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The High Life: Never Summer Yurts, CO

Discover your own private Rockies paradise.
NOV12HUT_Welty_NeverSummerYurts_445x260Lower Montgomery Pass Yurt (Photo by Ethan Welty)

Colorado’s mega-popular 10th Mountain Division huts get all the glory, but if it’s wilderness privacy you want, these off-the-radar yurts have the goods. Book a trip, and you get exclusive use of a series of backcountry shelters high in the Medicine Bow Mountains, which rise to nearly 13,000 feet smack in the middle of classic Rockies terrain. Go in winter to enjoy the solitude on skis, and in summer for wildflowers and views. All of the yurts are woodstove-heated to shirt-sleeve temperature, sleep five, and have a big outdoor deck for soaking up rays or watching sunset. And unlike with large huts, where noisy bunkrooms are the norm, you share these yurts only with your group. All are DIY food; kitchen gear, mattresses, and pillows are provided. On this five-day, 20-mile trip, you’ll climb from cool, quiet forests of lodgepole pine, spruce, and aspen to meadows bursting with summer wildflowers like lupine, paintbrush, and columbine. Watch for elk, deer, black bears, and especially moose—this corner of Colorado is crazy with them, harboring more than 600.

Start with the Grass Creek Yurt at 9,000 feet and link the following yurts: Montgomery Pass, Clark Peak or Ruby Jewel (they’re 700 feet apart), and North Fork Canadian. Each day’s hike is about 4.5 miles, but the short days allow for adventurous side hikes. From Clark Peak or Ruby Jewel yurt (at 9,600 feet), take a six-mile round-trip hike to Jewel Lake, a small tarn set within a deep, steep-walled cirque below Clark Peak. Or, about a mile before reaching Jewel Lake, take a trail branching right (marked by a cairn) all the way up 12,951-foot Clark Peak, the highest in the Medicine Bow Mountains, for a panorama of 12,000-footers and a bird’s-eye view of the Rawah Wilderness; allow six to eight hours round-trip for the climb. Plan an extra day at North Fork Canadian yurt for the 12-mile out-and-back trip to Kelly Lake to fish for lunker rainbows that weigh as much as two pounds.

 

Season Mid-July to mid-August for wildflowers; fall for fewer bugs

Map BACKPACKER PRO Map Never Summer Yurts ($20; backpacker.com/promaps)

Get there Begin at the Grass Creek trailhead on CR 41; leave a shuttle at the County Road 41 trailhead past North Fork Canadian Yurt.

Cost/info $60-$80/night (summer), $90-$120/night (winter); neversummernordic.com

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