Hut Elevation: 11,500’
Trailhead Location: Drive 15.4 miles south from Interstate 70 just west of Vail on US-24. Turn left onto Resolution Mountain Road (Forest Service Road 702) near Camp Hale and drive 6.1 miles. Turn left at the intersection and continue up 2.1 miles. Just before the road gate closure, take a left and drive up a couple of hundred feet to the hut gate closure and park. Please note: Forest Service Road 702 is a narrow, rough, rocky, dirt road and road conditions may vary depending on weather.
Last weekend Lisa and I were able to enjoy a fantastic weekend in the mountains with great views, great food, and great people. My brother-in-law organized a weekend hut trip to the Fowler-Hilliard Hut which is part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. Colorado has many huts available for rent for summer or winter use. The most extensive of the Colorado hut systems is managed by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.
The Fowler-Hilliard Hut was originally constructed in the summer of 1988. It was named for Ann Fowler and Ed Hilliard, avid mountaineers tragically killed in a climbing accident on North Maroon Peak near Aspen. Hut construction was generously funded by the Fowler and Hilliard families, and family friends. The hut site was first scouted in April 1984 and the hut proposal was formally approved in a June 1988 decision by the US Forest Service. It was available to the public the following winter, and has proven to be one of the most popular huts in the 10th Mountain Division Hut System, averaging over 2,300 user nights (one person/one night) per year. The Fowler/Hilliard Hut site is located on US Forest Service land about 6 miles west of Vail Pass at an elevation of 11,500 feet. 10th Mountain rebuilt the Fowler/Hilliard Hut in the summer of 2010 because the original hut burned in September 2009.
The hut sleeps 16 people and is designed for communal/hostel style living. Reservations are made for each person in your group so there will often be several different groups at a hut each night. However, my brother-in-law reserved all 16 spots months in advance so we would have the entire hut to ourselves for our own group.
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. The hut also has a cistern to pump water from for cooking. It is recommended you filter the water for drinking. The bathroom consists of an outhouse building next to the hut.
We headed out of town and up to the hut on Friday evening. We arrived before sunset and immediately took in the spectacular views and the setting sun.
It was time to sit outside on the deck and enjoy some great appetizers and drinks (margaritas, taquitos, chips & queso, and fruit).
It was a warm evening so several people decided to sleep out under the stars on the deck and the rest of us retired to the upstairs bedroom area.
The next morning we awoke to another beautiful Colorado mountain day. The breakfast crew got busy preparing a wonderful breakfast of burritos (complete with scrambled eggs, chorizo sausage, ham, red peppers, onions, cheese, salsa, and sour cream), fresh fruit, orange juice, and coffee. With a large group, we had each couple be in charge of preparing a meal, appetizers, dessert, etc. That way, everyone only needed to cook once and then enjoy the rest of the meals.
John with his morning coffee.
Cleaning up after breakfast.
I took a walk around the area after breakfast to get some shots of the hut.
I then proceeded to head up the ridge just to the right of Resolution Mountain. A shot looking back down at the hut.
After getting back to the hut, a group of us decided to head out on a hike up to Ptarmigan Hill. Ptarmigan Hill is the big rounded bare mountain in the top center of the previous picture. Heading down the road to start our hike.
Looking back at the hut.
Heading up Ptarmigan Hill. There was no trail – we just headed up across the meadow.
On top of Ptarmigan Hill (12,143’).
A little emergency shelter on top of Ptarmigan Hill.
A view to west of Mt. of the Holy Cross (14,005’)
A view looking down into Wilder Gulch. You can also see Interstate 70 off in the distance.
After taking in the views on top of Ptarmigan Hill, we proceeded to head down the east side of mountain down to the road.
My brother-in-law taking in the views as we headed up the next ridge (Machine Gun Ridge).
A view from the top of Machine Gun Ridge with Peak 1 and Peak 2 of the Tenmile Range to the right. Apparently during WWII, the soldiers training at Camp Hale (the historic site of the WW II home training base for the famed 10th Army division) used this ridge for training on machine guns and even lived atop it in makeshift shelters.
Another view looking downs towards Copper Mountain Ski Resort with Peaks 1- 5 of the Tenmile Range.
A shot looking back over at Ptarmigan Hill from Machine Gun Ridge.
Time to head back down to the hut.
We weren’t quite sure of the total distance we hiked as we were not on trails, but we were guessing it had to be around 7 miles or so.
Back at the hut, Lisa was enjoying photographing all of the many wildflowers in our front and back yard.
I love this shot of the wildflowers with the hut in the background.
Time for more appetizers (a wonderful assortment of fine cheeses, crackers, and grapes) and drinks.
We had also played a round of Bocce Ball in the “front yard”. It was great fun and we didn’t lose any balls rolling down the mountain! Some also took advantage of a yoga class being offered on the deck (one of our group members is a yoga instructor and offered to lead the group in some exercise)!
Relaxing in the hut waiting for dinner.
A beautiful view of the late afternoon sun from the deck.
We had no lack of food this weekend! Dinner was wonderful homemade lasagna, salad (which included everything from pears, raisons, nuts, lettuce, and about anything else you could think of), garlic bread, and wine.
Table set for dinner.
The moon was close to full providing some nice shots.
After some wonderful fresh baked chocolate chip cookies in the woodstove and sitting around a campfire playing the “name game”, we decided to call it a night.
I set my alarm for 5:45am the next morning as I wanted to get up to get some sunrise pictures. I headed up towards Resolution Mountain as the sun was beginning to rise. Here’s a shot of the early morning light looking over towards Peak 1 and 2 of the Tenmile Range.
The sky beginning to brighten. One small lenticular cloud in the sky.
The sun as it begins to rise.
The sun fully above the peaks.
I continued on up to the summit of Resolution Mountain with great views to the west.
A look back down at the hut from the top.
I looped around and started heading back down towards the hut.
Many more wildflowers to photograph as well as some huge mushrooms.
Breakfast time (a hot oatmeal bar with many great toppings).
A couple of pictures of the bedroom/sleeping area upstairs.
View from the bedroom windows.
Some group shots before everyone got packed up to head out.
One member of our group showed her artistic skills by sketching many of our group members in the guest book that is left at the hut for people to sign. She also recapped our great weekend.
Although we hated to leave, it was time to haul our belongings back down the ¼ mile to the place where we parked our cars.
We headed back down Resolution Mountain Road, looking back at the wonderful views.
Of course, there were more wildflowers to photograph!
What a great way to spend a weekend! Thanks to my brother-in-law for organizing such a wonderful weekend!