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Why a Colorado hut trip is the best adventure you can have

Mountain winter landscape
A Colorado hut trip provides one of the exhilarating and unforgettable experiences you can have in the Rocky Mountains (Image credit: massimo colombo)

Never mind paying the big bucks to ski at a world class resort – a Colorado hut trip is honestly one of the best experiences you can have in the Rocky Mountains. Imagine hiking for miles through the dazzling Colorado wilderness only to arrive at a warm, cozy hut where you can relax around the fire, cook up a warm meal, and sleep in a comfortable bed. In the morning you can enjoy breakfast out on the deck with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and then go and explore them in solitude. This rustic adventure can’t be called glamping, because it often requires a grueling journey to reach these remote cabins that don’t necessarily even have running water, but it’s definitely a step up from camping and a not-to-be-missed Colorado experience. 

Colorado’s backcountry is peppered with huts such as the famous 10th Mountain Division Hut System, which was founded for high altitude soldiers during World War II and now encompasses 34 huts connected by 350 miles of trails. The public can stay in these and many other Colorado huts, which sleep anywhere from three to 20 people, usually for a reasonable fee. You can get to Colorado’s huts in any season, and even tour them on a hut to hut hiking trip, but while hiking boots will suffice in the summer, you’ll need snowshoes or cross country skis from late fall through the spring.

Cabin in Winfield, Colorado

Colorado’s backcountry is peppered with huts such as the famous 10th Mountain Division Hut System (Image credit: Kayla Goss)

What do you need to know before a Colorado hut trip?

You can definitely expect a magnificent adventure from a Colorado hut trip. It will probably be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, and therefore there are a few things you should know before you go. 

1. Book ahead 

Colorado’s backcountry huts get booked out well in advance, so you’ll want to plan ahead and secure a reservation early to avoid disappointment. Some huts are so popular at certain times of the year that reservations are handed out via a lottery, however with a little planning you’ll be able to find a hut – or at least a bed in a hut – outside of peak periods, which are ski season and high summer. 

You may be able to book a single or multiple beds in a hut that can sleep lots of people, or you may be required to reserve the entire hut. If you’re booking the entire hut, it usually means taking on the financial burden and hoping your friends pull through, but in order to get that coveted reservation, you may just need to take this risk. Chances are, you can find someone in all of Colorado who’ll want to join your trip. 

2. It requires fitness and skill 

Compared to your average hotel in Colorado’s high country, huts are an affordable overnight option. The price for reaching these huts, however, is largely paid in sweat equity. You’ll usually have to hike or ski for many miles carrying a backpack or even a sled full of supplies if you’re traveling in a large group. In the winter, you’ll be traveling through snow that usually won’t be packed down, and not all huts have clearly marked trails to reach them, so you’ll need proper navigation skills such as map reading, knowing how to use a compass and avalanche safety.

If you’re embarking on your first hut trip and haven’t spent too much time outdoors, avoid really remote huts such as Eisman near Vail, which entails a 10-mile hike, and seek out a more accessible option. The Shrine Mountain Inn cabins are under three miles from Vail Pass, without steep terrain, and even have a sauna if you know how to chop firewood!

Friends eating food at a mountain hut

If you book a bed in a hut, you might be sharing with a group of strangers (Image credit: Daniel Milchev)

3. You might meet some new friends 

As we mentioned, you can often book a single bed in a hut, which is really affordable, but know that when you arrive, that may well mean you’re sharing with a group of strangers. Now, everyone should be aware of this and hopefully you’re all on board with meeting other like-minded people and making friends, but it's important to be respectful of other hut users – clean up after yourself, don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink, and keep the noise down at night. 

4. They can be pretty comfortable 

Staying at a hut might not be exactly like staying at the Vail Marriott, but you may be surprised at how cozy they can be. All of the huts are different of course, but you can usually expect a bed to sleep in and a proper stove to cook dinner on. Some have running water while others do not and some provide bed linens while others require you to bring a sleeping bag. It’s important to check ahead and understand what you need to carry in and what is provided. 

Regardless of which cabin you choose, you’ll need to hike in with all your food and drink for the trip, and you may feel more comfortable using a sleeping bag liner even if linens are provided.  

Happy man relaxing in a mountain hut

On a Colorado hut trip you can kick back and relax after a long day of hiking or cross country skiing (Image credit: Daniel Milchev)

Where are the best Colorado huts? 

There are huts and yurts all over Colorado, between its many State Parks and cross country ski areas, while some of the standout hut trip experiences in the state can be found in the following systems and locations:

  • 10th Mountain Division Hut System (opens in new tab) has 34 huts in the White River and San Isabel National Forests around Vail, Aspen and Leadville.
  • Alfred A. Braun Hut System & Friends Hut (opens in new tab) are mountaineering and skier-oriented huts between Aspen and Crested Butte.
  • OPUS Hut (opens in new tab) is a luxurious, full-service hut on the slopes of Lookout Peak south of Telluride.
  • San Juan Hut System (opens in new tab) has five huts in the rugged San Juans between Telluride, Ouray and Ridgeway.
  • Summit Huts System (opens in new tab) operates four huts in the high country around Breckenridge and Copper Mountain.
  • Weston Pass Hut (opens in new tab) near Leadville offers stunning views of Mount of the Holy Cross.

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.