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.
Trail name and location: Hunkidori Mine trail, in the town of Montezuma (5.7 miles southeast Keystone)
Distance: 3.6 miles each way
Avalanche Danger: Low; moderate at the Hunkidori Mine
Good for: Trekkers comfortable with relative remoteness, minimal trail activity, and excellent downhill slopes for those on skis.
Highlights: The area's high propensity for snow makes for great snowsports conditions and the abandoned mines lend a rustic, historic feel as you pass by.
Tips: The population of Montezuma at last count was a staggering 42 residents, so the small general store in town may not be the best place to pick up supplies. Stop by City Market in Dillon for provisions before making the trek southeast to your destination. City Market, 300 Dillon Ridge Road, 970-468-2363, Dillon.
Description: The Hunkidori Mine trail is a beautiful backcountry route winding through the White River National Forest, an area that receives around 300 inches of snowfall per year. The trail begins as one with the Saints John Trail, but forks to the right almost immediately and descends past the remains of an abandoned mine. Following a brief climb up a narrow road into a cluster of 200-year-old Englemann spruce, the trail curves counterclockwise to Grizzly Gulch, leading you past an abandoned red truck and finally to the old Hunkidori Mine. The gradual incline is ideal for snowshoeing, while the return trip has plenty of downhill stretches for skiers and offers excellent views of Snake River Valley.
Getting there: From I-70 take Exit 205 (Silverthorne/Dillon), and take Highway 6 east toward Keystone. Just past Keystone, keep an eye on the right-hand side of the street for the right turn onto Montezuma Road (County Road 5). Follow this road for 5.7 miles into the town of Montezuma, and turn right onto Saints John Road (County Road 275). The trailhead for Hunkidori Mine is about half a mile from the beginning of Saints John Road.
On the way: Plan ahead for your post-trek recovery and stock up at the Soap Shop in Idaho Springs during the drive down I-70. The locally owned specialty shop's handmade soaps, lotions, and candles will make for a soothing conclusion to your cold-weather getaway. The Soap Shop, 1542 Miner St., 303-567-0428.
Stay a little longer: Montezuma is sometimes classified as one of Colorado's ghost towns, which makes it just the place to disappear for a romantic tryst in a secluded cabin. Snuggle up after your day on the trail in one of three private studio cabins offered by Western Skies Bed and Breakfast. Each cabin offers all the comforts of home plus a charming wood-burning stove. For the ultimate end to your snowy foray, reserve the Hideaway cabin, which comes with its own outdoor hot tub. Western Skies Bed and Breakfast, 5040 Montezuma Road, Montezuma, 970-468-9445.
For more quiet trails, visit page 142 in 5280's November issue or check out the Colorado Mountain Club guidebook Colorado's Quiet Winter Trails.