Colorado Backcountry Lodging Alternatives Huts • Yurts


Colorado Backcountry Lodging Alternatives


Backcountry Yurts and Huts. Stories - Trip Ideas - Locations

  • A hut with a view: a guide to Colorado’s huts.


    Read A hut with a view: a guide to Colorado’s backcountry huts by Lonely Planet. ... Related tips and articles Skiing Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division

  • Colorado Hut & Yurt Alliance


    [The Colorado Hut and Yurt Alliance]( is comprised of hut and yurt owners in Colorado who have organized to exchange ideas, act as a common voice for land use issues ...

  • Colorado Hut Trips - Winter Hut Trips in Colorado


    []( Hut trips are one of the best ways to experience the true essence of Colorado high-country winter, and several organizations offer a variety of huts for the cross ...

  • Photo by Shamus Lahman


    "Just did a trip to Ken's Cabin a few days ago. I recommend staying more than 1 night to get the full experience." ~ [Shamus Lahman](

  • Never Summer Yurts: Nokhu Hut


    [Just a Colorado Gal]( The [Nokhu Hut]( has the shortest and easiest skin I’ve ever encountered in the backcountry: a whopping 1.5 miles! We knew that we could easily get into the hut, so we didn’t...

  • 10th Mountain Division Hut Association


    Welcome to the[ 10th Mountain Division Huts]( 10th Mountain is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that manages a system of 34 backcountry huts in the Colorado Rocky ...

  • Winter Hut - to - Hut Trips, Telluride Colorado


    [Telluride Hut Trips]( We offer a choice of several backcountry lodging accommodations ranging from rustic to deluxe. Our guides will provide you with a gourmet dining ...

  • San Juan Hut Systems


    [San Juan Hut Systems](, the original hut to hut adventure, offers the best in mountain biking, skiing and hiking hut trips in Colorado and Utah, including multi-day ...

  • Cozy Up in a Colorado Yurt: 5 Unique Backcountry S


    [RootsRated]( Backcountry camping with a bed. If you’re looking for a special kind of treasure hunt, make it a quest to rest your head in the many yurts tucked within the Colorado backcountry. 

  • Hut & Yurt Ski Trips


    []( The San Juan Hut System connects Telluride to Ouray by way of beginner to advanced ski terrain and five rustic cabins, offering an authentic and memorable backcountry travel...

Wilderness hut in Utsjoki, Finland.

A wilderness hut, backcountry hut, or backcountry shelter is a rent-free, simple shelter or hut for temporary accommodation, usually located in wilderness areas, national parks and along backpacking and hiking routes. They are found in many parts of the world, such as Finland, Sweden, Norway, and northern Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Huts range from being basic and unmanned, without running water, to furnished and permanently attended. Remote huts sometimes contain emergency food supplies.


Birkkarhuetterl 20111016.jpg

Similar shelters can also be found in remote areas of the Alps (known in German as Biwakschachtel). In order to complete some tours, it is necessary to spend the night in such shelters. Even though Biwakschachteln are also tended to by the Alpine Clubs, they differ markedly from the more accessible mountain huts, which are actual houses suitable for permanent use. Unlike mountain huts, they do not have a permanent resident who tends to the building and sells food to mountaineers.

Hut use

Wilderness hut at Lyngen fjord, Norway

In general, these huts do not have regular maintenance schedules nor paid maintenance staff. Unofficial rules for use have arisen.[1]

Visitors are expected to leave the hut as they would like to find it. Fires should never be left unattended, and if the firewood supply is used up, the visitors should replace it. Some areas are designated fuel stove only, because cooking on a fuel stove can reduce the use of firewood. Some huts contain emergency food stores like canned food and bottled water, meant to consumed in urgent situations. Often no toilet facilities are present, and the general rule requires that toilet waste should be buried away from the nearest watercourse or the hut.[2]

Generally no running water is available in the huts. It is often recommended when using water from a stream, that the water should be boiled for at least five minutes because of the potential danger of gastroenteritis and giardia.[citation needed]

Detergents, toothpaste and soap (even biodegradable types) can harm aquatic life, and waterways are easily damaged. When leaving the hut, visitors are generally expected to leave it clean and secure, with the fire out, and the doors and windows securely closed. Escaping fires can severely damage the environment. Rubbish should not be buried. Rubbish like cans, plastic bottles or broken glass are often dug out by native animals and may harm them. All waste should be disposed of by taking it away for proper disposal. Rules can differ between Europe, Australia and US.

