If you’re looking for an adventure where you can backpack in and still sleep on a mattress, where you can gaze up at an infinite amount of stars without the intrusion of city lights, and a trip that gets you into the backcountry, summer hut tripping in Colorado might be the type of trip for you. With hundreds of huts in Colorado with different amenities, hiking distances from 0.2 to 20 miles, and a distinct absence of cell service, there’s a lot you need to know before you go. Let’s start with the basics.
1. Choose Your Companions [wisely]
When summer hut tripping in Colorado, you’re often out of service, out of earshot, and if you get hurt, out of commission for some time. It’s important to surround yourself with people you can rely on in an emergency. It’s also vital to familiarize yourself with their capabilities, experience, first aid training, and their gear. Depending on what you’re looking for in a hut weekend, you don’t always have to pick the most experienced people or the most fit, but make sure your itinerary reflects their abilities. Above all, make sure your group is one where the stoke is high and the drama is low.
2. Pick Your Hut(s) [purposefully]
Too many huts and no idea how to choose? Start by location. Close to Denver or along the western slope? Mountain ridge or valley? There are a variety of hut systems and private huts available for you to rent a bed, a room, or the entire place- and you can narrow your search by starting with where you’d want to go. Informative sites like the 10th Mountain Division, the Outdoor Recreation Information Center for Colorado, and the San Juan Huts can help you get an idea for a few of the different huts available for recreationalists on their summer hut tripping in Colorado adventure.
From saunas to flush toilets, wood burning stoves to canvas roofs, different huts feature different amenities. It’s important to discuss with your group members what the expectations are, and how rugged you want the weekend to be. Some huts provide a full kitchen setup with everything from stovetops to silverware, while others are simply canvas walls and platform floors. The huts you choose affect how heavy your pack is going to be, so make sure to research what is provided at each hut, including necessities like a place to cook, a water source, and the sleeping situation.
Once you’ve narrowed down a few huts in a certain area, use that deep wealth of knowledge you uncovered about your group members to decide on total hiking mileage as well as the number of huts you might want to explore. It’s important to include the entire group in this discussion to make sure everyone is comfortable with the intensity of the trip. When researching distances, make sure to factor in hiking speeds for the individuals in your group, added gear and pack weight (consider this is a multi-day trip, not just a day hike with a few liters of water and extra layers), and the different seasonal trail conditions.
3. Plan Your Trip [carefully]
Bring everyone into this discussion- it’s important the entire group knows what’s going on and when. It’s common practice to have a trip leader who can handle logistics, manage personalities, and be the final messenger and say so of information on the trip. This person should be self-elected as well as supported by the whole party. When planning your trip, it’s important to take into account a few main elements: Distance, weather (particularly afternoon storms), pack weight, experience level, desired travel time, and wilderness regulations.
Once you’ve determined which huts you’re visiting, discuss what you’re looking for on the hikes into each hut. Pull out a map and familiarize yourselves with the area and routes. Although you may have a group leader, it is everyone’s responsibility to know the terrain and trail Having multiple sources of navigation can be helpful in case batteries die or one becomes unreadable.
Determine if you will be venturing out on any day hikes, checking out local hot springs, or going on a mountain bike adventure. The huts are often located in some of the most beautiful terrain in the state, allowing for ample fun to be had.
Pro Tip: Distribute meals instead of all cooking individually. This helps create variety in and allows everyone to discuss the upcoming day’s activities over bacon or bond over a hearty meal after hours full of adventure.
4. Pack [Diligently]
You could be staying in a hut with showers or in a yurt with no bed, but either way packing for a hut trip is often different from a backpacking trip or day hike. It’s important to research what your hut has to offer so you can pack around what is provided for you and save on pack weight.
5. Hut Life [Stoke]
You’ve done it. You’ve made it to that log cabin or that wind blocking canvas yurt. Your back is a little achy, your stomach’s grumbling, and you’re ready to trade stories with strangers over a beer. So what exactly do you do at a hut?
Huts are an incredible place to build camaraderie in the wake of adventure. Often times your group will only be using a fraction of the beds available, which means new adventure buddies are to be made. With all these new friends, hype from the day, and board games being played, it’s easy to get a little rowdier than intended. It’s also important to keep in mind that some people might be trying to sleep, so be considerate of others in the hut. Similarly, keeping your area clean and cleaning up after yourself in the common areas is both polite and expected.
From childhood games and books about wild mushrooms, to love stories and leather bound logbooks, old wooden book shelves are brimming with all kinds of entertainment. Evenings are jigsaw puzzles that may be missing 3-8 pieces, glowing sunsets over valleys abundant with aspen, swapping stories about that giant moose, and roasting marshmallows over a glowing fire while someone picks at the old strings of a guitar.
The huts are often surrounded by beautiful terrain, and being well familiarized with the area can allow for you some beautiful day hikes and the chance to find hidden overlooks in the rolling hills and sweet smelling pines.
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