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Hiking to Dinner in a Yurt


When our friends in Vail suggested that we go to the Tennessee Pass Cook house I had visions of an old log structure, parts and pieces added on with a huge stone fireplace in the center.  I suspected the views would be lovely because our hosts said we’d hike a mile up to get to it, starting at a pretty high elevation.

Their recommendation was to go later in our visit so that we’d have time to adjust a bit to the altitude—hovering at almost 11,000 feet.

I was right about the views.  They are truly a DesignDestination.  Mother nature at her best.   But the structure we ate in, was totally unexpected.  The cookhouse is in a 32 foot-diameter Yurt.

A yurt is a portable, circular tent-type structure of Mongolian Design. The reason for this choice in this amazing spot is that when the proprietors proposed the restaurant to the State, who owns the land, they were told they had to do a temporary structure so that if the business faltered, they weren’t stuck with an abandoned building.

They researched “temporary structures” and came up with a Yurt.

It works.  It houses about 40 people for dinner or lunch.  Depending on the season you hike or cross country ski to the site.   After making our way through a beautiful trail the vista opened up stimulating ohs and aahs as we watched the sun slide down the western sky behind the mountains.  Along the way we enjoyed wild flowers and interesting natural sculptures.

Dinner is hauled up by Jeep and prepared on site.  The pace is leisurely allowing for lots of conversation and popping up and down looking at the clouds, mountains and setting sun.  Some of us had dessert out on the deck, enjoying an electric gold sunset directly to the west and an eerie pinky glow to the southwest.  Tried to capture on camera but just don’t have the skills or equipment.  Had to be there at the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse.

We hiked back down the mountain, miner’s flashlights for our heads.  Every  so often a rustle in the woods gave a Michigander who mostly hangs out on beaches or in urban settings a jolt and the incentive not to dawdle.

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.


  1. posted by
    Cindy Schad`
    Jul 19, 2010 Reply

    A true “Rocky Mountain” high!

    • posted by
      Nancy Phillips
      Jul 19, 2010 Reply

      What great pictures!

      Fun to see the yurk. when you get back we’ll tell you our experiences of 3 nites in one in Mongolia.

      You hiked up in Decenber?!!

  2. posted by
    Kate D.
    Jul 19, 2010 Reply

    You’re in my heart’s homeland, when you’re on Tennessee Pass! Glad you got a feel for it. Splendid, isn’t it?

  3. posted by
    Jul 19, 2010 Reply

    Absolutely stunning. I can see why you love it out here.

  4. posted by
    ann stevenson
    Jul 23, 2010 Reply

    Sounds like the evening had a magical quality to it, loved the golden sunset, and the creativity of a structure that leaves a small foot print on mother nature.

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