The 10 Best Winter Hut Hikes
Head into the wilderness without the hassle of a four-season tent
Talkeetna Mountains, AK
Basecamp in style at this cabin overlooking the Talkeetna Mountains. The 8-mile approach takes you under the hut’s namesake Mint Spires, towering in a riot of ice and rock far into the winter sky, and ends only half a mile from the Mint glacier. Experienced mountaineers can explore the Penny Royal and Mint Glaciers from the hut or link up to Bomber Hut on the 16-mile Bomber Traverse, while more novice hikers or those unsure of their crevasse rescue skills can enjoy plenty of views from the hut itself. The hut sleeps up to eight and has a two-burner white gas stove (bring your own fuel), cookware, utensils, lanterns, sleeping pads, emergency sleds, and a small library.
Permit First-come, first-serve; you must be a member of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska ($20/person annually) to use the hut.
Contact Mountaineering Club of Alaska
Section House Hut
Get Breckenridge’s views without the crowds at this classic backcountry spot. Originally built in 1882 to house railroad workers and their families, the Section House is perched at 11,481-foot Boreas Pass. The 6.5-mile approach is straightforward, with no complicated route finding; just take the old railroad grade south from Boreas Pass trailhead. With 1,130 feet of elevation gain, it’s still a strenuous snowshoe or cross-country ski, but the straightforward route makes it suitable for fit beginners. Explore more backcountry from the hut (always check avalanche forecasts and make sure you have all the necessary skills and equipment), or spend some quality time with friends and family—or just your book—by the wood-burning stove. The hut sleeps up to twelve and has a cook stove, propane cooktop, firewood, cooking and eating utensils, solar-powered lighting, mattresses, and pillows, as well as an outdoor pit toilet.
Tilly Jane A-Frame
Mt. Hood National Forest, OR
Take a moment to imagine the most quintessential alpine cabin you can. Logs and lashed decks on a A-frame surrounded by snow, cedar shake siding that could have come straight off the surrounding forest; can you taste the wild air? The Tilly Jane A-Frame is that quintessential alpine cabin, down to its Civilian Conservation Corp nails. Originally built to support climbing parties on Mount Hood’s northeastern route, the cabin is maintained today by the Oregon Nordic Club. The Tilly Jane Trail is short, but it certainly isn’t easy; snowshoers climb 1,900 feet in 2.5 miles from the parking lot next to Cooper Spur Ski Resort. The cabin sleeps up to 20 and is centered around a giant wood stove, perfect for socializing and for drying your socks. Once you’re ready to head back into the cold try the spur trail to the Cooper Spur stone shelter for views of Mt. Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier. You’ll need to carry in your own sleeping bag and pad, headlamp, pans, stove, and fuel.
Pear Lake Ski Hut
Sequoia National Park, CA
The highest winter backcountry hut in the Sierras doesn’t disappoint. Tucked in a patch of pine forest beneath a bowl of jagged granite peaks, the timber-and-stone structure serves as a ranger station during the busy summer months, but in the winter it’s a picturesque basecamp for snowshoers and skiers who brave the 6 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation on the approach. The surrounding area is a winter sports playground, with miles of ridgelines and alpine bowls dropping down to snow-dusted valleys. Avalanche danger can be high, so make sure to check the forecast before heading out, bring all the necessary safety equipment, and brush up on your winter wilderness travel skills. The hut sleeps up to ten and is stocked with sleeping pads, a fully equipped kitchen (bring your own propane for the burners), a heating stove and a composting toilet.
Bear Claw Yurt
Uinta Mountains, UT
One of five huts linked by an extensive trail system, the Bear Claw Yurt sits snugly in a pine-bordered meadow at 8,700 feet. The views start right from your front door; Moffit Peak rises to its full 11,003 feet to the west, next to 10,563-foot Gold Hill. A short 2-mile snowshoe brings you up Sage Draw to the yurt. With Bear Claw as your basecamp you can snowshoe up to Lilly Lake, farther up the Sage Draw trail, or head off into the fresh snow and up to Dead Man’s Pass. The yurt can sleep up to eight and is centered around a large heating stove. A gas cooking stove (and gas), gas lantern, pre-cut logs, pots and pans, dishes, and utensils are also provided. Reservations for Bear Claw can be hard to come by, but you can qualify for an early reservation by joining a yurt work party with the Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance.
