ELEVATION: 10,970 feet
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Aspen (see below)
39 degrees, 10' 44" N 106 degrees, 45' 18" W
GPS UTM: 348343 E, 4338118 N zone 13
TRAILHEADS: Hunter Creek, Smuggler Road 10TH MTN OFFICAL MAP: Smuggler Mountain
USGS MAPS: Aspen, Thimble Rock
Fritz Benedict Hut is one of a cozy pair at this location.
Situated on the border of legal Wilderness above Aspen, Colorado, the Benedict Huts comprise two small handcrafted cabins named Fritz and Fabi, built in honor of the late Fritz Benedict and Fabian his wife, the spiritual parents of the 10th Mountain Hut system.
The Benedict Huts form a pleasing (albeit challenging and rarely traveled) link between the McNamara Hut and Aspen, and allow access to a vast backcountry to the east towards the Continental Divide.
These huts are located in forest near Warren Lake and an associated peat bog that’s been mined sporadically over the past century. An old barn that was part of the mining operation sourced much of the wood used for the cabins, so they have a somewhat historic and weathered feel that's quite pleasant and harkens back to the regions mining days. Beyond that, perhaps the most famous thing about the Benedict huts is the designer outhouse with a full height picture looking west to the high Elk Mountains.
Departing from the log construction of other 10th Mountain Huts, these structures are built with heavily insulated panels and covered with antique material from an old barn that existed near the site. The cabins are more energy efficient and were less costly to build than massive log structures such as the Eiseman Hut. Funds for the huts came from numerous small donations.
Hunter Creek Trailhead — Benedict Huts via Smuggler Mountain & Warren Lakes Road
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Aspen (see above)
TIME: 6 hours
DISTANCE: 5 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,600 feet
This standard 10th Mountain system route follows historic roads and jeep trails on Smuggler Mountain above Aspen. These roads were built for the silver mining boom of the late 1800s and to transport the peat mined in the sub-alpine bog south of the huts.
Start at the Hunter Creek Trailhead, see trailhead links above (or for a simple albeit longer walk start at the the Smuggler Road at the east side of Aspen town). If going from Hunter Creek, follow the well used trail over the Benedict Footbridge and up the south side of Hunter Creek. After 1/2 mile, at 8,600 feet, leave the valley by climbing SE up a well marked trail that eventually climbs westerly up the mountainside. Beware of mine shafts in this area. You’ll intersect the Smuggler Mountain Warren Lakes Road at 9,200 feet. Follow the road for a long 2 1/2 mile wander through forest to an elongated open area (10,600 feet). Turn left off the road here and continue E for 1/4 mile up onto a small timbered ridge. Swing S and follow the flat ridgetop 1/2 mile to the huts.
REVERSE ROUTE: Study the description above. From the huts, ski northerly along the flat timbered ridge for 1/2 mile, then drop W to the north end of an elongated clearing. Pick up the Smuggler Mountain Road there, and wander on the road 2 1/2 miles NW and W to the mountainside above Aspen (9,200 feet). You have two options here. If you don’t have a car or ride at the Hunter Creek Trailhead, simply stay on the road and let it lead you down into Aspen. To reach the Hunter Creek Trailhead, leave the main road and ski N downhill on the marked trail, which drops into Hunter Creek. Follow the Hunter Creek Trail downvalley to the trailhead of your choice (see various trailhead descriptions referenced in the header of this page.)
Safety Notes: The key word for this area is navigation. Dozens of people have been severely lost on Smuggler Mountain, several requiring full callout of Pitkin County search and rescue. The area is densely timbered, with undulating terrain that defies the usual Colorado mountain navigation method of following valleys and ridges to a destination. Indeed, plotting waypoints on a GPS, and having that for insurance, would be a good idea here. At the least, remember your map, compass and altimeter, and be conversant in their use.
Summer: Smuggler Mountain is nothing less than a hiker, biker and equestrian paradise. Enjoy, yet be advised that legal Wilderness near the huts is off limits for all but foot or horse powered recreation. In other words, no bicycles allowed in many areas near these huts. Incidentally, this is a good area to compare land management systems: That of Forest Service non-wilderness land that allows hut building and mountain biking, and that of the most radical type of designation, that of legal "big W" Wilderness that's highly restrictive in terms of allowed recreational uses. Debate is onging about how much public land to designate as Wilderness and thus shut out users such as mountain bikers, not to mention blocking the building of more huts. Something to think about while you're riding on the roads and legal bicycle trails in this area.
