- Associated Press - Saturday, December 20, 2014

COOS BAY, Ore. (AP) - The only problem with spending Christmas Eve in a yurt is attempting to explain to your children where, exactly, jolly old Saint Nicholas is going to deposit presents.

Wrapped as tight as a snare drum in thick canvas, the Mongolian-style dwellings don’t feature openings of any sort, much less a chimney that would facilitate entry for pudgy Kris Kringle toting a sack of Christmas booty.

Luckily, my daughter, Lucy, is just 8 weeks old and more focused on sleeping through the night and contemplating the deep mystery of lights, sounds and our dog Mater than getting a Tickle Me Elmo or Furby in her stocking.

But it’s something to consider - or not - as my family embarks on the third year of what’s become a hallowed tradition: Yurt-Mas on the Oregon Coast.

The idea is pretty straightforward. On the night of Dec. 24, we stay in a yurt at Sunset Bay State Park, 11 miles southwest of Coos Bay. The park is not only home to some of the most beautiful coastline in the state, but it’s also a short hike from the epic display of 300,000 Christmas lights that decorate Shore Acres State Park from Nov. 27 to Dec. 31.

Sunset Bay is home to eight yurts - circular domed tents with a heater, electricity and a coffee table - generally designed to make camping a more luxurious experience, something particularly welcome on the Oregon Coast in winter.

There’s one pet-friendly yurt at Sunset Bay that I reserved a few months in advance so Mater could join in the fun (although dogs aren’t allowed at the Shore Acres Christmas lights display).

The drive to what’s really three state parks bunched together - Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago - isn’t short. It requires three and a half hours from Salem, so it’s best to make it a two-night affair.

Luckily, there is plenty to do.

HIKING

As ever, the easiest activity is hiking, and this area features plenty of strong options.

Two stand out.

The classic hike along this stretch of Oregon Coast can run from 5 to 7 miles round trip. The trail hits Cape Arago Highway from time to time, but that’s the price you pay for a hike that provides near continuous views of the Pacific.

The trail starts at Sunset Bay and winds high atop cliffs where the waves blast like cannon shots into the shore below. After 2 miles, you’ll pass Shore Acres, and at mile 2.5, you’ll reach the beautiful sandy cove of Simpson Beach. Turn around here for a 5-mile hike or continue another mile to the Sea Lion overlook. (You can reach this area famous for barking sea lions by driving to Cape Arago as well).

The second hike begins at Cape Arago, heads uphill through coastal rainforest and passes viewpoints and an old bunker before dropping down to Simpson Beach. Follow the road and trails back to your car for a 4.4-mile loop.

SHORE ACRES

Whether you drive or hike, it’s tough to beat the display of lights here during the holiday season.

This multi-colored patch of holiday cheer offers moving lights, including a frog hopping across a pond and a whale jumping from the sea.

Bright reds, oranges and greens light up the darkness. Hot coffee and cider can be purchased at the entrance. There’s a $5 parking fee, unless you have a state parks pass.

Dogs aren’t allowed.

OCEAN KAYAKING

I haven’t tried it yet, but the rocky protection and cove-within-a-cove design of Sunset Bay apparently makes it ideal for beginning kayaking and kayak fishermen.

Make sure you have all the gear and experience before setting out. Consider renting or contacting South Coast Tours, (541) 373-0487, for more information.

GOLF COURSE

The sport described as “a good walk ruined” doesn’t make many appearances in these outdoor pages, but it’s worth mentioning that a year-round, nine-hole Sunset Bay Golf Course is just a stone’s throw away. Info: (541) 888-9301.

GOLDEN AND SILVER FALLS

If you’ve come all this way from the Willamette Valley, it’s worth checking out Golden and Silver Falls State Park, home to a pair of little known waterfalls.

It’s a roughly one-hour drive from Sunset Bay, but it makes a fun extra day trip.

UPDATE: Vehicle traffic on Glenn Creek Ln, about one mile from Golden and Silver Falls, is closed to traffic due to a landslide. However, you can park and walk in.

If you go …

‘Yurting’ the Oregon Coast

Size: Yurts in state parks are 16 feet in diameter with 10-foot high ceilings. They’re furnished with a bunk bed that sleeps three and a fold-out couch that sleeps two more.

Outside: Each yurt is equipped with a fire ring and picnic table. Available at the park site are hot showers and modern restrooms. Cooking is not allowed inside the yurt.

You bring: Sleeping bags or bedding, flashlight, matches, water container, axe or hatchet, cooking and eating utensils and a towel.

Cost: $36 to $41 per night for rustic yurts; $56 to $76 for deluxe yurts (only available at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park)

Make reservations: Reservations Northwest, (800) 452-5687 or reserveamerica.com

Oregon Coast state parks with yurts

NORTH COAST (north to south)

Fort Stevens - 15 yurts

Nehalem Bay - 18 yurts

Cape Lookout - 13 yurts

Devils Lake - 10 yurts

Beverly Beach - 21 yurts

South Beach - 27 yurts

Beachside - 2 yurts

Carl G. Washburne - 2 yurts

Jessie M. Honeyman - 10 yurts

SOUTH COAST

Umpqua Lighthouse - 8 yurts

William M. Tugman - 16 yurts

Sunset Bay - 8 yurts

Bullard’s Beach - 13 yurts

Harris Beach - 6 yurts

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The original story can be found on the Statesman Journal’s website: https://stjr.nl/1AdXwOZ

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Information from: Statesman Journal, https://www.statesmanjournal.com

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