We are proud to hear about Idaho Parks and Recreation naming one of their latest Pacific Yurts after Leo Hennessy, the leader and developer of Idaho City’s backcountry yurt system. When Idaho Parks and Recreation unveiled The Hennessy Yurt 1122yurtleosharing his namesake, he was there to humbly accept the honors.

Hennessy retired from his longtime position as the non-motorized trails coordinator in December 2018. Since assembling Idaho State Parks’ first yurt in 1996, he’s gravitated towards creating spaces that will bring people into Idaho’s beautiful landscapes who might not have otherwise.

“I love to provide facilities and trails for people and then watch them have these great experiences,” Hennessy told Parks & Recreation magazine. “For some, it’s their first time having this great experience in luxury camping in a great outdoor environment. Each yurt has a journal, and when I read the journals, it just gives me great satisfaction seeing the experiences they’ve had, like seeing the Milky Way without the glare from street lights.”

Leo Hennessy is a yurt hero

Over more than three decades, Hennessy has become an icon in Idaho’s outdoors culture. The North Dakota native spearheaded Idaho City’s celebrated yurt system, building the area’s first backcountry yurt on a mountaintop on Banner Ridge. He soon expanded that single yurt to a network of six others on various summits throughout the area.

1122yurtinteriorWhen the Pioneer wildfire devastated the area in 2016, Hennessy delayed retiring to rebuild Idaho’s yurt system. After evaluating the damage, he found that The Whispering Pines Yurt was destroyed, with others needing extensive repairs. Teams cleared downed trees, unblocked trails and logged areas affected by the burn to restore the area. Parks and Recreation would later rename Whispering Pines The Hennessy Yurt to commemorate a man they admired. 

Hennessy’s enthusiasm and willingness to give back has always attracted volunteers, and he estimates they did about two-thirds of the work on that structure and the surrounding area.

This winter was the first time since the fire that six yurts have been open to the public. As one of Hennessy’s longtime volunteers and friends, Mike Allen, told the Idaho Statesman, “If it weren’t for Leo, there wouldn’t be any yurts [in Idaho City].”

To Hennessy, every ounce of work they did was worth it. Providing such facilities was always his lifelong dream. Every detail became deliberate, from where each yurt was assembled, to where firewood could be stored, and how to orient each window to capture Idaho’s enchanting landscape. 

Hennessey also wanted his visitors to have access to terrific views in an area that promoted fantastic winter recreation. During1122yurtleocampfire the wintertime visitors can cross-country ski or snowshoe to each yurt, which is just a few miles from their cars. When they arrive, adventurers can snuggle up with board games after cooking a hot meal inside. Four of these yurts are also dog-friendly.

How to Rent the Hennessy Yurt

The new Hennessy yurt is a perfect vantage point for year-round sweeping views of the Crooked River Valley. The yurt is most popular during the winter when you can ski or snowshoe in. If you decide to go during the warmer months of the year, Hennessey Yurt is a short hike from the parking lot, making it an ideal home base for hiking and horseback riding while in Idaho.

1122yurtbenchviewThe Hennessey Yurt provides bunk beds, cooking pots, a wood stove and an outhouse. It also sleeps up to six people. Reserve your trip to The Hennessy Yurt through the Idaho Parks & Recreation website or by calling 888-922-6743. Fees are $115 a night.

We are proud to be a part of Leo Hennesey’s legacy and we look forward to staying in his namesake Pacific Yurt. Adventure awaits you in Idaho.