Fabi Benedict Hut is a hand crafted joy that has the feel of a spiritual retreat house. Perhaps it is?
Benedict Huts to McNamara Hut via No Name Creek DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Aspen (see above), Lenado, Margy's Hut
TIME: 8 hours
DISTANCE: 7 1/2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,520 feet; loss 2,120 feet
Get back to the Wilderness with this route—it passes through such pristine forest that no trail marking is allowed! Map, compass, altimeter, GPS, pull out all the stops—this is the real thing! From the Benedict Huts, ski SE and E across the famed Warren Lake peat bogs. Stay at the northern end of the bogs where you don’t risk falling up to your knees into a pothole filled with freezing water. At the second large clearing, with the double Warren Lakes to your right (S), you have crossed the line into the Hunter/Frying Pan Wilderness.
Don’t expect trumpets to sound, but do expect to find an unmarked trail. The decision to keep this trail as primitive as the legal Wilderness it exists in was made while planning the Benedict Huts. Using all your navigation tools, head E, passing just south of point 11,140. Continue E and try to follow an old trail cut leading E and NE down into No Name Creek. When you near No Name Creek, you’ll notice a concrete structure (10,120 feet) that’s part of a water diversion project (use as a trail marker or ignore, depending on your own wilderness ethic, but note these structures are allowed while mountain bicycling is prohibited, hmmm). Cross No Name Creek, and ski down the drain into Hunter Creek.
The next section of trail is marked with standard tree blaze markers chopped into the bark of conifers. Cross Hunter Creek, and head slightly E then N directly up the side of the Hunter Creek Valley (you’ll be just east of Thimble Rock, a good landmark). Continue climbing and intersect Hunter Flats at 10,280 feet. At the north end of Hunter Flats, head through a clearing the passes you N through a saddle, where you take a slight drop into Slab Park. Ski to 10,420 feet in Slab Park, then head NW to a saddle (Bald Knob will be to your left). Swing W at the saddle, traverse the 10,800-foot contour 1/2 mile, and drop N to the McNamara Hut. Brew tea and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
SAFETY NOTES: This is another complex route, so carry all your tools for detailed navigation. Beware the lack of normal trail markers and enjoy wilderness travel as Davy Crockett must have known it.
Benedict Huts Regional Skiing
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate to Advanced
TIME: short to long day trips
HUTSKI.COM MAP: Aspen (see above)
If you like woodland ski tours and long traverses, the Benedict Huts are a good base. Short tours explore the open hilly area to the NE, with longer treks taking the pack trail which meanders E and SE to the head of No Name Creek. For a supreme challenge, find and climb Warren Point (11,954).
A tough Advanced rated tour follows No Name Creek to Hunter Creek. Once in Hunter Creek head up the valley and take the Midway drainage to Midway Pass, where you then drop to the closed (in winter) Independence Pass Road (Highway 82), which leads back down to the Roaring Fork Valley and Aspen. This is a long difficult trip, with a tough section of bushwhacking getting down from Midway Pass via Coleman Creek to Highway 82. Avalanche danger is prevalent. This tour is detailed in the guidebook "Dawson's Guide to Colorado Backcountry Skiing."
SAFETY NOTES: Use all the weapons in your arsenal for orienteering in this area, and carry survival gear during your day tours in case you get lost. GPS is mandatory for all but experienced map&compass users.
Please note: The information in this website is based on the experience and research of the site owners and their sources, may not be accurate due to human error or source errors, and might not be perceived as accurate by other persons. Therefore, extreme care should be taken when following any of the backcountry skiing 10th Mountain Huts, Summit Huts and Braun Huts routes described in this website. This website is not intended to be instructional but rather is a guide for backcountry users who already have the requisite training, experience, and knowledge for the activities they choose. An advanced level of expertise and physical conditioning is necessary for even the "easiest" of the routes and activities described herein. Proper clothing and equipment is essential. Failure to have the necessary knowledge, equipment, and conditioning will subject you to physical danger, injury, or death. Some backcountry skiing routes for 10th Mountain Huts, Summit Huts and Braun Huts have changed and others will change; avalanche hazards may have expanded or new hazards may have formed since this website's publication.
Mission statement: The mission of HutSki.com is to provide backcountry skiers and other Colorado hut users with a complete set of high quality free topo maps, plentiful how-to information, and brief route descriptions that include alternate routes as well as standard trails.