Wilderness huts by country

Moscow Villa in Victoria, Australia.


The Oahujoki wilderness hut in Lemmenjoki National Park, can accommodate seven people overnight.

Official wilderness huts are mostly maintained by Metsähallitus (Finnish for Administration of Forests), the Finnish state-owned forest management company. Most of the wilderness huts in Finland are situated in the northern and eastern parts of the country. Their size can vary greatly: the Lahtinen cottage in the Muotkatunturi Wilderness Area can barely hold two people, whereas the Luirojärvi cottage in the Urho Kekkonen National Park can hold as many as 16.

A wilderness hut need not be reserved beforehand, and they are open for everyone tracking by foot, ski or similar means. Commercial stays overnight are prohibited in the wilderness huts owned by Metsähallitus. Unofficial and unmaintained huts also exist.

For centuries the vast wildernesses of Finland and its resources were divided amongst the Finnish agricultural societies (such as families, villages, parishes, and provinces) for the purpose of collecting resources. Areas divided in this way were called erämaa, literally "portion-land," (now literally the word for "wilderness" in modern Finnish). People from agricultural societies made trips to their erämaas in the summer, mainly to trap animals for fur but also to hunt game, fish, and collect taxes from the local hunter-fisher population.

Huts were built in the wilderness for use as base camps for hunters and fishermen. Also non-agricultural Sami people built huts to help them manage reindeer. The earliest huts were only allowed to be used by people from the communities that owned them. Outsiders were not allowed to use the resources of other communities' erämaas.

Huts that were free for everyone were first seen in late 18th century Finland, when dwelling places were built along walking routes for passers-by. In the 19th century the authorities started building these huts. Later in the 20th century they started to be built for travellers.

New Zealand

New Zealand has a network of approximately 950 backcountry huts.[3] The huts are officially maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC), although some of the huts have been adopted and maintained by local hiking and hunting clubs by arrangement. There are also unofficial and privately owned huts in some places. They vary from small bivouac shelters made of wood to large modern huts that can sleep up to 40 people, with separate cooking areas, utilities and gas.

Some huts were initially commissioned or built by clubs along commonly walked routes, both for safety reasons as appropriate, and sometimes for convenience. The network of back-country huts in New Zealand was largely extended in the mid-20th-century, when many more were built to serve the deer cullers of the New Zealand Forest Service.[4] Most larger and more modern huts, like some found on the Great Walks, have been purpose designed and built to serve trampers. Many of New Zealand's back-country huts are remote and rarely visited, and it is common for recreational trampers to design trips with the idea of reaching and visiting specific huts. Some people actively keep count of which huts they have visited, a practice which is informally referred to as hut bagging.

New Zealand backcountry hut pass

Back-country huts in New Zealand were free to use until the early 1990s, when the New Zealand Department of Conservation began charging for their use. For most back-country huts, nightly hut tickets are purchased via an honesty system by people who use the huts, with an additional option of purchasing an annual pass for people who use huts frequently. Huts on frequently used and heavily marketed tracks, such as the New Zealand Great Walks, usually operate on a booking system, and often have resident wardens checking the bookings of users who arrive to stay the night.[3]

Since the inception of hut fees in New Zealand, there has been controversy amongst some hut users. Many users belong to clubs which helped to build and maintain the huts before the government department was created, and consequently inherited them. It is common to find people who refuse to pay for the use of huts in protest, arguing that the government is trying to charge them to use facilities that they themselves are entirely responsible for providing. DOC argues that all hut fees are used for the continued maintenance of huts, and for building new huts as appropriate. It has at times made efforts to demonstrate this by specifically allocating money from hut fees towards budgets for these purposes.

The majority of the huts were built in an era of lower levels of government regulation and the long term use of the huts was not considered. As a result of the Cave Creek disaster in 1995, DOC tightened up on the standards for structures on public land. Some of the huts were upgraded to meet build regulations whilst others were removed or had certain facilities (such as beds) removed to cause them to fall into less strict building categories. In 2008, because of the recognition of the unique situation and the remote locations, the government relaxed the building standards for the huts. They now no longer need to have emergency lighting, smoke alarms, wheelchair access, potable water supplies or artificial lighting.[5]

United States

The Pocosin cabin along the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park.

