Trail Length: 5.5 miles roundtrip
Trailhead Elevation: 10,580’
Maximum Elevation: 11,209’
Elevation Change: +629′ net elevation
Trailhead Location: Vail Pass Trailhead. Drive I-70 14.3 miles east from Vail or 5.4 miles west from Copper Mountain Resort. Take Exit 190 and park at the indicated overnight parking area. The Shrine Pass Road leaves from the parking area.
For a different winter experience, Lisa and I decided to do an overnight hut trip. The Colorado Rockies have many “huts” which can be rented for summer or winter use. The most extensive of the Colorado ski hut systems is managed by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. We decided on the Shrine Mountain Inn (a group of three huts near the summit of Shrine Pass) as our choice for several reasons. First of all, this group of huts is the easiest to reach being only 2.75 miles from the trailhead with only 629 feet of elevation gain. Secondly, these are the only 10th Mountain huts that have the amenities of hot running water, showers, and indoor toilets. Most of the other huts require that you melt snow on the stove for water and use an outhouse for restroom facilities (not that we are opposed to this but it is nice to have the additional amenities)!
Most of the huts are run hostel style. The huts are large and usually sleep anywhere from 10-16 people and you reserve as many beds as you need and will most likely be staying in the hut with other strangers. However, Chucks Cabin where we stayed works a little differently. We rented the top floor of Chuck’s Cabin. Both the top and bottom floor of Chuck’s Cabin have their own entrance and each sleeps only 6 people. For this particular cabin, you must rent and pay for all 6 slots together. We reserved the hut with a couple of other friends and their spouses for our overnight stay. The huts are equipped with wood burning stoves for heating and cooking, firewood, propane burners for cooking, photovoltaic lighting, cooking and eating utensils, mattresses and pillows. So, you just need to bring a sleeping bag and food for cooking.
Hut stays are quite popular in the winter and must often be reserved almost a year in advance, especially for Friday and Saturday night stays. We didn’t reserve that far in advance but were able to find a free Sunday night available in January, so we decided to book it and take Monday off from work for our 2-day adventure.
As the Sunday approached for our hut trip, the weather forecast was calling for a snowstorm. We were a little nervous. Since this was our first hut trip, we preferred to have nice weather for our snowshoe trek up to the hut. We headed out from Littleton on Sunday morning and made our way up to the Vail Pass trailhead parking. It was snowing quite a bit but we decided we were ready for the adventure. After getting all of our gear on, we were ready to head up the trail.
It was snowing quite heavily and the wind was pretty strong but we continued on up the trail through the West Tenmile Creek drainage.
After 2 1/3 miles we came to Shrine Pass. Here we took a left on the snow-covered road that leads up through the woods to the cabins. We were happy to get to the cabin and out of the snow. A view from one of the cabin windows.
After getting our packs off and settling in, a few of us decided to explore around the other 2 cabins in the area and check out the views. It had stopped snowing and it was much easier to walk around without our big packs on. Heading up the trail to Walter’s cabin.
We hiked up to Walter’s cabin and above. Our cabin (Chuck’s) is more in the trees while Walter’s cabin sits more in the open with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.
After exploring around a bit, we headed back down to our hut to prepare dinner and have a relaxing evening visiting with our friends in the comfort of the hut.
The next morning was beautiful as the skies cleared and the sun came out. After breakfast, we decided to go for a walk. The front entrance to the cabin complete with a ski-lift chair.
The trees were just beautiful with all of the fresh snow on them.
Heading back up the trail towards Walter’s cabin.
A nice shot of Walter’s cabin.
Having some fun making snow angels!
A little more exploring in the area.
After our little exploration hike, we headed back down to our cabin, relaxed a bit, and then started packing up our things to head out. A few more shots of the interior of our cabin.
Although we could have stayed and enjoyed the quiet peacefulness of the cabin, it was time to get our gear on and head back down the trail to the car. In front of the cabin getting ready to head out.
Heading back down the trail through the trees to Shrine Pass.
The expansive, open views from the top of Shrine Pass.
Heading back down from Shrine Pass.
Making our way back down the West Tenmile Creek Drainage.
The hut trip was a wonderful experience and something we will definitely do again. A great way to “camp” in the winter in the backcountry with the luxury of a warm cabin to stay in and the comforts of home.