Host Spotlight: Weston Pass Hut, A High Mountain Camping Sanctuary

Hipcamp is able to help so many amazing hosts share their incredible land, and the gathering ground they have created of it. Eddie, host of Weston Pass Hut, along with a group of 10 other mountain folk, started building this hut over 10 years ago, and now welcome in fellow outdoor enthusiasts from around the globe. Passionate about the power and beauty of our natural world, Eddie tells the story of both the peace and adventure he hopes people find at 12,000-feet elevation.

Hipcamp: Why do you do it – Why did you decide to join Hipcamp, and allow campers on your land?

Eddie: We built our hut to host backcountry enthusiasts who seek outdoor seclusion. Harold Tuxhorn (“Tux”) has been the leader and visionary for our project. A lifelong builder and problem-solver, Tux has cultivated a deep love for our high mountain county through decades of living in Leadville. The first apartment that Tux and his wife occupied: he built it. The basement of their first house: he built it. In the valley next to Weston Pass Hut he built a site for two Yurts. From all this experience, he guided us in his vision to build a unique structure that blends into surrounding beauty atop Weston Pass.

Tux has had a core group of 10 fellow mountain enthusiasts helping to develop the project since 2008. For all of us, outdoor recreation is fundamental to our identity and culture. We all grew up in the mountains and have been involved in outdoor adventure our entire lives. We see Weston Pass Hut as a sanctuary where people can leave everyday distractions behind to renew their spirit. This spiritual renewal is vital as our lives are increasingly lived at desks, on the internet, and indoors.

Thanks to Hipcamp, we have shared our hut with a global audience of adventure seekers. It has been our most effective online platform for linking up with individuals who want rugged adventures and high-mountain solitude.

Hipcamp: What is the history of your land?

Eddie: In the late 19th century, the road over Weston Pass served as the first stage coach route into Lake County, connecting the two largest cities in Colorado at the time: Leadville and Denver. During the pioneer days, early settlers and miners claimed land on the pass in search of gold and silver. Weston Pass is still the site of many old cabins, one of which is located on the top of Horseshoe Mountain at nearly 14,000 feet. Our design captures the grit and will that these miners exhibited when they accomplished herculean feats like hauling materials to build cabins at extreme elevations.

For years, Tux had kept his eye on old mining claims in areas that held potential for outdoor exploration. Finally, in 2008 four mining claims came up for sale and Tux pounced with five other partners. This began a seven-year, off-the-grid construction project at an elevation of nearly 12,000 feet. The group pooled $100,000 of their own resources to complete the project, a meager amount compared to million-dollar-plus budgets spent on similarly-sized projects in other parts of Colorado. Limited capital meant substituting “sweat equity” and backwoods engineering in place of additional funds. We fashioned a dump truck out of an old Toyota pickup and plywood. We dug the foundation using Tux’s self-constructed mini-backhoe. We purchased auctioned vehicles and materials from a local mine in Lake County. We milled every post and beam in the hut, and repurposed old douglas fir lumber that previously comprised a loading deck. We used sustainably-harvested sod on the hut’s roof to meet building requirements for insulation. Thanks to the support of friends and volunteers who shared our vision and brought valuable skills—such as solar installation and carpentry—we never needed to hire outside contractors.

We constructed a beautiful hut on a shoestring budget, which also has an ecologically sound footprint. From our perspective, this is old-school value with forward-thinking appeal.

Hipcamp: In 3 words, how would you describe your land, and what you offer?

Eddie: Rugged, Mountain, Adventure

Hipcamp: What kind of activities do campers participate in at your Hipcamp? Near your Hipcamp?

Eddie: During the summer and fall, Weston Pass offers many hiking options. These range from short hikes to endurance challenges traversing multiple 14,000-foot peaks. All the options provide open vistas of mountain valleys that are carpeted in forests, streams, and alpine tundra. Running and mountain biking are also popular summer and fall activities.

Wildlife viewing is abundant year-round. Throughout much of the summer a herd of 300-400 elk graze in view of the hut. We share our habitat with bears, moose, ermine, deer, eagles, and coyotes. For casting enthusiasts, both sides of the pass offer fishing in streams and beaver ponds.

Photo by Jason Hatfield

During the winter, guests have access to thousands of acres for backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. The trek into the hut during the winter is about seven miles, a beautiful journey by foot, ski, or snow vehicle.

Finally, the clarity of the night sky provides year-round opportunities for sky-gazing. Viewing a full moon from a telescope at the hut bestows existential awe that is difficult to describe.