In the United States, backcountry huts may be provided by the Forest Service, state or national parks such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.[6] Wilderness huts are frequently located along hiking routes.

The Tenth Mountain Huts is a system of 29 backcountry huts in the Colorado Rocky Mountains honoring the men of 10th Mountain Division of the US Army, who trained during World War II at Camp Hale in central Colorado. They provide a unique opportunity for backcountry skiing, mountain biking, or hiking while staying in safe, comfortable shelter.

Wilderness huts

See also

  • Bothy - simple shelter
  • Lean-to – a temporary, small, open building intended for shelter during hiking or fishing trips in the wilderness
  • Log cabin - small house built from logs


  1. ^ "tarvantovaara". Retrieved 27 February cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ "instructions and rules". Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Backcountry hut information: Places to stay". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  4. ^ "Historic Te Totara Hut: Te Urewera". Department of Conservation. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Building rule changes reduce red tape for huts". New Zealand Government. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  6. ^ Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Backcountry Camping - Backpacking (U.S. National Park Service)
  • Part of this article is based on a translation of an article in the Finnish Wikipedia.

Further reading

  • Barnett, Shaun; Brown, Rob; Spearpoint, Geoff (2012). Shelter from the storm: the story of New Zealand's backcountry huts. Nelson, New Zealand: Craig Potton Publishing. ISBN 9781877517709.
  • Laaksonen, Jouni. "Autiotuvat on-line" (in Finnish). Retrieved 2006-06-05.

A traditional Kazakh yurt in 1860 in the Syr Darya Oblast. Note the lack of a compression ring at the top.
A Qaraqalpaq bentwood type "yourte" in Khwarezm (or Karakalpakstan), Uzbekistan
Turkmen woman at the entrance to a yurt in Turkestan; 1913 picture by Prokudin-Gorskii

A traditional yurt (from the Turkic languages) or ger (Mongolian) is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by several distinct nomadic groups in the steppes of Central Asia. The structure comprises an angled assembly or latticework of pieces of wood or bamboo for walls, a door frame, ribs (poles, rafters), and a wheel (crown, compression ring) possibly steam-bent. The roof structure is often self-supporting, but large yurts may have interior posts supporting the crown. The top of the wall of self-supporting yurts is prevented from spreading by means of a tension band which opposes the force of the roof ribs. Modern yurts may be permanently built on a wooden platform; they may use modern materials such as steam-bent wooden framing or metal framing, canvas or tarpaulin, Plexiglas dome, wire rope, or radiant insulation.

Etymology and translations

A yurt in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, used as a café

Yurt – originally from a Turkic word referring to the imprint left in the ground by a moved yurt, and by extension, sometimes a person's homeland, kinsmen, or feudal appanage. The term came to be used in reference to the physical tent-like dwellings only in other languages. In modern Turkish the word "yurt" is used as the synonym of "homeland" or a "dormitory". In Russian the structure is called "yurta" (юрта), whence the word came into English.


  • гэр (transliterated: ger, [ˈɡɛr]) – in Mongolian simply means "home".[1][2]
  • тирмә (transliterated: tirmä) is the Bashkir term for yurt.
  • киіз үй (transliterated: kıiz úy, [kɪjɪz ʏj]) – the Kazakh word, and means "felt house".
  • боз үй (transliterated: boz üy, [bɔz yj]) – the Kyrgyz term is meaning "grey house", because of the color of the felt.
  • ak öý and gara öý ([ɑq œj, ʁɑˈɾɑ œj]) – In Turkmen the term is both literally "white house" and "black house", depending on its luxury and elegance.
  • qara u'y or otaw ([qɑrɑ́ ʉj, uʊtɑ́w]) – in Qaraqalpaq the first term means "black house", while the second means "a newborn family" and is used only to name a young family's yurt.
  • In Hungarian yurt is called "jurta".
  • "Kherga"/"Jirga" – Afghans call them.
  • "Kheyma" (خیمه/ख़ॆमा) is the word for a yurt or a tent-like dwelling in India and Pakistan, from the Arabic:خیمه
  • In Persian yurt is called چادر (châdor)
  • In Tajik the names are "yurt", "khona-i siyoh", "khayma" (юрт, хонаи сиёҳ, хайма).
  • өг (ög, Tuvan pronunciation: [œɣ]) is the Tuvan word for yurt.


