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Colorado

Overnight at the Friends Hut (Crested Butte approach)

23.4 Miles Total - 3000 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Katie Lyons

This amenity filled hut provides access to panoramic views and fresh backcountry powder.

If you're looking to get off the grid, like, really off the grid, look no further than the Friends Hut located in Colorado's rugged Elk Range. At an elevation of 11,370 feet, getting to the hut is no easy task, but it's well worth trek from the East Brush Creek Trailhead in Crested Butte.*

The Friends Hut was built in memory of 10 individuals who died when two planes collided head-on over East Maroon Pass near Aspen in 1980. Volunteers spent many months transporting materials and constructing the hut, which now serves as a symbol of friendship and connection between the communities of Aspen and Crested Butte.

To begin your journey to the hut, go to the winter Brush Creek Road closure located three miles east of Hwy 135, south of Crested Butte. The trailhead can be reached by 2WD car and a large parking area is located on the left side of the road. From here, it is an 11.7 mile journey with approximately 3000' of vertical gain to the hut, located just below treeline.

Follow Brush Creek Road to the Y junction and take the fork on the right (Rd 738). Follow this road to the Pearl Pass Junction and keep right to stay on the correct route (DO NOT go up Pearl Pass Rd). From here, the route stays very close to Brush Creek and following the river will lead you in the general direction of the hut. Depending on the time of year, there may or may not be snow on the trail leading to this point. Plan on bringing hiking boots or running shoes if your trip is planned in spring unless you prefer to hike in ski boots.

Follow the 4WD road for several miles, up switchbacks and through creeks if it's springtime (snow bridges will likely be formed during the winter months). After the third and final spring creek crossing, there is no longer a 4WD road to follow and there may not be a skin track to the hut. If you are not familiar with the route, it is imperative that you bring a GPS or map as getting lost in this terrain can be deadly. Stay to the right of the creek to avoid the steep avalanche terrain on the other side of the valley. Star Peak will loom in the distance, but don't be fooled; you still have several snowy, unmarked miles through wooded terrain before you will reach the hut.

As you come to the treeline boundary, the hut will be slightly blocked from view by the remaining trees in the area. Go up the final hill to the left and you'll be greeted by the Friends Hut.

The hut sleeps 8 and reservations are required. Reservations can be made on the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association's website. There is no minimum booking number, so you may be staying with other parties if your party doesn't fill the entire cabin. The Friends Hut provides plenty of amenities including a wood stove, cooking equipment (stove, pots/pans/utensils), lighting, mattresses, pillows, and toilet paper. Once you've settled into the hut and hung your skins up to dry, you can explore the area, or read old mountaineering guides found in the hut's book collection.

Backcountry skiing is a can't be missed activity in this area. Frequent storm cycles, as well as constant blown snow result in superb snow conditions, and with a wide variety of peaks, valleys, passes and couloirs, you'll never run out of terrain to shred. It is important to note that this area is avalanche terrain, and a beacon, shovel and probe are necessary equipment for venturing into this territory. If you plan on backcountry skiing, you should have a strong knowledge of avalanche safety and take caution, no matter your skill level. Current avalanche conditions are updated daily from late November to early April on http://cbavalanchecenter.org/.

After taking your backcountry laps, you can ski back to the hut if you've reserved additional nights, or ski back to the Crested Butte trailhead. The trip back is significantly easier than the trip out, and will likely take less time than the approach. However, plan on bringing a headlamp if you get started late in the day.

Going on a hut trip is a truly unique and unforgettable way to experience the Colorado backcountry. The untouched alpine terrain is an epic playground with endless opportunities for skiers and snowboarders, and the Friends Hut provides an easy way to enjoy it with all the comforts of home.

*The Friends Hut can also be approached from Aspen via Pearl Pass. The Crested Butte approach is known to be a little more mild.

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Skiing
Snowshoeing
Backpacking
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