Cabin Life: We Bought a Cabin in the Mountains of Tollgate Canyon

To be honest, saying this is the house I’ve always wanted just isn’t true. That’s because I didn’t know cabins like this actually existed outside of movies or book covers. Once I moved up to New England after college, I was immediately hooked on the romanticism of an A-Frame cabin, hoping one day to be the owner of one. Realistically, I thought it would be a really small cabin that we’d only use on the weekends far off in the mountains of Wyoming or Idaho. As luck would have it, and it really was all luck, we were actually able buy our very own cabin. Not only that, but a year round access Cabin in the Park City, Utah area! In this series of posts, I wanted to try and capture all the things my wife and I will learn along the way living up on the mountain in a cabin. 

The cabin we bought sits at nearly 8,000 feet in elevation in an area known as Tollgate canyon, or more specifically the Pine Meadow Ranch. This community, which consists of both year round residents and weekend users situated on top of a mountain just beyond the Wasatch Back. The community has year round electricity and water, but no gas or cable and is on a septic system. All but 3 miles of road in the community are dirt. And the winter condition, from what I’ve been told, are quite extreme. Only the main road up from the highway, into the community, is plowed by the HOA. The rest of the roads are either not plowed at all or maintained by a neighbor on your street with a big enough plow. For the homes with zero winter access, the only way to get to them is by snowmobile, snowcat, ski-in, or dog sled (if you prefer). 

Aerial view from our property with the Wasatch in the background

By no means are these cabins and homes “off the grid” but they are far from the conveniences of what we are used to. Moving from a condo in the heart of a business district, albeit, a version of one that Park City calls a business district, to the mountain is much different. A run to the nearest Walmart or grocery store used to only be a 5 minute drive, now takes 30+ minutes each way. Running to the nearest Home Depot can take just as long too. Long gone are the days of quickly running out for some ice cream or an ingredient that we were missing in the  dinner recipe. Now, even going out for dinner has to be planned out way ahead of time, because it would take the better part of 2.5 hours. Not that it can’t be done, and still only a 20-30 minute drive to the ski resorts and mountain biking, but far from the quick 5 minute drive we used to have when living in our condo. 

The cabin we bought is a true Lincoln-Log-Style cabin, built in 1976, and was one of the original homes built up here. Unlike a normal home, the primary means of heat for this home is a wood burning stove. That means we’ll have to cut and split all the wood we’ll need for the winter prior to the first snowfall. The cabin has an electric furnace as a backup heat source, but would be way too costly to run. In true homeowner fashion, we quickly found the wood burning stove (our primary means of heat) is outdated, inefficient and was not hooked up to a flue. So that was a tremendous capitol expense that we needed to pay for from the minute we got the place. To add to that excitement, the stove we ordered won’t come in until early November, getting dangerously close to the frigid winter months when we really will need the heat.

This has all been a crash course in mountain living, especially being our first real home as well. From having to drive 4 miles to drop off our trash to the nearest dumpsters and to also pickup our mail, it’s all been exciting. But getting to wake up to moose in our yard and hearing the elk calling multiple times per week tend to make up for it! Not to mention getting to go for gravel bike rides and trail runs on the dirt roads from our house with the dog are always worth all the difficulties. 


  1. Hayden says:

    WOW WOW WOW, soooooooooooooooooooooooo cool. This will be a new exciting learning curve for sure. Order up your snowshoes NOW :-), wax those cross country skis, and study up on off-grid solar system via Radeen and I will come out next June and help you install the solar!!! Sooo cool. LOVE IT. Congrats, “KIDS” this will be fun.

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