5 Unusual Outdoor Lodging Picks
And What You Need to Know About Reserving Them
Ever wanted to stay the night in a yurt, overlooking the ocean? How about a rustic cabin in the mountains, a tree house in the woods, or even a fire lookout with sweeping views?
All of the above are easily accessible to all travelers – no wilderness experience necessary!
Extend the camping season with these year-round lodging experiences, and learn where and when to book them.
Yurts: Comfortable Camping Without the RV
Yurts are not just in rural Mongolia anymore! These canvas-sided circular shelters have been popular additions to many state parks across the U.S. and Canada, offering four-season lodging for those without an RV or camper.
Perfect for families with young children, yurts come in rustic or deluxe models, all with electricity, beds (bring your own bedding), and heat.
Arriving late to the campground? No need to hassle with tent setup! Want to experience the outdoors without sleeping on the ground? Yurts are the perfect solution.
How to book: Search for yurt lodging by state park on ReserveAmerica.com.
Top yurt: Harriman State Park, an Idaho nature reserve outside Yellowstone National Park, offers a select few deluxe yurts, complete with wood-burning stoves inside. Families can bask in solitude, just miles from Yellowstone crowds.
Cabins and Huts: Cozy Wilderness Lodging
Channel your inner Little House on the Prairie when sleeping in cabins in private campgrounds like KOA Kampgrounds or state parks and reserves.
Like yurts, cabins range from simple shelters to “glamping-style” cottages with one to three rooms. Some, such as select KOA cabins, offer full bathrooms and kitchens in their deluxe models.
State park cabins typically offer a room, beds, and a porch or balcony, plus a fire pit and picnic table for cooking and dining. Campers wanting to get further afield can opt for a hut-to-hut hiking experience.
Run by private companies on both coasts, hut-to-hut operations allow backpackers to hike anywhere between three and ten miles to various backcountry huts.
Depending on the operation, huts can include hot meals, full bedding, or simple shelter.
How to book: Reserve KOA Kampground cabins via their official website or by phone, and reserve state park cabins on ReserveAmerica.com. For hut-to-hut lodging, reserve directly through each private operation, such as Outdoors.org or Cascadehuts.com.
Top cabin: For an upscale cabin experience in a resort setting, stay in a KOA deluxe cabin in Jackson Hole/Snake River, Wyoming.
Top hut-to-hut: Appalachian Mountain Club’s network of AMC lodges and huts offers pristine hiking without the heavy packs in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Fire Lookouts: Utilitarian Vacation Fun
Want a room with a view? Operational and retired fire tower lookouts across the country now offer public access for nightly stays, and they’re easier to book than most travelers think.
Run by Recreation.gov (the same folks who book many traditional campsites), fire lookouts are usually one-room affairs, with heat and electricity and a simple kitchen.
Most are accessible via car by primitive road, though some require a hike in. Without exception, fire lookouts afford amazing wilderness views (without the firefighting job).
How to book: Search fire towers by state or national forest, then book by name at Recreation.gov.
Top fire lookout: Oregon’s Pickett Butte is accessible by car, but adds a dash of adventure with its long dirt road entrance and tower of steps to the top. The perfect home base for hiking, fishing, or outdoor play, Pickett Butte includes a full propane-powered kitchen in the one-room tower.
Tree House Lodging: Sleep in the Trees
The kids will thank you for a Tarzan camping trip! Tree house resorts, or “treesorts”, have sprung up in several rural locations across the U.S., offering nightly stays in inventive lofts, cabins, and tents in the air.
Tree houses range from basic to deluxe, with group kitchens and bathrooms located on the ground. The best treesorts include rope bridges spanning trees and plenty of swings.
Many have age restrictions to ensure child safety, so families will want to make sure all their little monkeys make the cut.
How to book: Reserve directly from private resorts. Check Glampinghub.com for treehouse reservations (as well as teepees, yurts, and more).
Top treesort: Out’n’About Treesort in Cave Junction, Oregon is a wooded playground, with ropes, ladders, swings, and zip lines. Plus, the resort is adjacent to a swimming hole and hiking trails.
Teepees: Take a Trip Into Early American History
Return to the Wild West with a night in a teepee. Located in private campgrounds in the western U.S., teepee accommodations provide basic shelter (think of them as a very big, tall tent), and sometimes heat.
Look for teepees in warmer climates, and bring your own bedding, including mattress pads.
Families are amazed by how roomy teepees can be, with plenty of space to stand up, walk around, and enjoy a game of cards or a family picnic.
How to book: Teepees are generally located in private resorts and campgrounds, and should be booked directly. Occasionally, state parks offer teepee accommodations in lieu of cabins or yurts.
Top teepee campground: Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and Spa offers teepees situated around their natural mineral hot springs pools, making for the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation.
No matter which type of unusual outdoor lodging travelers pick, the load will be lighter, setting up camp will be less work, and the fun will begin sooner.
And without a doubt, the camping trip will feel more adventurous, if not downright daring. Enjoy camping in style this off-season!