Our favorite season is here, so don a pack and head out into those snow-covered hills—powered only by legs and lungs—to experience Colorado’s eclectic assortment of backcountry shelters. Read on to discover some of our favroite remote, no-frills huts and yurts optimally located amid stunnning scenery and powder turns.
Creede Mountain Huts
What: Explore the wild San Juans on a 15.8-mile loop that links the Lime Creek Yurt (10,500 feet) and Fisher Mountain Hut (11,000 feet).
Where: The huts are located near the old mining town of Creede.
Why: Tons of powder snow, fabulous views of the Rio Grande Valley, a secluded locale for relaxing and rejuvenating, and privacy (rent it and your group will be the only one there)
Getting there: The huts are 0.8 miles apart but each one has its own trailhead. From either trailhead, it’s a 5-mile ski in. A trip between them requires a 5-mile ski to the other shelter and a 5.8-mile ski out.
Terrain: Beginner to expert. Fisher Mountain’s broad, exposed slopes and the open, steep northern slopes behind the Line Creek Yurt offer a variety of skiing options.
Creature comforts: There’s a huge deck with big views at the Fisher hut; padded bunks; wood stove; propane cook-stove and lights (lanterns in yurt) and full kitchenware; and detached contained outhouses.
Nitty Gritty: No pets. $125 per night; creedemountainhuts.com.
San Juan Hut System
What: Link up five huts scattered across the Sneffels Range via a 30-mile ski/snowshoe route, or visit just one hut from its own trailhead.
Where: The hut system connects Telluride and Ouray.
Why: Experience the perfect balance of being truly self-reliant while enjoying cozy comfort at night, travel in the shadow of 14,000-foot peaks, and find sweet, untracked turns.
Getting there: Access each hut from its trailhead (three to 10 miles, 1,300- to 2700-foot gain), or merge the hut-to-hut trails (four to 8.6 miles between each; 730 feet to 2,550 foot gain)
Terrain: Intermediate to expert. The route between huts was designed for intermediates, but terrain above each hut provides advanced/intermediate, expert and extreme powder skiing.
Creature comforts: Each hut features padded bunks, a wood stove (firewood provided), a propane cook-stove and lights, full kitchenware and a composting toilet facility.
Nitty Gritty: Pets allowed! The huts hold eight, so sharing often occurs. $30 per night per peron; sanjuanhuts.com
What: Ideally perched on a sunny slope at 11,350 feet and surrounded by big, snowcovered peaks, this newly renovated, energy-efficient 10th Mountain Division hut (formerly Gwen Andrews a.k.a. Second Creek Hut) provides a perfect launching pad for exploring this alpine environment.
Where: West side of Berthoud Pass
Why: The hut serves up panoramic views of the Continental Divide and the striking Second Creek headwall, and it’s close to downtown Denver.
Getting there: From the Second Creek Trailhead (MM 240), ski or snowshoe about one mile with an 800-foot elevation gain (it’s steep!).
Terrain: Beginner to expert, The surrounding bowls and glades keep skiers of all abilities entertained, but be careful: Steep areas can slide. The woods offer solid, relatively low-angle skiing if you know how to identify the best slopes. Second Creek offers a comparatively safe way to reach the ridges leading to Winter Park Ski Area or you can cruise to the moderately challenging bowls dipping off the alpine ridge to the west by climbing along the Nystrom Trail.
Creature comforts: The remodeled hut has padded bunks and two private rooms, a pellet stove, propane cook-stoves, full kitchenware, indoor composting toilets and a totally separate room for day use.
Nitty Gritty: No pets. The hut sleeps 16, so sharing often occurs. $35 per night, per person; grandhuts.org
Hinsdale Haute Route
What: This trip strings together two inviting shelters located along the Continental Divide: The Colorado Trail Friends Yurt (11,800 feet), on a saddle between the Divide and the Colorado Trail, and the Jon Wilson Memorial Yurt (10,840 feet), overlooking Lake San Cristobal.
Where: High above Lake City
Why: This is a safe, spectacular, remote hut-to-hut adventure with little avalanche danger, and panoramas of the Weminuche Wilderness, the La Garita Mountains and five 14,000-foot peaks. And it’s private—rent it and your group will be the only one there.
Getting there: You can access each hut from its own trailhead (1.8-5.5 miles/400- to 2,300-foot gain) or merge the hut-to-hut trails (3.2-5.2 miles/840- to 980-foot gain) over a route that traverses the Divide by following a broad, gently rolling ridge that was the old La Garita stock trail.
Terrain: Beginner to expert. The straightforward route to Jon Wilson offers an ideal intro for novices. At the hut touring options include a short, steep pitch right off the deck, benches above Lake San Cristobal and the Sawmill Headwall. All three routes that access the Friends Yurt are intermediate or expert. Day tours back into the Fawn Lakes Cirques or onto Ullr’s Knob will keep you busy.
Creature comforts: Padded bunks, wood stove, propane cook-stove, lanterns, full kitchenware, outhouse
Nitty Gritty: Pets allowed! $110 per night first two nights, $80 additional nights; hinsdalehauteroute.org
Please Note: Backcountry travelers should be able to identify and avoid avalanche-prone areas and others hazards and each individual should carry and know how to use beacons, probes and shovels. Take an avalanche safety course with the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE). Information here: avtraining.org/avalanche-training-courses/