Yurts have been a distinctive feature of life in Central Asia for at least three thousand years. It is suggested that the Indo-European nomads (mostly Slavic and Indo-Iranians) were the first that used yurts and similar tents in Central Asia and parts of Russia and the Ukraine.[3] The first written description of a yurt used as a dwelling was recorded by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. He described yurt-like tents as the dwelling place of the Scythians, a horse riding-nomadic nation who lived in the northern Black Sea and Central Asian region from around 600 BC to AD 300.[4]


A Mongolian Ger

Traditional yurts consist of an expanding wooden circular frame carrying a felt cover. The felt is made from the wool of the flocks of sheep that accompany the pastoralists. The timber to make the external structure is not to be found on the treeless steppes, and must be obtained by trade in the valleys below.

The frame consists of one or more expanding lattice wall-sections, a door-frame, bent roof poles and a crown. The Mongolian Ger has one or more columns to support the crown and straight roof poles. The (self-supporting) wood frame is covered with pieces of felt. Depending on availability, felt is additionally covered with canvas and/or sun-covers. The frame is held together with one or more ropes or ribbons. The structure is kept under compression by the weight of the covers, sometimes supplemented by a heavy weight hung from the center of the roof. They vary with different sizes, and relative weight. They provide a surprisingly large amount of insulation and protection from the outside cold of winters, and they are easily changed to keep the yurts cool for summertime.

A yurt is designed to be dismantled and the parts carried compactly on camels or yaks to be rebuilt on another site. Complete construction takes around 2 hours.

Decoration and symbolism

The traditional decoration within a yurt is primarily pattern-based. These patterns are generally not according to taste, but are derived from sacred ornaments with certain symbolism. Symbols representing strength are among the most common, including the khas (swastika) and four powerful beasts (lion, tiger, garuda, and dragon), as well as stylized representations of the five elements (fire, water, earth, metal, and wood), considered to be the fundamental, unchanging elements of the cosmos. Such patterns are commonly used in the home with the belief that they will bring strength and offer protection.

Repeating geometric patterns are also widely used. The most widespread geometric pattern is the continuous hammer or walking pattern (alkhan khee). Commonly used as a border decoration, it represents unending strength and constant movement. Another common pattern is the ulzii, a symbol of long life and happiness. The khamar ugalz (nose pattern) and ever ugalz (horn pattern) are derived from the shape of the animal's nose and horns, and are the oldest traditional patterns. All patterns can be found among not only the yurts themselves, but also on embroidery, furniture, books, clothing, doors, and other objects.[5]

In Central Asia

Ak Öýi (White Building), "The World's Largest Yurt", is located 10 km west of Mary, Turkmenistan, dedicated on 27 November 2015.

The wooden crown of the yurt (Mongolian: тооно, [tɔːn]; Kazakh: шаңырақ [ɕɑɴəɾɑ́q]; Kyrgyz: түндүк [tyndýk]; Turkmen: tüýnük) is itself emblematic in many Central Asian cultures. In old Kazakh communities, the yurt itself would often be repaired and rebuilt, but the shangyrak would remain intact, passed from father to son upon the father's death. A family's length of heritage could be measured by the accumulation of stains on the shangrak from decades of smoke passing through it. A stylized version of the crown is in the center of the coat of arms of Kazakhstan, and forms the main image on the flag of Kyrgyzstan.

Today the yurt is seen as a nationalistic symbol among many Central Asian groups, and as such, yurts may be used as cafés (especially those specialising in traditional food), museums (especially relating to national culture), and souvenir shops. In celebration of the city of Mary's year as Cultural Capital of the Turkic World, the government of Turkmenistan constructed a yurt-shaped structure, called Ak Öýi (White Building) and described as "The World's Largest Yurt", of concrete, granite, aluminum, and glass. Dedicated on November 27, 2015, the structure is 35 meters high and 70 meters in diameter. According to the Turkmenistan state news agency, "A white yurt is a symbol of an age-old, distinctive historical-cultural legacy, a sign of preservation of our roots and origins." This three-story structure includes a café, offices, and VIP apartments as well as a large auditorium with 3,000 seats.[6][7]

