Huts: Kid Tested & Kid Approved
SUMMER & WINTER HUT TRIP IDEAS FOR YOUR FAMILY OR EDUCATIONAL NON-PROFIT GROUP
Taking kids on a hut trip can be an amazing adventure - full of experiential learning opportunities and great times for all. The reward is undeniable - hut trips are an affordable* outdoor Colorado experience, to be remembered and cherished for years to come. Like our state's 14ers, there's a long list of huts that can be checked off - so let's get planning!
While it is impossible for us to evaluate your family or group's skill-level, outdoor experience or level of fitness, the huts listed below have shorter approaches and area hikes that lend themselves to groups with kids. We have divided our hut-specific information for kids' trips into summer and winter sections that link to our website's hut description pages. Keep in mind that unless you are a seasoned hut-tripper, taking kids on a summer trip is a perfect place to start - the whole family can experience the outdoors while enjoying the comforts and amenities of one of our huts.
*When booking your family or group trip, don't forget to mention that you have children - kids 12 and under at the time of the trip pay half price at most huts, and our Backcountry Exploration Program offers significant discounts to non-profit educational groups using the huts mid-week.
Once you've reviewed our suggestions, please feel free to give us a call at (970) 925-5775 to ask any additional questions and to check on availability. We can't plan your trip for you since only you can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your group, but we may be able to provide further details to help you make a final decision.
Just exploring in the vicinity around a hut is an adventure in itself, but here are a few favorite summer trips that include a kid friendly hike either from the hut or to get to the hut. Also keep in mind that while we strongly encourage non-motorized travel to the huts, almost all of the huts are accessible by 4-wheel drive roads in the summer.
If you want to drive to the hut and hike with children in the vicinity around the hut...
- Drive in to Shrine Mountain Inn (includes Jay's, Chuck's and Walter's Cabins). Use the spur trail from the huts to link up to the Forest Service trail up to Shrine Mountain. There are neat rock formations that you will eventually reach on the summit, and USGS Land Survey Markers (metal disks stamped with the mountain's elevation). The views are amazing!
- From the Peter Estin Hut, families can hike to the summit of Charles Peak. On the way, there are old cabins to explore and USGS Land Survey Markers (metal disks stamped with the mountain's elevation) on the summit - not to mention fantastic views. This hike is steep in the beginning but gets easier!
- Drive to Polar Star Inn/Seipel Hut and hike the nearby New York Mountain Trail*. Located in the scenic Holy Cross Wilderness, the trail climbs New York Mountain – hike as high as your group wants, and then head back to the hut for a sauna! For older and stronger kids, the trail continues to Nolan Lake (6 miles round-trip from the hut). *There are many old roads and trails in the area around Polar Star Inn/Seipel Hut, and little if any signage making navigation challenging. These hikes are only recommended for experienced groups using topographic maps.
If you want to hike with children in order to get to the hut...
- Continental Divide Cabin and/or Point Breeze Cabin are both just a .8 mile hike heading West from Tennessee Pass along the Colorado Trail (Note: The Colorado Trail also heads East out of the same parking lot - be sure to start in the correct direction.). Although short, this can be a great hike in to the cabins, especially for very young children. Each hut is equipped with 2 Pack N' Plays for infants and each hut has a small solar refrigerator for storing groceries. Outhouses are attached on a covered walkway so are easily accessible. There is even a nearby tipi and a fort that customers can visit! For a longer approach, you could access these cabins from Crane Park Trailhead, increasing the mileage from .8 to roughly 2.5 miles.
- The Broome Hut, located near Berthoud Pass, is a 1 mile hike with an elevation gain of approximately 800 feet. While there are a few steep sections on this route, the distance to the hut is relatively short, so families and groups with children can take their time and still make it to the hut. Alpine tundra and fantastic views await!
- Drive approximately 1.6 miles up FS Road 100 from Crane Park, then park near the cabin before hiking about 2.8 miles up FS Road 145 (Slide Lake Road) to the 10th Mountain Division Hut. The whole family will enjoy the hike up this jeep road (extremely rough road, 10th Mountain does not suggest driving to this hut) - and during your stay, don't miss the hike from the hut up to Slide Lake!
- Hike or mountain bike 2.5 miles to High Lonesome Hut from the Meadow Creek Trailhead. The rolling terrain is gentle and suitable for all ages – plus there’s running/potable water at the hut.
- Hike in 4 miles to Uncle Bud's Hut along the Colorado Trail from the West Turquoise Lake (also called the Timberline Lake) Trailhead. If kids are very young have one adult drop off the hikers at the trailhead and then drive up to the hut with the gear (they can then hike down the trail to meet up with the hikers) - hikers are then able to carry a light daypack (with sufficient gear for a dayhike). Once kids are older, this can be a great route as an introduction to backpacking and groups can carry all of their gear to the hut. Kids also enjoy Bear Lake which isn't far from the hut.
- The 3.1 mile hike in to Sangree M. Froelicher Hut starts along a road from the Buckeye Gulch Trailhead, but the last 2+ miles are along a trail. Although shorter in distance than the 4 mile hike to Uncle Bud's Hut, this route is a bit steep, but is short enough for families or groups with kids who enjoy hiking.
- Older kids can hike or mountain bike while younger siblings take a 4-wheel drive ride – 5.2 miles to the Emmelyn Hut from the East Tennessee Trailhead.
Kids' first summer hut to hut hiking trip...
Here's a Kid Tested and Kid Approved itinerary for a fun first time hut-to-hut hiking trip with kids. You'll need good maps as there are many converging roads and trails in the area, particularly where FS Road 100 (Wurtz Ditch Road) and FS Road 145 (Slide Lake Road) meet. Remember to pack light!
