Winter Wonderhouse

Property Watch: A Whimsical Cabin Near Crystal Mountain

This tiny fairy-tale cabin close to Mount Rainier is comfortably off-grid—and fully equipped for all-season adventures.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd October 26, 2022

Tucked away near White River in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, this itty-bitty cabin from 1958 is part of a tract of cabins known for its delightful midcentury structures. This particular cabin, however, has more of a gingerbread house aesthetic than its A-frame neighbors, with unique carved porch railings and scalloped eaves that go perfectly with a blanket of snow. Fittingly, it’s just about 40 minutes from Crystal Mountain, making it both an ideal jumping-off point for winter adventures and a perfect fireside après retreat.

Roughing it comes with the territory, and this place is thoughtfully off-grid. Dishwashing water comes from a rainwater catchment system, and the listing offers a relatively new generator for electricity. The bathroom is an A-frame outhouse with an incinerating toilet, one of the better-case outhouse scenarios. Some recent improvements to the heat envelope, a key consideration when you’re dealing with a remote 70-year-old cabin, include double-pane windows and foam insulation, which helps keep things cozy in the winter.

Inside the main building, the living room has a vaulted tongue-in-groove ceiling and, like the rest of the cabin, has all wood-beam walls to match. A centerpiece stone fireplace runs on propane, and built-in shelves add to the cozy feeling. The cabin is just 400 square feet, but this room takes up the most floor space, and comfortably fits a sectional with plenty of room leftover for extra mattresses on the ground.

Behind the living room, separated by a small cased opening with a shelf above, the small kitchen includes a gas range and a large fridge. It smartly relies on a lot of vertical storage; pots and pans hang above, and shelves and hooks run the length of the walls. A small sink serves as both the kitchen sink and a bathroom-style vanity sink, with a medicine cabinet above.

There are two designated sleeping areas in the cabin. One is a queen-bed-size cubby off the living room, with built-in small bedside storage on one wall by the head and a window bank at its feet. The other is a windowless little loft up a ladder by the fireplace with a smaller bed. Both of them are open to the rest of the home—and while it’d be pretty simple to put some curtains in, this cabin is made for crashing.

Outside, find a firepit with three benches and two outbuildings. One is the aforementioned outhouse, which has built-in ski storage in the back. The other is a woodshed, currently filling in as a second storage shed. The home’s front porch is large enough for a picnic table, or just plenty of seating for having a few beverages in the great outdoors.

This land is part of the U.S. Forest Service’s Recreation Residence Program, first established in 1915, which allows people to own cabins within national forests. If you’re looking for a cabin in the woods, that’s really hard to beat. They also tend to be less expensive than similar cabins, a huge consideration after the swell of pandemic vacation home buying.

Owning a forest service cabin does have its drawbacks. While you’re the steward of the land, you’re not the owner—that’s, you guessed it, the U.S. Forest Service—which is why they tend to cost less. Cabin owners hold a renewable 20-year permit, pay an annual fee between $715 and $6,215, and have some pretty strict limitations on what they can do with the land, some related to responsible forest management, others more about maintaining the classic wilderness vibe. You can’t turn them into Airbnbs, for example, and exterior colors must stay earthy to blend in. Of course, the tradeoffs can be spectacular: Your remote cabin stays remote (with great stargazing!), and the forest around it continues to be cared for.

The cabin is located in the Dalles region of the national forest—not to be confused with Oregon's more famous The Dalles. The Crystal Mountain proximity makes it a beautiful ski cabin, and it’s even closer to year-round recreation, with plentiful trailheads at a variety of difficulty levels for hiking, biking, and exploring right next door to Mount Rainier.

Listing Fast Facts

The Dalles Cabin 7, Greenwater
Size: 400 square feet, 1 bedroom/1 outhouse
List Date: 10/16/2022
List Price: $325,000
Listing Agents:
Theresa Doherty, Windermere

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