White River National Forest
Hut system:
10th Mountain Division
Nearest town:

No one will tell you that hut-tripping is particularly easy—and that’s OK, because the effort it takes to execute these backcountry excursions is part of the fun. But successful jaunts into Colorado’s hinterlands require more than just preparation: They demand a sense of adventure, a measure of resourcefulness, a lack of pretension, and, especially at huts where you’ll be mingling with strangers, a dash of flexibility.

One of the 10th Mountain Division’s 34 shelters in Colorado, Jackal Hut, which books by the bed and sleeps 16 people in three bunk areas, will test your ability to adapt—in a good way. Although many of us tend to want to sequester ourselves from the random folks we encounter, well, anywhere, hut trips can encourage us to enjoy everyone from a family that wants to crash at 9 p.m. to a group of 21-year-olds who carried in a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon to fuel their drinking games.

Although the groups you come across in just one weekend trip might be wildly disparate, there is a common denominator: You are all there to immerse yourselves in Colorado’s great beyond. At Jackal Hut, that could mean trekking east along Pearl Pass Road for an intermediate dayhike with wide-ranging views of Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert or, if you’re so inclined, a challenging mountain bike ride along the Colorado Trail. You can access the 486-mile-long path—which stretches from Durango to metro Denver—by taking Ranch Creek Road to Forest Road 714, which intersects with the trail.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with skipping a few of the available quad-burning activities to hang out at the hut. Gather around one of the two indoor picnic tables to play a spirited game of hearts. Chat about the morning hike you took while you cook spaghetti over the propane burners. Or sip from a can of your favorite saison while you revel in the views of the Sawatch Range from the hut’s large deck. And do it all with the new (and possibly beer-addled) pals you’ve made while experiencing a remote corner of Colorado backcountry.

Photograph by Seth K. Hughes

If You Go

Accommodations: The hut includes a kitchen with propane burners; a communal room with two large tables, multiple benches, and a wood-burning stove; a patio with a picnic table and benches; a detached outhouse; and solar-powered lights. There are two small bedrooms, one that sleeps three and one that holds four. There is also a bigger room that accommodates nine.
Your Pack List: Food, sleeping bags and pillows, water (for drinking and cooking), plenty of warm layers since Jackal Hut is perched at 11,660 feet in elevation
Getting There: From the town of Leadville, follow U.S. 24 west to reach a designated parking area at Camp Hale. On foot, you’ll cross the Eagle River and then go south on Forest Road 714 before turning left onto Ranch Creek Road, which ascends all the way to the hut. The total hike is nearly four miles. Folks with high-clearance SUVs can drive up Ranch Creek Road; the bumpy path gets you within a quarter-mile hike of the hut.
Book It: $33 per night per person; 970-925-5775

Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of 5280.com and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.