Going Away? Try an Off-the-Grid Yurt


Sleep under the stars, from the comfort of your own bed? While some may call it cheating, others find it brilliant, including me.

Yurts are round tent/cabin structures, a contemporary form of the shelters used by central Asian nomads. They can be equipped with a sink, electric outlets, and a gas fireplace – great for people who want to go camping in theory, but not entirely. I recently stayed in a yurt at the Treebones Resort in Big Sur, California during a family drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. It was absolutely fantastic!

Treebones, a village of 16 yurts that run completely off-grid, is owned and run by husband and wife team Corrine and John Handy. John spent 23 years at Mattel, where he rose to senior vice president of product design, and three with Playmates Toys, where he discovered and marketed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After two decades of life in Los Angeles John and Corrine moved to Big Sur, where they built, and now run Treebones.


“We explored every form of building, from tents to straw bale houses,” says John.

After sharing their vision with friends and family, John’s parents reported on a yurt that they saw in Bandon State Park, Oregon. The Handys ordered one yurt in 1995 and gave it a test drive.

“We experimented with different furnishings, and invited friends to stay as pretend guests,” says Corrine. “We discovered that people liked the round structure and being comfortable.”

The original plan was to use wood burning stoves, but they found that gas fireplaces connected to timers were more convenient. Bathrooms are located in two central areas.

A sustainable resort, Treebones is always experimenting with low-energy consumption machines such as microturbines, low-emissions generators, and variable frequency drive pumps.

“Exhaust goes into a heat exchanger to heat the water for the pool, Jacuzzi, showers, radiant floors in the restrooms and main lodge,” says John.

There also use low-flow showerheads, light sensors, LED and CFL bulbs, and organic hand-made soap that are in the bathrooms (without paper wrappers) and all of the yurt sinks. The latest experiment is an Air Blade, a high-powered force of air that dries hands without the need for paper towels.


An organic garden on the grounds grows vegetables and goods that are prepared for guests (the on-site restaurant is fantastic). Most food is local, including all of the desserts and baked goods. A serious recycling and composting program is in place as giving the staff a holistic experience is a priority for Corrine.

“The workers are a huge part of the area and community,” says Corrine. “With a more sustainable circle in their lives, everyone gains.”

Treebones is also a member of WWOOF USA (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms).


In addition to the 16 yurts there is a “Human Nest” that visitors can sleep in, which has panoramic views of the mountains, and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The nest was designed and built by local artist Jayson Fann.

So you want to stay in a yurt, but won’t be in Big Sur? Check out yurt rentals across the USA.