For those who like to stay away from the crowds and commune with nature, the backcountry is the place to go. With dozens of huts scattered across the state, Colorado offers a backcountry experience for everyone
1. Opus Hut
To complete the stone work on the foundation more than fifteen pallets of bagged mortar were carried up the summer trail.
Bob Kingsley spent years working in construction and as a guide on the Tenth Mountain Hut System, all the while searching for an ideal location for a mountain hut of his own. He eventually came across a mining claim above Ophir Pass Road that he thought could work. Five years later, Opus Hut was finished.
With four rooms (you can rent a room or just a bed), a wood-fired sauna, indoor composting toilets and filtered water, Opus is somewhat less rustic than other huts on this list. There are also meal packages (breakfast, soup in the afternoon and dinner). Pets are allowed, but personal alcohol is not as the Opus Hut is actually a licensed tavern in the state of Colorado. However, alcoholic and other beverages are available for purchase; tea is complimentary.
Access: In winter, guests can access the hut by snowshoeing or skinning 3.5 miles from two separate directions.
2. Fisher Mountain Hut
Formerly a “glorified ice fishing shack,” Kip and his friends renovated and added on to it to make it what it is today
One of two properties that together are Creede Mountain Huts, husband and wife team Kerry Rice and Kip Nagy have owned Fisher Mountain Hut for about 12 years. Located in a relatively remote area of the eastern San Juan Mountains, it offers access to cross-country skiing for all levels.
Like the vast majority of backcountry huts, cooking utensils are provided as is wood for the wood burning stove. The cooking stove is propane.
Access: You can snowshoe, ski or snowmobile to the hut; allow four hours if you are on skis or snowshoes.
Read more about winter in Creede here
3. Spruce Hole Yurt
Spruce Hole offers unique opportunities for star gazing thanks to the “viewing chair” in the middle of the yurt. Climb up and sit in the dome of the yurt to view the night sky. There is also a telescope on the deck
Located in the Rio Grande National Forest, Spruce Hole Yurt was built in 1998. In operation between October and April each year, the area around Spruce Hole offers a range of terrains for cross-country skiing.
The yurt can sleep a total of six people. There is a wood stove (and plenty of wood under the yurt) for heating, solar lights and a charging station as well as a two-burner gas range for cooking.
Access: The yurt is 2.5 miles from the highway and visitors must cross-country ski or snowshoe in. The trail to the yurt is ideal for beginners, but it is not groomed.
4. Hidden Treasure Yurts
The area averages over 400 inches of snow a year and is sometimes used for search and rescue training and avalanche education
Hidden Treasure Yurts is a pair of yurts at 11,200 feet in Eagle County. Each of the large yurts can sleep up to eight people.
Originally a gold mining operation established in the 1880s, the four mining claims were sold by the family of the original owners. In 1996 the yurts were installed and sold to the current owners in 2014.
Access: The trip (6.2 miles with a 2,140 feet elevation gain) requires skills in backcountry navigation, group dynamics, leadership and avalanche awareness and is not recommended for beginners.
5. Summit Huts
Francie’s Cabin is south of Breckenridge and is a great hut for beginners and families
Built in 1994 and named for Frances Lockwood Bailey, a former resident of Breckenridge who died in a tragic plane crash in 1989, Francie’s Cabin has a wood-burning sauna (firewood is provided), a wood-burning stove for heat, solar powered lights, an indoor composting toilet and a fully-equipped kitchen.
The other huts in the system include Janet’s Cabin, the first hut in the Summit hut system, which is located between Copper Mountain Resort and Vail Pass and just off the
Colorado Trail; Ken’s Cabin, a rustic hut that can accommodate two or three people was originally built in the 1860’s. The cabin has no insulation in the ceiling (per request of the State Historical Society), the sink drains into a bucket and the outhouse is shared with guests of the Section House (the fourth cabin); and Sisters Cabin (pictured here), the newest cabin in the association that will open soon.
Read our 24 Hours in Breckenridge guide here
6. Hinsdale Haute Route
Currently offering two yurts on a year-round basis, Hinsdale Haute Route is the highest hut system in Colorado
The Jon Wilson Memorial Yurt is good for families thanks to its ease of access and lack of avalanche danger. Offering fantastic views of Lake San Cristobal and the Lake Fork Valley, Sunshine Peak and Lake City, the yurt is 20 feet in diameter and capable of accommodating up to eight people (with a combination of bunk beds and cots with pads). It has double pane glass windows, a wood stove with firewood, a four burner propane stove with oven and a small charcoal grill with charcoal and starter fluid. The kitchen sink has a bucket which needs to emptied outside away from the yurt.
The Jon Wilson Memorial Yurt is also a good place to start a trip to the Colorado Trail Friends Yurt, the second hut in the system.
7. Lost Wonder Hut
Lost Wonder Hut is one of only a few that allows dogs, partly because the on-property spring means you do not need to melt snow for drinking water
Located close to Monarch ski area, the Lost Wonder Hut is on the larger side and is able to accommodate more than a dozen people. The hut is popular with families thanks to ease of access for younger, older and disabled people.
Access: Easily accessible by beginner snowshoers and cross-country skiers, the hut is less than three miles from the trailhead. It is also accessible by snowmobiles which create a track that can be skied or even walked down.
