Colorado huts range from rustic shacks to modern masterpieces. Photo credit.
Booking a hut in Colorado can be a mystifying experience. Different hut systems. Different reservation systems. Different booking windows. We wouldn’t blame you for scratching your head and choosing that same old campground or Airbnb.
But staying in a backcountry hut can be incredibly rewarding! Imagine yourself deep in the wilderness, cozied up by the fire with family and friends, and swapping wine-fueled stories after an A+ day of backcountry skiing or summiting a remote mountain.
To help make this fantasy a reality, we’ve scoured the web and gathered some helpful information to demystify the hut booking experience. This post will give you an overview of the hut system, tips on booking and a few recommendations. Get ready for a mega trip!
What to Expect
Colorado is home to 160+ huts and yurts, most of which are extremely popular and difficult to book – especially on winter weekends. The major hut systems are 10th Mountain Division, Summit Huts, Braun and Friends and the San Juan hut system. Colorado.com provides a good breakdown of hut systems by location.
Just reaching these huts can be an adventure. For the 30 huts operated by 10th Mountain Division, the average approach is 6-7 miles, with 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Trails often start above 8,000 feet and pass through avalanche terrain. Good fitness, backcountry experience and navigation skills are a must.
Colorado huts come in all shapes and sizes. Some sleep three and can be booked exclusively. Others sleep 20 and will be shared with multiple groups. Some are new and privately owned. Others are public and 150+ years old. All but Shrine Mountain Inn and Broome Hut are closed spring and fall. None allow dogs.
Amenities also vary hut to hut. Most huts are rustic and provide only basics such as bed platforms, a wood burner and a propane stove for cooking and melting snow. On the flip side, hut-goers at Francie’s Cabin, Janet’s Cabin, Polar Star Inn, Seipel Hut and Shrine Mountain Inn can luxuriate in wood-burning saunas after a big day. Here’s a guide to hut amenities.
Stars twinkle above Burn Hut in the San Juan Mountains. Photo credit.
How to Book a Hut
Here’s where things get tricky. Due to high demand, the majority of huts are booked by lottery – a tedious process that requires a masters degree in planning. Outside of the lottery, plenty of huts can be booked online or by phone – just don’t expect to score peak nights. And for all you procrastinators out there, beds can even be purchased last minute. Here’s a breakdown.
Your best chance to book a hut in the 10th Mountain Division or Summit Huts – or a number of privately-owned huts – is through the reservations lottery. This year, the lottery form submission period runs now through Feb. 14 for reservations next winter. As long as you enter by Feb. 14, you’re just as likely as anyone else to get the hut and dates of your choosing.
Huts.org, which administers the lottery, takes it from here: You must be a member of the hut system to enter the lottery, which can be done during the lottery form submission process. Entrants can choose an unlimited number of trip options for next winter. In March, officials draw each and every form and read through each member’s choices, working in order of preference to try and book a trip. If one of the member’s choices are available, we book that trip, charge their credit card for the trip cost, and email the hut trip confirmation letter. Each year we receive more than 2,000 entries and about 85% of entrants receive a trip.
Online and Phone Reservations
No luck in the lottery? You’ve got options. Not every hut spot gets snatched up in the lottery. Starting in April, members can book the remaining spots online or by phone at 970-925-5775. Non-members must wait until the first business day in June.
In addition, Braun and Friends huts – which aren’t included in the lottery – can be reserved online or by phone at 970-925-5775 on the first business day of May starting at 8:00am. San Juan huts can reserved by phone any time of year at 970-626-3033.
Quick aside on summer reservations: Hut demand is significantly less in summer, so if you’re looking to book a hut this summer, head over to huts.org and lock it in now.
Last minute Bookings
Looking for a bed … like tomorrow? Visit the user forum at huts.org to see if anyone is selling a spot. Good luck!
Choose the Right Hut
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to choose a hut. Whether you’re looking for extreme backcountry skiing, a 14er base camp or an easy weekend with the kids, you’ve got options.
A great place to start is the Colorado hut and yurt map. Drill into an area, click on a pin drop and get a bunch of useful info on each hut including hut capacity, trail distance, hut amenities, maps and what the hut is best used for.
If you’re still searching for inspiration, we’ve got three recommendations for you.
Drive straight to the Polar Star Inn for a fun family adventure … with a sauna! Photo credit.
Polar Star Inn
Located 20 miles south of Eagle in the scenic Holy Cross Wilderness, the Polar Star Inn is accessible by car, making it a great option for families. Take the kids up the one-mile trail to New York mountain then back for a soak in the sauna. For stronger kids, the trail continues to Nolan Lake (six miles roundtrip from the hut). See the family planning page at huts.org for more kid-friendly trip ideas.
With a capacity of three, Ken’s Cabin offers an intimate hut experience for a small family or group of friends. Open Thanksgiving to May, this cool and cozy cabin built in the 1860s sits 10 miles southeast Breckenridge at 11,500 feet. Park at the Boreas Pass trailhead and ski or snowshoe up the gradual 6.5-mile trail to this historic cabin.
This year-round backcountry hut near Georgetown is a step up from some of the primitive huts around the state. With room for eight, Tunda Hut comes with an oven, grill, large dining room table and a fully stocked kitchen … in addition to sweet mountain views and a new fire pit area. Accessible by car from June to October, this private hut is an obvious winner for family hiking adventures.
We hope this brings you one step closer to booking that badass hut weekend you’ve been dreaming about. If you’ve got any booking tips or favorite huts to share, leave a comment below!