Colorado Hike-In Huts
Unless you’re a Colorado mountain junkie, you might not know about one of the Centennial State’s coolest alpine traditions: the mountain hut. Huts or refugios are cozy structures in the mountain peaks that provide shelter and bedding to hikers, skiers, and outdoor adventurers who want to travel light and stay up high. Like, really Read more...
Colorado Hike-In Huts
Unless you’re a Colorado mountain junkie, you might not know about one of the Centennial State’s coolest alpine traditions: the mountain hut. Huts or refugios are cozy structures in the mountain peaks that provide shelter and bedding to hikers, skiers, and outdoor adventurers who want to travel light and stay up high. Like, really high. Denver may be the Mile High City, but each hut on this list is perched above 11,000 feet, i.e. over two miles in elevation!
These mountain hut Hipcamps give you access to many of the hiking trails, fourteeners, alpine lakes, aspen forests, and ski resorts that make Colorado’s Rocky Mountains such an epic outdoor destination. Given the adventure it takes to reach them, as well as their panoramic locations, you might not need many amenities or add-ons to make your mountain hut trip an unforgettable experience.
These mountain huts are privately owned by Hipcamp Hosts who want to protect and conserve their land by sharing it with you. Each hut is unique. Some allow you to park at the door, others require you park at a trailhead and hike your gear in backpacking-style. Most are private, but a few offer bunk-style communal lodging. Many are close to Denver, and provide a secluded mountain alternative to Rocky Mountain National Park.
Important note: unlike their European counterparts, the mountain huts in Colorado aren’t linked on a trail system, so make sure to do your own research or contact the specific Hipcamp Host regarding trips into the backcountry from these sites.
How to plan a mountain hut trip
There are a few extra logistics to staying in a high-altitude hut to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable trip.
First, the approach to each of these huts is unique. Some require hiking in with your gear several miles from a trailhead, like a backpacking trip. Other huts require driving on technical, unpaved roads that demand a vehicle that is BOTH high-clearance and four-wheel drive. It’s important to read the specific details of your listing and contact the Hipcamp Host if you have any lingering questions about the approach to their mountain hut.
You’ll also want to inquire with the Hipcamp Host about current trail and weather conditions at their specific hut. During winter and early spring, many of these huts are snowed-in, and you’ll need winter backcountry travel skills to access them. For most of us, summer is the sweet spot to visit these alpine Hipcamps. If there’s lingering snow or new snow in the forecast, you may want to bring trekking poles, micro spikes, crampons, or snowshoes.
The air is thinner in the mountains, and because all of these huts are over 11,000 feet, you may experience altitude symptoms until your body acclimates. One technique for high-altitude travel is to stagger your ascent by spending a night at gradually-higher elevations in order to acclimate. If you’re flying into Denver, you’ll definitely want a night or two at 5,000 feet before heading into the high Rockies. Otherwise, drink lots of water (the mountain air is also more dry), and stop drinking alcohol if you’re feeling altitude symptoms. Remember that altitude symptoms improve if you descend to a lower elevation.
Because of these variables, it’s important to be gentle and patient with yourself when planning a high-alpine adventure. It can be tricky to line up all of the elements up at once: the right vehicle, being confident in your fitness conditioning, and having the wilderness skills and experience you need for the terrain you’re visiting. Like any backcountry trip, an injury or inclement weather can change you ability to get to some mountain huts.
The good news is, if the stars don’t align for your mountain hut trip this year, Colorado is still loaded with incredible camping, glamping, and RV options on Hipcamp that are more easily accessible to visit than the huts on this list. To find other cozy shelters and cabins throughout Colorado’s Rockies, do a search of Colorado on Hipcamp and click the “Lodging” button to filter your search to discover yurts, tiny houses, and cabins.
Mountain huts throughout the Rockies
If you’re looking for mountain huts near Denver, there’s a concentration of sites to the West toward Leadville (and at 10,000-feet, Leadville is a great location to acclimate to the altitude overnight). These huts are based in and around the Arapaho National Forest, the White River National Forest the San Isabel National Forest and the Pike National Forest. These forests cover a wide swath of Colorado’s central Rockies and contain some of the best hiking trails, fourteeners, lakes, and ski resorts Colorado has to offer. Visitors here will be sharing the mountains with big horn sheep, mountain goats, bears, and moose.
If you want to discover mountain huts near Durango, the Creede Mountain Huts is a rare US Forest Service cooperative near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. These huts are located in the rugged Rio Grande National Forest. Visitors here can also branch out west to explore the San Juan National Forest.