Colorado Backcountry Huts for All Skill Levels


Colorado boasts the largest network of backcountry huts in North America, with over 50 huts scattered throughout the Rocky Mountains. These huts offer a unique and immersive way to experience the state’s stunning wilderness, catering to outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels and interests.


  • Colorado Backcountry Huts provide a unique opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the Rocky Mountains in a comfortable and accessible way.
  • The mountain huts offer a variety of activities for different skill levels, from beginner-friendly ski touring to challenging mountaineering routes.
  • Proper preparation and safety considerations are essential for a fulfilling and safe backcountry hut experience.

Understanding Colorado Backcountry Huts

The Concept and History

The concept of backcountry mountain huts in Colorado can be traced back to the 10th Mountain Division, a specialized U.S. Army unit that trained in the Rocky Mountains during World War II. After the war, many veterans returned to Colorado and helped establish the state’s ski industry and the hut system.

Today, the huts promote outdoor recreation and conservation, providing access to pristine wilderness areas while minimizing the environmental impact of camping.

Types of Huts Available

Colorado’s backcountry huts are managed by various organizations, the largest of which is the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. Other notable systems include the San Juan Huts and the Summit Huts Association.

The huts vary in size, amenities, and accessibility, ranging from rustic cabins with basic necessities to modern lodges with solar power and indoor plumbing. Some huts are accessible by car, while others require a multi-day ski or hike to reach.

Planning Your Hut Trip

Choosing the Right Hut

When planning a backcountry hut trip, consider factors such as the season, your group size, and the experience level of your party. Some huts are in terrain better suited for summer activities like hiking and mountain biking, while others are ideal for winter ski touring and snowshoeing.

Hut reservations can fill up quickly, especially during popular weekends and holidays. It’s recommended that you book your trip several months in advance through the respective hut system’s website.

Essential Gear and Supplies

The gear and supplies you’ll need for your hut trip will depend on the season and your planned activities. However, some essential items include:

  • Sleeping bag and pillow
  • Warm clothing layers
  • Sturdy hiking boots or ski boots
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • First-aid kit and emergency supplies
  • Food and cooking equipment (if not provided by the hut)

When packing, aim to be efficient and mindful of the weight and bulk of your gear, as you’ll need to carry everything to the hut.

Activities Around the Huts

Summer Adventures

During the summer months, Colorado’s backcountry huts provide access to a wide range of outdoor activities. Hiking trails wind through alpine meadows and forests, offering chances to spot wildlife like elk, marmots, and pikas.

Mountain biking is another popular summer activity, with many huts located near challenging singletrack trails. Some huts also offer access to fishing streams and lakes, where anglers can cast for native trout species.

Winter Wonderland

The huts become a base camp for backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the winter. The surrounding mountains offer a variety of terrain, from gentle slopes for beginners to steep chutes and bowls for advanced skiers.

Snowshoeing is another way to explore the winter landscape, with many huts offering marked trails through the snow-covered forests. Ice climbing is also possible near some huts, with frozen waterfalls and cliffs providing a challenge for experienced climbers.

When engaging in winter activities, it’s crucial to be aware of avalanche risk and carry proper safety equipment, such as beacons, probes, and shovels. Before your trip, you should take an avalanche safety course and check the local avalanche forecast.

Navigating to Your Hut

Access and Transportation

The best time to travel to your backcountry hut will depend on the season and your chosen activities. In the summer, most huts are accessible by hiking or mountain biking, with some offering 4WD access.

In the winter, reaching the huts typically requires skiing or snowshoeing, as most access roads are not plowed. Some huts offer snowmobile shuttles for gear transport, but checking with the individual hut for specific access details is essential.

When planning your trip, consider the environmental impact of your transportation choices and aim to minimize your footprint by carpooling or using public transit when possible.

Navigation Tips and Tools

Navigating to your backcountry hut can be challenging, especially in winter conditions. It’s essential to carry a detailed topographic map of the area and a compass or GPS device.

Before your trip, study the route and familiarize yourself with key landmarks and potential hazards. Pay attention to weather forecasts and be prepared to adjust your plans if conditions deteriorate.

It is also a good idea to leave a detailed trip plan with a trusted friend or family member, including your expected route, destination, and return time.

Safety and Etiquette in the Backcountry

Preparing for Emergencies

While backcountry hut trips offer a comfortable and safe way to experience the wilderness, it’s essential to be prepared for emergencies. Carry a well-stocked first-aid kit and know how to use it.

In case of a serious injury or illness, have a plan for contacting emergency services, such as carrying a satellite communication device or knowing the location of the nearest ranger station.

It’s also important to know how to respond to wildlife encounters, particularly with bears and mountain lions. Make noise while hiking to avoid surprising animals, and carry bear spray in areas where encounters are possible.

Leave No Trace Principles

To help preserve the pristine beauty of Colorado’s backcountry, it’s crucial to follow Leave No Trace principles when using the huts. This includes packing out all trash, properly disposing of waste, and minimizing your impact on the surrounding environment.

Be respectful of other hut users and follow any specific guidelines or rules posted by the hut management. By being responsible stewards of these special places, we can ensure that future generations can enjoy them as well.

Enhancing Your Hut Trip Experience

Photography and Journaling

The stunning scenery surrounding Colorado’s backcountry huts provides endless opportunities for photography. Capture the beauty of the mountains, forests, and wildlife to share with friends and family back home.

Keeping a trip journal is another way to document and remember your hut adventure. Jot down notes about the routes you explored, the people you met, and the memories you made.

Community and Shared Experiences

One of the most rewarding aspects of a backcountry hut trip is the sense of community and camaraderie that develops among hut users. The communal spaces in the huts, such as the kitchen and living areas, provide opportunities to connect with fellow adventurers and share stories and tips.

Embrace the social nature of the hut experience, and you may find yourself forging new friendships and planning future trips together.


What is the best time of year to book a Colorado Backcountry Hut?

The best time to book a hut depends on your preferred activities. Book early (often a year in advance) for winter ski touring for popular dates. Summer and fall offer more flexibility, but reserving several months ahead is still wise.

How do I choose the right hut for my skill level and interests?

Research the huts’ locations, amenities, and access to determine which suits your group’s abilities and goals best. Consult with the hut management or guidebooks for recommendations based on your specific interests.

What are the most important safety considerations for a hut trip?

Be prepared for emergencies by carrying a first-aid kit, knowing how to navigate, and having a plan for communication. In winter, be aware of avalanche risk and carry appropriate safety gear.

Can I bring my pet to a backcountry hut?

Most backcountry huts do not allow pets, as they can disturb wildlife and other hut users. Check with the specific hut management for their pet policy before booking.

How can I contribute to the preservation of these huts and their surroundings?

Follow Leave No Trace principles, respect hut rules and guidelines, and consider volunteering with or donating to the organizations that maintain the huts. By being responsible hut users, we can help ensure the longevity of these special places.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.