Mountain Hut Escape

A summer retreat to a 10th Mountain Division Hut might be just what the doctor ordered.

Authored by Brenda Bergreen
Photography by Marc Bergreen

Photo by Marc Bergreen

Denver is a wondrous place to live, boasting accessible mountain peaks, countless adventure possibilities, and a vibrant Mile High City. The nightlife is buzzing, the natural, open spaces are plentiful, the job market is booming and the schools are high-ranking. What’s not to love? Still, it’s easy to get bogged down with everyday life; we might even get so busy that we forget about those magnificent peaks beckoning from above.

Having grown up in Colorado, I always knew which way was west—finding my way home didn’t require a GPS. Instead, I simply needed a fundamental understanding of the street grid and the occasional glance to search for snowy peaks in the distance. And when it all gets to be too much and a break is in order, sprinting towards those peaks to lose my bearings for a few days is exactly what I need.

As most would agree, the combination of nature and exercise might very well be the perfect recipe to wash away stress and supercharge physical and mental health, and we happen to have world-class resources right here in Colorado. After all, as John Muir knew, “Going to the mountains is going home.”

Planning a Getaway at Altitude?

This summer, the perfect place for a retreat is at one of the 10th Mountain Division’s secluded yet luxurious mountain huts. Rustic, quaint, and smack-dab in the middle of the mountains, they are perfect for skiers, hikers, and those ready to escape the city for a weekend and return recharged.

But, whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in the high country wildflowers or have a totally snowfilled getaway, timing is crucial when planning your trip. During my mid-August venture, the wildflowers were blooming, the temperatures were perfect, and the hut was welcoming—the experience was exactly what I was looking for.

The Huts are a Must

Walter’s Cabin is one of 34 mountain huts and is part of the Shrine Mountain Inn, which consists of three privately owned cabins. The two-floor cabin exceeded our expectations with hot running water, an indoor shower, and a refrigerator, and it was amusing to see firsthand how things we consider our fundamentals become luxuries when secluded in a mountain hut.

Shrine Mountain Inn is one of the more easily accessible huts in the system and is accessed from Vail Pass. The trail from the hut leads to the top of Shrine Pass and epic views of the Gore Range. The option to hike or bike down into Vail is available as well, as long as you have a plan for hiking back up. If you’re looking for more adventure or to travel from hut to hut, there is a vast network (350 miles) of suggested trails, making the possibilities for exploration endless. The views are ethereal and your only regret will be your departure time coming much too soon.

Photo by Marc Bergreen

Rules and Etiquette:

How to Care for the Huts

Be as prepared as possible by familiarizing yourself with the rules and etiquette of hut care before you go. Be sure to watch the 10th Mountain official videos for more details.

  • Fill out your waiver, park in designated areas, know your route, and stay safe on your approach. Stay hydrated and stay aware of things like altitude and blisters.
  • Once you arrive, take considerations to keep the hut clean during your stay, such as removing your shoes. Familiarize yourself with the details of the light, heat, and water situation for your hut before it gets dark/cold.
  • Beds and pillows are provided, but bring your own pillowcase and sleeping bag.
  • There are pots, pans, and dishes for your use. At the end of your stay, follow the dish washing and cleaning procedures. Don’t leave anything behind, inside or out.
  • Unless you book the whole hut, you will be sharing the hut with others; so remember to be considerate of other guests and leave things better than how you found them.

How To Choose The Best Hut For Your Family

Short hikes to consider: Continental Divide Cabin, Point Breeze Cabin, Broome Hut, 10th Mountain Division Hut
Drives to huts: Shrine Mountain Inn, Peter Estin Hut, Polar Star Inn
Huts with a fridge: Walter’s upper, Point Breeze Cabin, Chuck’s upper, Continental Divide Cabin Indoor toilets and composting: Walter’s upper and lower, Chuck’s upper and lower, Jay’s Cabin, Janet’s Cabin (compost), Broome (compost), Francie’s Cabin (compost)
Closest front range: Janet’s, Francie’s, Eiseman Hut, 10th Mountain Division, Uncle Bud’s Hut, Sangree M. Froelicher Hut
Easy to book: Roaring Fork Valley (Harry Gates Hut, Margy’s Hut, McNamara Hut, Benedict Huts, Betty Bear Hut)
Catering: If you’re looking for a hut with meals included, check out the Opus Hut in the San Juan Mountains. *Not part of the 10th Mountain Division
Sauna: Continental Divide, Francie’s, Janet’s, Polar Star, Chuck’s upper and lower, Jay’s, Walter’s upper and lower, Seipel Hut

Photo by Marc Bergreen

Tips for Booking Your Hut Trip

There are several ways you can book a hut. Remember, since the huts are very popular, reservations can be hard to secure. Consider a mid-week trip or seek out a less popular hut. Summer reservations begin in October of the previous year. Also, consider joining the 10th Mountain Association in order to participate in the early booking process for winter reservations. The lottery begins in March for the following winter season and call-in reservations start in April.

To book individual huts and yurts, visit www.huts.org; Colorado State Parks, visit www.cpwshop.com; and Colorado Nordic Centers, visit www.colorado.com. If you need help, a group leader can check the availability for your desired hut if you prefer. He/she can also make your reservation via the online booking process or over the phone. Note: Payment is due at the time of the reservation and the group leader will also sign a waiver and release agreement.