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Photograph by Jeff Johnson

High-Country Hut Trips: Cliff Yurt

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Location:
27 acres of private land near the Rio Grande National Forest
Hut system:
Phoenix Ridge Yurts (privately owned)
Nearest town:
Creede

Living in Denver, it’s easy to forget about Colorado’s storied mining past. But you’ll quickly be reminded of that history as soon as the road to Cliff Yurt turns to dirt just north of Creede. The directions take you past the Underground Mining Museum and along the beginnings of the Bachelor Historic Loop, a 17-mile driving tour of the area’s former mining district. Crumbling wood structures and long-forgotten railroad tracks dot the landscape. In places, it can feel a little bleak, but once you veer off the main drive, views of dilapidated cabins and thousand-foot-tall rock faces are replaced by dense forest.

Tucked into the San Juan Mountains, this snug, two-room canvas abode looks out to mountainsides covered in aspen, fir, and spruce. Although there aren’t many official trails extending out from your weekend accommodations, wandering in any direction means exploring not only woods awash in wildflowers and aspens (the leaves start to change in early September), but also potentially stumbling upon remnants of the silver rush of the early 1890s: strips of plywood scattered on the ground, corroded metal sheets with gaping holes, and rusty, half-buried pipes, all strangely beautiful in their century-old decay.

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That these mining vestiges are still here isn’t surprising. Although you’re only about four miles from Creede, this is underpopulated territory. That is, except for the bald eagles, elk, and black bears that frequent the area. The owner of Cliff Yurt built this off-the-grid dwelling 20 years ago specifically for its remoteness—and for the solitude available in large doses on the northeast-facing deck. Which is exactly what you’ll love about this no-cell-service, no-traffic-noise, no-nosy-neighbors getaway too.

If You Go

Accommodations: The hut sleeps one group of four—two in a queen-size bed and two on either the pull-out couch or on individual cots—in a communal room that also includes the kitchen and dining area. There’s an attached bathroom with a composting toilet.
Your Pack List: Water (for drinking and cooking), food, sleeping bags, pillowcases, paper towels, dish towels, hand soap, trash bags
Getting There: Drive north on North Loma Road through Creede (about 250 miles southwest of Denver). It turns into West Willow Creek Road; follow it until the pavement turns to dirt and four-wheel drive becomes necessary. After two miles, turn right onto Forest Service Road 502. When 502 levels off, you’ll come to a five-way intersection. Take the second road on your left. When you see a large meadow, turn right and go through a gate. Follow this road to the yurt.
Book It: $175 per night; 303-565-6787

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