Location and access:
The trailhead is on the north side of Highway 50 in the small town of Garfield, which is about twelve miles west of the intersection of highways 285 and 50 in Poncha Springs, and four miles east of Monarch Ski Area. The trail starts just behind and to the left/west of the Monarch Tours’ building (snowmobile rentals). Please do not park in Monarch Tours’ lot. Parking is to the left of the trailhead, past the trailhead parking signs. If trailhead parking is full when you arrive, you can choose to park down the highway at the old gas station/garage. The cost is $5/night/vehicle, and arrangements can be made to stay here at Monarch Tours.
The elevation at the trailhead is 9,657 feet. The hut is at 10,878 feet, so the total elevation gain is 1,221 feet over a distance of 3 miles. The trail is a dirt road that goes along Middle Fork Creek and that is also the Continental Divide Trail for part of the way. The first half mile is the steepest–going up about 450 feet in elevation. The remaining two miles go up about 770 feet with several gentle grades interspersed. The trail continues beyond the hut another 3.2 miles to Chalk Creek pass, from which you can drop down to the ghost town of St. Elmo and beyond.
Note: The road leading to the hut is 4-wheel drive only. In the summer, you can reach the hut with a good 4-wheel drive vehicle or by hiking; in the winter, plan to snowshoe, ski, or, under most conditions, snowmobile in.
- Trails Illustrated #130 (Salida, St. Elmo, Shavano Peak)
- Trails Illustrated #139 (LaGarita Wilderness/Cochetopa Hills)
- USGS Garfield
The map below shows the route to the Hut, and a copy of that map can be obtained by clicking here.
Avalanche alternate route: If the snow conditions up in the Aetna slide chute look concerning to you, an alternate route can be taken to the south, around the bottom of the chute in the trees. Please check the avalanche report before you go to help with your decision making. The report can be found by clicking here. The slide zone is on a south/southwest aspect. The location of the Hut is in the Swatch Range, and has a south/southwest aspect. Upcoming weather can be found by clicking here. Snow conditions are best found by checking the Monarch snow report – only a few miles away from the hut as the crow flies – by clicking here.
The map below is from hillmap.com. It shows the slope angles of the peaks surrounding the Hut. A copy of this map can be obtained by clicking below the map.
To download a copy of the map above, click below.
- Beds with nylon-covered mattresses (no pillows)
- Propane for the cooking stove and split wood for the heating stove
- All cooking and eating equipment and utensils, dish towels, and trash bags
- Water jugs for collecting water from the adjacent spring
- Outdoor grill (summer reservations only)
- Deck with picnic table
- Outhouse with toilet paper
- Cleaning supplies
- Some books and games
- Light (there is a PV panel that powers compact fluorescent bulbs in each room)
- Musical instruments (guitar, banjo, mandolin – tuned for bluegrass 🙂
- Cell phone reception is nearly non-existent. If you must use your phone, your best bet is with Verizon, on the upstairs, outdoor porch.
You need only bring your personal gear, a sleeping bag, food, and whatever other amenities you need/like.