Experience the Hinsdale Haute Route: Colorado’s Hut-to-Hut Trek


Hinsdale County, Colorado is the most remote county in the lower 48 states, according to the USGS. It’s a rugged, mountainous region where the Continental Divide crosses twice, creating a unique landscape that’s 96% public land and half designated wilderness.


  • Hinsdale Haute Route offers backcountry yurt accommodations and outdoor adventures in Colorado's remote alpine wilderness.
  • Experience off-grid living, high-altitude trails, and stunning alpine scenery while skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking.
  • Eco-tourism opportunities abound with sustainable travel and nature conservation efforts.

Destination Overview

Hinsdale Haute Route is a system of backcountry yurts settled in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, providing adventurous travelers with a unique way to experience the region’s rugged beauty. These insulated, carpeted yurts offer off-grid living with wood stoves, propane stoves, and basic amenities, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the wilderness while enjoying a comfortable base camp.

The area’s remote location and high elevation (some yurts sit above 11,000 feet) make it a prime destination for winter sports enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Skiers and snowshoers can explore miles of pristine trails, taking in breathtaking alpine scenery and spotting local wildlife along the way. In warmer months, hikers can traverse the same routes, discovering wildflowers and cascading streams.

Local Experiences and Culture

While the natural wonders are the main draw, the national scenic trail of Hinsdale Haute Route also offers opportunities to connect with the local culture and community. The nearby town of Lake City, with a population of just 374, provides a glimpse into the region’s rich history and traditions. Visitors can sample local cuisine, attend cultural events, and interact with friendly residents who are passionate about preserving their way of life.

The area’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship is evident in the eco-tourism practices and conservation efforts. By choosing to stay in the off-grid yurts and exploring the wilderness on foot or by ski, visitors minimize their impact on the delicate alpine ecosystems.

Yurt Accommodations and Off-Grid Living

Staying in a yurt is a unique experience that allows visitors to disconnect from the modern world and embrace a simpler way of living. These circular, tent-like structures are insulated and carpeted, with wood-burning stoves to keep them cozy even in the depths of winter.

While basic amenities like propane stoves, lanterns, and cooking supplies are provided, the yurts offer a true off-grid experience. Guests must haul in their own water and food, and there is no electricity or running water. This immersive experience fosters a deeper appreciation for the natural world and encourages sustainable living practices.

Winter Sports and Outdoor Recreation

Hinsdale Haute Route is a winter wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts. The area’s high elevation and abundant snowfall make it a prime destination for skiing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Backcountry skiers can follow the Continental Divide Trail or explore miles of ungroomed terrain, navigating through pristine powder and taking in stunning mountain vistas.

For those seeking a more leisurely experience, the well-marked snowshoe trails offer a chance to explore the winter landscape at a slower pace. Cross-country skiers can glide along groomed trails, taking in the crisp mountain air and enjoying the peaceful solitude of the backcountry.

In warmer months, the same trails beckon hikers and backpackers, offering a chance to experience the alpine meadows and wildflowers in full bloom.

High-Altitude Trails and Adventure Travel

One of the unique aspects of Hinsdale Haute Route is the opportunity to explore high-altitude trails and engage in true adventure travel. Many of the trails and yurt locations sit above 11,000 feet, offering breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment for those who venture into these rarified heights.

While the high-altitude environment presents challenges, proper preparation and adherence to mountain safety guidelines can ensure a safe and rewarding experience. Visitors should be prepared for the effects of altitude, such as shortness of breath and potential altitude sickness, and should carry appropriate gear and supplies.

Experienced guides and backcountry navigation skills are essential for those embarking on more ambitious adventures, such as multi-day hut-to-hut ski tours or extended backpacking trips. The rewards of conquering these high-altitude trails are unparalleled, with stunning vistas and a sense of accomplishment that will stay with you long after your return.

Alpine Scenery and Nature Conservation

The alpine scenery of Hinsdale Haute Route is truly breathtaking, with towering peaks, pristine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes that will leave you in awe. This unspoiled natural beauty is a testament to the area’s commitment to conservation and environmental stewardship.

Initiatives such as sustainable tourism practices, responsible trail maintenance, and wildlife protection efforts help preserve the delicate alpine ecosystems for future generations. Visitors can play their part by adhering to Leave No Trace principles, respecting wildlife, and supporting local conservation organizations.

By choosing to explore Hinsdale Haute Route, you’re not only immersing yourself in stunning natural beauty but also contributing to the preservation of this unique and fragile environment.

Local Attractions and Wilderness Exploration

While the backcountry adventures are the main draw, Hinsdale Haute Route also offers opportunities to explore local attractions and delve deeper into the wilderness.

The nearby town of Lake City, with its charming main street and historic buildings, is a must-visit for those seeking a taste of local culture. The town’s namesake, Lake San Cristobal, is the second-largest natural lake in Colorado and offers stunning views of the surrounding peaks.

For those seeking a true wilderness experience, guided tours and survival skills workshops can provide the knowledge and confidence to venture further into the backcountry. From learning to navigate by map and compass to identifying edible plants and building emergency shelters, these immersive experiences will deepen your connection to the natural world.

Hut-to-Hut Skiing and Community Engagement

One of the unique experiences offered in Hinsdale Haute Route is hut-to-hut skiing, where adventurous skiers can embark on multi-day tours, staying in remote backcountry huts along the way. This type of adventure requires careful planning, proper gear, and backcountry skiing skills, but the rewards are unparalleled.

Imagine gliding through pristine powder fields, taking in panoramic mountain vistas, and ending each day in a cozy yurt with a warm fire and good company, or in a high lonesome hut where you can connect deeply with yourself. The hut-to-hut system not only provides a unique way to experience the backcountry but also fosters a sense of community among like-minded adventurers.

Beyond the skiing adventures, visitors can engage with the local community through various activities and events. Attend a community potluck or participate in a volunteer trail maintenance day to connect with locals and gain a deeper appreciation for the area’s rich cultural heritage.


What is the best time of year to visit Hinsdale Haute Route?

The winter months, typically from December to April, are the prime time for skiing, snowshoeing, and other winter sports. However, the area is also beautiful in the summer and fall, offering excellent hiking and backpacking opportunities.

Do I need to be an experienced skier or hiker to enjoy Hinsdale Haute Route?

While some of the more advanced trails and hut-to-hut ski tours require a certain level of experience and fitness, there are also beginner-friendly options available. The Jon Wilson Yurt, for example, is only a short hike from the trailhead, making it accessible for families and novice backcountry enthusiasts.

What should I pack for a stay in the yurts?

Be prepared for off-grid living by packing warm clothing layers, a sleeping bag, water bottles, and non-perishable food items. You’ll also need to bring any personal items you might need, as the yurts provide only basic amenities.

Are there any safety concerns I should be aware of?

As with any backcountry adventure, there are inherent risks involved in exploring Hinsdale Haute Route. Proper preparation, appropriate gear, and adherence to mountain safety guidelines are essential. Visitors should also be aware of the potential for altitude sickness and take necessary precautions.

How can I minimize my impact on the environment during my visit?

Follow Leave No Trace principles, such as packing out all trash, respecting wildlife, and staying on designated trails. Consider supporting local conservation efforts and choosing eco-friendly transportation options when possible.


About the author

Shannon Persad

As a seasoned journalist and Colorado native, I bring a deep-rooted connection and comprehensive understanding of Colorado to my work at ReadyColorado.com. My appreciation for the state’s rich history, vibrant culture, and pressing environmental issues drives my commitment to exploring its evolving landscape—from the bustling urban centers to the tranquil mountain towns.