- Day 1: By driving a shuttle from Tennessee Pass, or by dropping it on your way, leave one of your cars just below the closure gate on FS Road 145 (Slide Lake Road) with a cooler full of food for your night(s) at the 10th Mountain Division Hut, plus a jug of water. Then drive back to Tennessee Pass to start your trip, carrying one days' worth of food. Hike in .8 miles heading West on the Colorado Trail to Continental Divide Cabin and/or Point Breeze Cabin (Note: The Colorado Trail also heads East out of the same parking lot - be sure to start in the correct direction.) While at these cabins, there is a nearby tipi and a fort that customers are welcome to visit.
- Day 2: Hike the Colorado Trail for roughly 2.5 miles to your parked car. Re-fill water, drop trash, and pick up meals for the remainder of your trip. Continue hiking about 2.8 miles up FS Road 145 (Slide Lake Road) to the 10th Mountain Division Hut. Families can easily enjoy a 2 night stay at the hut, exploring this beautiful area - don't miss a hike up to Slide Lake.
- Day 3 or 4: Hike back down to your car(s) at the closure gate on FS Road 145 - younger kids can catch a ride around to pick up the other car(s) at Tennessee Pass. Older kids can hike out the full distance.
Trips with children in the winter are challenging and should only be undertaken by experienced hut groups. If you have backcountry winter experience, and now have kids, here are a few options.
- Continental Divide Cabin and/or Point Breeze Cabin are both .8 miles heading West from Tennessee Pass (Note: The Colorado Trail also heads East out of the same parking lot - be sure to start in the correct direction.) Each hut is equipped with 2 Pack 'N Plays for infants and each hut has a small solar refrigerator for storing groceries. Outhouses are attached on a covered walkway so are easily accessible. There is even a nearby Tipi and a fort that customers can visit! For a longer approach, you could access these cabins from Crane Park Trailhead, increasing the mileage from .8 to roughly 2.5 miles. These cabins have un-groomed Nordic trails right out the front door and a detailed map is provided at the huts.
- The Broome Hut, located near Berthoud Pass, is a 1 mile ski or snowshoe with an elevation gain of approximately 800 feet. While there are a few steep sections on this route, the distance to the hut is relatively short, so families can take their time and still make it to the hut!
- There is a 2.2 mile route to Francie's Cabin from the Spruce Creek Trailhead (go up Spruce Creek Road and then continue on the Aquaduct Road) that makes this hut accessible to families with young children. As the route follows roads, pulling sleds, pulks or chariots is an option. Please note that the 1.8 mile option from Spruce Creek Trailhead that goes up Crystal Creek Road is very steep and not recommended for children.
- High Lonesome Hut's 2.5 mile route from the Meadow Creek Trailhead is family friendly – there’s running/potable water, and even a shower for those that worked up a sweat using the provided snow tubes!
- Shrine Mountain Inn includes Jay's, Chuck's and Walter's Cabins (2.7 miles). These huts are often used by families because the elevation gain on the route is relatively low, and once at the huts there is potable, running water and indoor plumbing.
- The route to Vance’s Cabin is 2.8 miles from the Ski Cooper Trailhead – hang out on the amazing deck after exploring up on Taylor Hill.
- Once your children are older and stronger, give these winter routes a try: Emmelyn Hut (3.4 miles from East Tennessee Trailhead), Sisters Cabin (3.7 miles from the French Gulch Trailhead), 10th Mountain Division Hut (4.4 miles from Crane Park Trailhead), Sangree M. Froelicher (3.1 miles from Buckeye Gulch Trailhead – listed last as this route is shorter than some, but pretty steep!).
Going on a hut trip with your family can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. You really don't need to bring too much with you in terms of games - the beauty of a hut trip is that they are simple and kids naturally find joy in exploring the hut and the surrounding environment. That said, if you'd like to have a few specific activities planned, there are literally thousands of websites and blogs that can give you ideas. Here are a few for all ages and varied interests:
- http://www.acornnaturalists.com (online library of outdoor education resources)
- http://findmycampground.com/blog (search for kid's activities, and camping with children)
- http://www.apples4theteacher.com (season-specific poems, short stories and other activities)
- http://www.outdoor-nature-child.com (for the naturalist, environmentally aware website with activities)
Several books containing information and activities appropriate for the hut environment, suggested by educators, are listed below.
- Hands-On Nature: Information and Activities for Exploring the Environment With Children (Jenepher Lingelbach (Editor), Lisa Purcell (Editor), Susan Sawyer (Illustrator))
- Sharing Nature With Children (Joseph Cornell)
- The Keepers Series (Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac)
- Ranger Rick's NatureScope Series (National Wildlife Federation)
- Rocky Mountain Bugs, Rocky Mountain Birds, Rocky Mountain Plants and Rocky Mountain Mammals as well as The Night Sky (Garrick Pfaffman)
Be on the same page with your group about use of electronics while at a hut. Although cell phone coverage is not guaranteed at any of the huts, adults may choose to have cell phones for safety purposes - but please leave those and other electronics packed away unless needed. Your family should also consider leaving your children's electronic devices at home (or at least in the car) - an out of sight out of mind approach will help everybody focus on their family, friends, and amazing surroundings.
Bob from the Find My Campground website says it best when blogging about camping with children, which is also appropriate for hut trips:
"Most important: Be with your kids. Be present. Leave behind your cell phone and computer. Immerse yourself in the moment and in their excitement. Be enthusiastic. Make the memories for you and your kids. This is that time you are going to look back on and smile!"