Web Exclusive: Two Additional Quiet Trails
5280's November issue offers up three winter escapes where no snowmobile can follow, plus cozy places to stay over when you just can't go back till tomorrow ("Quiet Trails," page 142). Here, we've found two more options to flee the city streets with snowshoes and a thermos on a cold winter day—this time in Lake and Summit counties.
Trail Name and location: Vance's Cabin trail, 10 miles north of Leadville
Distance: 2.9 miles each way
Avalanche danger: Low
Good for: Skiers and 'shoers who dig spacious, open areas suitable for letting loose after a wooded trek up.
Highlights: Hike a bit farther northeast to Taylor Hill for views of Colorado's two tallest fourteeners, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive.
Tips: Plan on departing early to reach the cabin before dark and catch a sunset of truly epic proportions.
Description: During World War II, the 10th Mountain Division trained for winter warfare on these gentle slopes. The same dense aspen groves that provided cover for those snowshoe-clad infantrymen now make a great diversion from the confines of the office. The manageable trail climbs upward for nearly three miles through wooded terrain, where you might see wildlife out for a winter forage. The path is well marked, making possible the exploration of adjacent areas. Just before the cabin, the pines thin out and the trail opens up; take advantage of the spacious free-skiing opportunities around Vance's Cabin, or make the short hike up to Taylor Hill to take in its superb panoramic views.
Getting there: From I-70, take Exit 171 (Minturn), 5.4 miles west of Vail. Follow Highway 24 for 24.1 miles to the Tennessee Pass Trailhead at the Ski Cooper parking lot. Choose one of the spots specifically reserved for the trail. Parking along Forest Service Road 731 is strictly prohibited.
On the way: Located in the heart of Minturn is the Minturn Cellars winery and tasting room. Stop by for a sampling, and pick up a bottle of Cabernet Franc as a sweet reward when you reach the hut. Minturn Cellars, 107 Williams St., Minturn, 970-827-4065.
Stay a little longer: At an elevation of 10,980 feet, Vance's Cabin is part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, and can be rented for an extended rustic getaway. The hut is named after one of the original owners' fathers, who helped construct the cabin with timber he found at the building site. The multi-story cabin sleeps 16, but finagling the entire hut for your own big group is less likely than meeting fellow outdoorsy-types in a communal-style stay. Amenities are spare—the outhouse is indeed outside, and water comes in the form of melted snow—but you can look forward to an excellent deck-view to accompany that bottle of Cabernet Franc. Make reservations early, as the hut system sees heavy traffic in the winter months. 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, 970-925-5775, www.huts.org.