8. High Camp Hut
There is no cell phone service or electrical outlets at High Camp Hut, which makes it a great choice if you want to truly unplug for a few days
The sturdy and cozy cabin has five bedrooms and a loft as well as a spacious living and dining area. The cabin is heated by a huge pot belly stove which can be loaded up with wood to keep the cabin warm all night. Last year, a wood-fired sauna was added next to the lodge. There is a hill right outside that is great for sledding and there is good intermediate skiing nearby.
Access: A 2.5-mile (with 1,000 feet in elevation gain) ski or snowshoe trip, visitors should allow around two hours to reach the hut.
9. Broome Hut
Grand Huts Association, a nonprofit community organization, manages Broome Hut which has been in since 2013
Broome Hut is a 1,700-square-foot, 18-person hut in a high alpine valley, and at 11,300 feet it is a great option for skiing. The hut is also an “air tight” energy efficient hut as it was built from a combination of foam panels with a traditional timber frame made from local beetle kill timber. It is also the closest major hut to Denver. Pets aren’t allowed at Broome Hut.
Access: The one mile trek is relatively easy in nice weather. Ski access, however, is relatively steep. Skins and Alpine touring equipment is recommended.
10. Leadville Backcountry
This pair of yurts - Emma and Marceline - were eventually erected on the Helen Mining claim after the land was purchased by a trio of investors in 2002
Located above the pristine Empire Reservoir at 12,000 feet, the two yurts are nestled behind the Mosquito Mountain Range and Mt. Sherman. The ridge behind the yurts offers views of Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive and the Collegiate ranges (this is also the place to go for cell phone service).
Both yurts are set up the same and can accommodate five people in a split bunk bed and a second queen bed. Both have wood stoves (with plenty of wood stocked inside the yurt and in the wood shed) for heating and a propane stove and oven for cooking.
Aside from the views, the area also offers wildlife viewing (elk, deer and red-tail hawks among others) as well as bowl skiing, although you will have to walk to the top of the bowl so you’ll probably only feel like doing a few runs.
Access: At 12,000 feet and requiring a 5.5- mile cross-country ski or snowshoe trek with 3,000 feet elevation gain, these yurts are not recommended for beginners.
11. San Juan Hut System
The San Juan Hut System links Telluride to Ouray and follows the Sneffels Range below 14,000 foot alpine peaks
For those looking for a lengthy hut-to-hut experience, the San Juan Hut System offers five huts which are all connected via scenic US Forest Service roads and hiking trails surrounding the Mount Sneffels Wilderness Area.
The 30ish-mile route is designed for intermediate skiers, but the areas around each hut provide terrain for more advanced skiers up to and including extreme powder skiing. You can also access huts individually.
The shared huts can accommodate up to eight people per night and are equipped with a propane cooking stove, propane lights, wood stove, kitchen utensils and cookware and a composting toilet.
The newest San Juan Hut experience is fat tire biking at Spring Creek Hut. Located around 20 miles outside of Montrose, the hut is located in the Uncompahgre National Forest.
Access: Trails and levels required vary depending on each hut.
Read more about winter in Ouray here
12. Silverton Ski Hut
The hut was built in the 1990’s on a mining claim from the late 1800’s called Aladdin’s Lamp.
Aladdin’s Lamp is the only hut on Molas Pass with convenient access to major ski lines on Grand Turk, Spencer Peak and the Sultan (three 13ers northwest of Molas Pass). There is also a more gentle north facing slope above the hut for those new to the backcountry.
The area directly around the hut is free from avalanche hazards which makes it great for newcomers to the backcountry and those with children. Just across the highway is a track set for snowmobiles which is perfect for cross-country skiing.
The hut has a full kitchen with a wood stove for heat and for melting snow for water, an attached outhouse and solar lighting. The rustic hut can accommodate eight in a dormitory-style, single room upstairs.
Access: The hut is just a quarter of a mile from the road and is relatively easy to access on cross-country skis or snowshoes.
13. 10th Mountain Hut Division Association
Conceived by Fritz Benedict, an architect who played a role in Aspen, Vail and other ski communities in Colorado, the 10th Mountain Division Hut System is made up of 34 huts that are connected by 350 miles of suggested routes.
Influenced by a system of huts in New Hampshire and the famous skiing Haute Route between Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland, Benedict wanted to connect Aspen and Vail as a way to provide access to Colorado’s beautiful and challenging backcountry in winter as well as to honor the infantrymen of the 10th Mountain Division. In fact, much of the territory that now comprises the system was originally part of the training ground for 10th Mountain Division troops. In 1997, Fritz and his wife Fabi were themselves honored when two beautifully-crafted cabins were named for them.
The system is managed by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, a nonprofit organization.
Read more about winter in Aspen here
Gear for the Trek
ATLAS | Spindrift
Sprindrift snowshoes were designed for backcountry terrain, so are perfect for snowshoeing to these huts. Delivering speed and performance, they provide plenty of traction and have very secure bindings. They’re particularly good for steep ascents and descents. $269.95
TUBBS | Flex VRT
These snowshoes are great for climbing in all conditions. They use BOA cinching for easy tightening. The toe-crampons give great traction, even on icy surfaces, and the women-specific fit means that strides feel natural. There is also a men’s version available. $259.95
DANNER | Raptor 650
Available for men and women (shown here) these durable and sturdy boots are comfortable and warm - a great choice for snowshoeing. With 400G PrimaLoft insulation and fleece-lined uppers, feet stay nice and toasty. Full-grain leather and waterproof protection keeps out moisture. The boots also offer fantastic grip on wet, icy surfaces. $ 240