Hipcamp: What’s coming up in the pipeline with your Hipcamp? Any improvements or special events coming up?

Eddie: Every summer our team takes on a new project to improve the hut—in previous years these included solar installation and both kitchen and insulation upgrades. We continue to develop the outdoor living space, which now includes a windbreak, BBQ grill, and fire ring. In summer 2019, we will upgrade some of the creature comforts in the hut including a few furniture items and usb outlets for our guests to charge small electronics for their outdoor adventures.

Hipcamp: When is the best time to camp at your property? Why?

Eddie: The best time to visit the hut really depends on the guests’ interests. During the summer the hut can be accessed by vehicles, which makes it one of the most accessible backcountry huts in Colorado. The summertime provides for long days and a variety of activities.

The winter provides a much more secluded environment. The environment is both harsh and serene, and it can leave guests feeling like they are living in their own private world, where the hut’s warmth and comfort create a surreal contrast to the winter elements. The thousands of acres will delight snowmobilers and backcountry skiers.

Hipcamp: Tell me about how the land has changed since you first bought it. What are your dreams for this property?

Eddie: When we were building the hut, Tux was fond of reminding us that it will be around long after we are gone. We built a 1,600 square foot structure on top of a 12,000-foot pass, and so the property has completely transformed since we first bought it. Yet, the hut is built into the earth, has a sod roof, and is constructed from locally milled lumber. This allows the hut fit naturally into the surrounding environment and minimizes its ecological footprint.

Our dream for the property is to simply keep developing it in a way that is congruent with its alpine surroundings. We have discussed installing a sauna that has the same design of using the earth as insulation. More importantly, we will continue to look for ways that our guests can experience the space we have created. We have already hosted one wedding at the hut, and we hope to host more. Group outings and organizational retreats are becoming more popular as leaders appreciate the focus that the hut can provide. We would love to have a winter mountain bike race on the pass and hope to work with a backcountry guide company for other skiing and winter activities. The space is also ideal for meditation and yoga retreats.

Photo by Jason Hatfield

Hipcamp: What do you love about where you live?

Eddie: We live below the hut in the town of Leadville. We love the beauty of the entire county, and all the ways that is possible to engage a mountain environment. We also love the mountain culture that has developed in Leadville. The town has survived a boom and bust mining economy since its founding. It attracts people who want to live in the mountains and have the fortitude to stick it out in hard times. We are also a small, tight-knit community who enjoy a comfortable casualness with each other that comes from sharing so many experiences.

Hipcamp: Do you have any favorite Hipcamper experiences?

Eddie: Two Hipcampers were coming from Tennessee and Louisiana to stay at the hut for a multi-day trip. One of the guests called me on the phone asking for a lot of advice about the nearby mountains that they could climb and the adventures that they could pursue. It became clear that they didn’t have much experience in Colorado, and their plans were wide-open. They had basically booked the plane tickets and found the hut. They stayed for five nights and had an excellent time,even sharing the hut with other hipcampers for one night. Jumping into an open-ended adventure is what the hut is all about, and I made sure to impart them with the information they needed to have a safe trip. Once a guest arrives everything from just chilling at the hut to conquering multiple fourteeners are potential options.

Hipcamp: What’s one thing you want for visitors to take away from your property?

Eddie: We are all on this planet for a limited time, and in this digital era it’s important for humans to connect with each other in-person. We want every guest to have experiences at the hut that they cherish years later. It might be the pot of soup cooked over the wood cookstove, passing a bottle of whiskey under the stars, or watching the sunrise while skinning up a mountain to catch some morning turns. We built the hut to help us remember that we are all here together and it’s our shared time that is most valuable.

Photo by Jason Hatfield

Hipcamp: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about becoming a camp host? And for someone who is a camp host?

Eddie: Create spaces that surprise people and enliven the soul. Be bold and unafraid to follow visions that may seem insane. Hipcampers are seeking something out of the ordinary.

Inspired by Eddie’s story? Take a look at what hosting with Hipcamp would entail for you! It can be as easy as welcoming people to pitch a tent on your land, or as fulfilling as building your dream. Learn more here.

About the Author

Rachel Petri, writer, yogi, and travel junkie. Rachel is a firm believer in the importance of tree hugging, climbing above the tree line, and taking to nature to find deep connection. Follow her stories, inspirations, and adventures on Instagram. Follow me at Hipcamp.

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