Permit reservations are required and can be made through the Evanston Recreation Center at (307) 789-1770. The yurt is $50 per night Sunday-Thursday and $75 per night on Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays. Contact Bear River Outdoor Recreation Alliance
Bolton Valley, Vermont
Head to the woods of Vermont for a night in this historic cabin, set amid a network of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails. A mix of evergreens and bare-branched hardwoods tower over the steep roof of the cabin. These woods, and the 100-kilometer Nordic trail system running through them, is part of the largest wilderness area in the Vermont state forests. The approach to the cabin is part of the Catamount Trail, North America’s longest cross-country ski trail at 300 miles, but weekend visitors can reach the cabin by hiking or skiing only a mile from the Bolton Nordic and Sports Center. The cabin has a sleeping loft that first up to eight, a woodstove, firewood, and a composting toilet.
A cozy hut high in the Southern Cascade Mountains, with views from Mt. Rainier to Puget Sound: it doesn’t get much better than this. Bring plenty of coffee and hot chocolate to keep your hands warm while you stare out the broad windows of High Hut at a nearly unbelievable Pacific Northwest view, stretching far past the Cascades to the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains beyond. The snowshoe in is a bit of a climb, gaining 2,400 feet in 3.9 miles, but the destination is well worth the burn in your muscles. The hut sleeps up to eight and has a propane fireplace, a gas range and oven, solar-powered lights, and a kitchen fully stocked with dishes and cookware.
Bull of the Woods Yurt
Headed to Taos but don’t want to share the slopes? The Bull of the Woods Yurt is your answer. Perched at 10,800 feet on the ridge between Wheeler Peak and Gold Hill, the hut is only a short hike or ski from 360-degree alpine vistas. Backcountry skiers can find plenty off vertical off the peaks, while snowshoers find all the southwest alpine scenery they could want from the ridgeline. Though it’s a short two miles from Taos Ski Area, you won’t find any crowds here—this is wilderness, plain and simple. The trail to the ridge is steep but straightforward, with occasional views back toward the ski area. The yurt sleeps up to ten and has beds, a woodburning stove, propane lanterns, and a kitchen fully stocked with pans and utensils.
Smoky Mountains, ID
Snowshoe into wilderness luxury at this cluster of yurts in the Idaho backcountry. Equipped with solar-powered lanterns, an mp3 speaker, a fondue pot and—best of all—a sauna, the Boulder Yurts are a winter backcountry destination for those who want all the amenities. Right at the base of Butterfield Mountain, the huts have views across the valley to the jagged Boulder Mountains, with more waiting around every corner in the surrounding pine woods and mountain ridges. The approach, at only 1.5 miles, is doable for novice snowshoers and cross-country skiers. The two yurts and their connecting annex sleep up to 14 and are stocked with everything but sleeping bags and food.
Chimney Pond Bunkhouse
Baxter State Park, ME
Sleep beneath Baxter Peak’s glacial cirque at the Chimney Pond Bunkhouse. From the edge of frozen Chimney Pond you can look past the tips of your snowshoes at the aptly named Knife Edge ridge, a 2,000-foot granite wall coveted by climbers for its multi-pitch alpine and ice climbs, or out across the frozen lake at a thick forest of silent, snowy evergreens. The 15-mile snowshoe in is not for the faint of heart—or legs—but the reward, for those who make the trip, is a winter wilderness as wild and unpredictable as any out west. A few lean-tos near the pond are often open for those who didn’t make reservations far in advance, but the bunkhouse is the only structure with a wood-burning stove for heat. The bunkhouse sleeps up to ten people.
Written by Kristin Smith for Backpacker and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.