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Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips. 

If you enjoy hiking but aren’t fond of heavy packs, dry food, or sleeping in tents on the hard ground, we’ve got something for you. It’s called hut hiking, and it combines remote wilderness with some modern “cabin” conveniences such as bathrooms, a roof over your head, the wonder of mattresses, and easily prepared hot meals.

Although big in Europe, hut hiking never really caught on in America. That’s not to say hikeable huts don’t exist here. But they are limited to only a few routes in the entire nation and are noticeably more primitive when compared to the often full-service, multi-course meals, and shower-powered huts found abroad.

Regardless of quality, hut hiking is a game-changer for people who like good food, better sleep, lighter packs, fixed shelter, and improved hygiene as they explore the great outdoors on foot.

RELATED: The East Coast’s best fall hikes

Burn Hut (Credit: Blake Snow)

If you want to know what to expect, this year, as closed borders continue to prioritize domestic travel, I hut-hiked Colorado’s Sneffels Traverse with my wife and six friends. Unknown to almost everyone but widely regarded as one of the most scenic spots in one of the nation’s most beautiful states, I felt as though I had uncovered a hidden gem while walking 35 miles over five days and four nights along the north face of Mount Sneffels—the over 14,000 foot centerpiece peak of the San Juan Mountains.  The hike starts just outside of Telluride, one of the most majestic and lively mountain towns you’ll ever find. It’s worth spending a few pre-trek nights here. If that weren’t enough, the trek finishes in Ouray (pronounced “you-ray”), which is even more delightful, since it sits in an even tighter amphitheater of mountains. Known for being “The Switzerland of America,” I can attest that Ouray is just that, having hiked both it and the Alpine country it’s named after.  On our first day of hiking, we quickly became fatigued above 10,000 feet, which you’ll do through several sections of the traverse. By day two, however, our party had acclimated and was confident with the mileage ahead of us. By the second afternoon, the already affordable $30/night per person hike had paid for itself after dropping into a surreal, flower-filled valley with Mount Sneffels as the backdrop.  

Willis Creek Overlook (Credit: Blake Snow)

As for the huts, we were thrilled. For instance, the North Pole hut overlooks one of the most beautiful mountain pastures I’ve seen anywhere in the world. What the Blue Lakes hut lacked in scenery, it made up for with an included trash can to lighten our load and a nearby icy but refreshing river to bathe in. The other two huts (Ridgeway and Burn) were just as clean, if not more scenic, and equally great places to spend the afternoons and evenings after a half day of hiking. “They were all much better than expected,” my wife remarked.  Along the trail, we crossed streams and rivers several times a day, not only to collect water, but to soak our feet, picnic, or take a dip wherever the swimming conditions allowed. We heard birds singing, crossed a reverent grove of giant Aspen trees, took in the sunset at Willis Creek Overlook, and cooked our meals on propane stoves in the well-lit huts. Thanks to a “food drop” mid-way through, we never had to carry more than two days worth of food. Water we could find every other mile or so.  We saw so much on our hike—except for other humans. In fact, we only passed two other pairs of day hikers the entire week. I’ve had the pleasure of backpacking some of the greatest hut hikes on four different continents: Mont Blanc in The Alps of Europe, Kumano Kodo in Asia, and Patagonia in South America. But the week I spent crossing the Sneffels Traverse was as good as any hut hike in the world.

Last day hiking (Credit: Blake Snow)

Pro tip: For the big finish in Ouray, be sure to treat yourself with a giant cheeseburger and fries from Maggie’s Kitchen and soak in the hot springs at Ouray’s city pool. You can find deals on Our hotels right here in About the author: Blake Snow contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a bodacious writer-for-hire and frequent travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with his supportive family and their “bullador beagle.”

Tagged: Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, Colorado, Destinations

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Blake Snow

Blake Snow

Blake contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a writer-for-hire and frequent travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with his supportive family and loyal dog.

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