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 park across the street at the Monarch Lodge. The cost is $5/night/vehicle, please pay at their front desk.
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.
- Beds with nylon-covered mattresses (no pillows)
- Propane for the cooking stove and 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 solar panel that powers compact fluorescent bulbs in each room)
- Musical instruments (guitar, banjo, mandolin – tuned for bluegrass 🙂
- Some cell service from most carriers
You need only bring your personal gear, a sleeping bag, food, and whatever other amenities you need/like.