- Mt. Sneffels Wilderness
- Hut system:
- San Juan Huts
- Nearest town:
- Telluride (south end) and Ouray (north end)
For a summer hut trip writ large, there’s no more beautiful hut-to-hut option than the San Juan Huts’ Sneffels Traverse. The 29.4-mile, five-day trek begins at 10,676-foot Last Dollar Pass near Telluride, winds its way through the Mt. Sneffels Wilderness, and ends in the quaint town of Ouray. Each night, adventurers throw down their packs at one of four diminutive huts, all of which sleep eight and have wood-burning stoves, petite but well-equipped kitchen areas, and detached outhouses. Though functional, these are not lounge-on-the-couch-and-drink-a-glass-of-wine backcountry cabins. With no living space to speak of, the zero-privacy, garage-size dwellings are nothing more than a place to boil water for mac and cheese and bed down. And that’s perfectly (OK, mostly) fine, because on the Sneffels Traverse, it’s more about the journey than the destinations. Here, a few tips to enhance your backcountry odyssey.
Last Dollar Pass
- Hiking above 10,000 feet can cause acute mountain sickness, but spending the night in Ridgway or Telluride the night before you start allows time for your body to acclimate. As you trek, remember to hydrate constantly. Having ibuprofen handy is a good idea, too.
- This isn’t a loop, so figure out your shuttle situation ahead of time. San Juan Huts can help you get to the Alder Creek Trail at Last Dollar Pass, but leaving a car near Ouray is a convenient way to end the trip.
- The first day of hiking is the longest, at 8.3 miles; however, you’ll actually lose about 1,000 feet in overall elevation between Last Dollar and North Pole Hut.
North Pole Hut
- Although the views are spectacular in almost every direction, you’ll struggle to lure your gaze away from North Pole and Hayden peaks, which preside over the hut.
- Each hut sleeps eight ($30 per person, per night), but unless you rent out all of the beds, you could be giving your small-talk skills a workout. Quick tip: If you plan to bring small children with you (San Juan Huts does allow this), consider renting out the entire cabin.
- These huts are tiny, which means your bunkmates might not enjoy having to play “fire engines” with your three-year-old and you won’t want to deal with the added stress of having to hush a toddler who wakes up at 6 a.m.
- To reach Blue Lakes Hut on your second day of trekking, you’ll hike about 7.4 miles—with beautiful views along the way.
Blue Lakes Hut
- You’ll be refilling your water bottles in brooks as you hike (filtering or using iodine is a must), but pulling up a patch of grass next to the gushing East Fork of Dallas Creek (pictured above)—down the hill from Blue Lakes Hut—is a relaxing way to spend a post-hike hour.
- Adventurers can set up a food drop at this hut, which means less to weigh down your pack on the first two segments of the trip.
- The mile-by-mile instructions San Juan Huts gives you when you book the Sneffels Traverse are helpful—except for some vague language at the beginning of the hike to Ridgway Hut. The notes describing the route between 0.5 and 2.4 miles are way more confusing than they need to be. The best advice? Follow what looks like the most well-trodden trail. And once you cross Wilson Creek, walk up to your left just a bit to see a sign pointing you to the Dallas Trail, which you’ll follow up to the right and out of the creek bottom.
- The five-mile hike between Blue Lakes Hut and Ridgway Hut includes an arduous one-mile segment of switchbacks that rise 900 feet to reach Wilson Creek Summit, a small saddle at 11,000 feet. At the summit, take the small side trail to your left off the main trail to reach an overlook (perfect for a quick picnic) with astonishing views of towering Mt. Sneffels.
- Tucked into the trees just off a bend in the trail, Ridgway Hut doesn’t boast spectacular views—but you’ll be so tired from the hike you won’t care.
- Feel free to have a leisurely breakfast on this fourth day; the 4.1-mile hike—some of which follows a four-wheel-drive road through a beautiful aspen grove—to the final hut is relatively easy.
- Just after walking through a meadow, follow the trail to a small parking area and then onward as the path veers slightly left—a steep road goes right, don’t take that—and find Burn Hut (pictured below) in a thicket.
- It’s possible to park your vehicle—if it’s a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive SUV and you’re a skilled driver—in a parking area near this hut in the event you don’t want to hike the final 4.6 miles to where your car would otherwise be, at the East Dallas trailhead off Highway 550.
- The only way to end a hut trip is with a hot soak. There are three public hot springs options in Ouray: Ouray
Hot Springs Pool, the Historic Wiesbaden Hot Springs Spa & Lodgings, and the Twin Peaks Lodge & Hot Springs.