudre Canyon Highway (aka CO 14). Follow CO 14 through the canyon for about 60 miles. State Forest State Park’s entrance (you’ll need a $7 day pass) is on the right-hand side of the highway. Go to the entrance and ask the ranger for a map/directions to Ruby Jewel Yurt.
Book It: $85 on weekday nights and $105 per weekend night from May through November, with a two-night minimum for reservations beginning on Saturdays