Buddhist symbolism in the Mongolian Gers

Buddhist symbol dharmachakra is represented by the khorlo (Tib: འཀོར་ལོ།) toono. Other Buddhist symbols--khadag (Tib: ཁ་བཏགས་) hangs from the toono and dpaljibeu (Tib: དཔལ་གྱི་བེའུ) is present on the stove

The design of the Mongolian Ger developed from its ancient simple forms to actively integrate with Buddhist culture. The crown—toono adopted the shape of Dharmachakra. The earlier style of toono, nowadays more readily found in Central Asian yurts, is called in Mongolia "sarkhinag toono" while the toono representing Buddhist dharmachakra is called "khorlo" (Tibetan འཀོར་ལོ།) toono. Also the shapes, colors and ornaments of the wooden elements—toono, pillars and poles of the Mongolian yurt are in accord with the artistic style found in Buddhist monasteries of Mongolia. Such yurts are called "uyangiin ger", literally meaning "home of lyrics" or "home of melodies".

Western yurts

A yurt-derived structure in the Colorado mountains, USA

Enthusiasts in other countries have adapted the visual idea of the yurt, a round, semi-permanent tent. Although those structures may be copied to some extent from the originals found in Central Asia, they often have some different features in their design to adapt them to different climate and use.

In Canada and the United States, yurts are made using hi-tech materials. They are highly engineered and built for extreme weather conditions. In addition, erecting one can take days and they are not intended to be moved often. These North American yurts are better named yurt derivations, as they are no longer round felt homes that are easy to mount, dismount and transport. North American yurts and yurt derivations were pioneered by William Coperthwaite in the 1960s, after he was inspired to build them by a National Geographic article about Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas's visit to Mongolia.[8]

An American yurt with a deck. Permanently located in Kelleys Island State Park

In 1978, American company, Pacific Yurts, became the first to manufacture yurts using architectural fabrics and structural engineering, paving the way for yurts to become popular attractions at ski resorts and campgrounds. Yurts are also popular in Northern Canada. In 1993, Oregon became the first state to incorporate yurts into its Parks Department as year round camping facilities. Since then, at least 17 other US States have introduced yurt camping into their own parks departments.[9]

In Europe, a closer approximation to the Mongolian and Central Asian yurt is in production in several countries. These tents use local hardwood, and often are adapted for a wetter climate with steeper roof profiles and waterproof canvas. In essence they are yurts, but some lack the felt cover and ornate features across the exterior that is present in traditional yurt. There are UK-made yurts that feature a metal frame in use in at least two glamping sites in Somerset and Dorset.[10][11][12]

The palloza is a traditional building found in the Serra dos Ancares in northern Spain. Pallozas have stone walls and a conical roof made of stalks of rye.[13]

Different groups and individuals use yurts for a variety of purposes, from full-time housing to school rooms. In some provincial parks in Canada, and state parks in several US states, permanent yurts are available for camping.[14]


  1. ^ Australia, Project SafeCom, Western. "Mongolian Gers or Yurts: heritage of nomadic peoples". cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ "ger (dwelling house) - Memidex dictionary/thesaurus".
  3. ^ Miller, Mark. "Europeans share more language and genes with Asia than previously thought". Retrieved 2019-03-23.
  4. ^ A complete guide to making a Mongolian Ger, webpage, retrieved October 23, 2011
  5. ^ van der Haegan, Bernard. "Mongolian ger decoration". Boston Star Consulting. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Turkmenistan's Latest Folly: Humongous Yurt". November 3, 2015.
  7. ^ "Концерт мастеров искусств тюркоязычных стран прошел в 'Türkmeniň ak öýi'". 28 November 2015.
  8. ^ Article at Alternatives Magazine on North American Yurts, webpage, retrieved February 9, 2006
  9. ^ Article at Midwest Weekends on Yurt Camping, webpage, retrieved December 08, 2010
  10. ^ Yurt Holidays in Somerset at Woodland Escape, webpage, retrieved April 06, 2017
  11. ^ Yurt Holidays in Dorset at Dorset Country Holidays, webpage, retrieved April 06, 2017
  12. ^ Yurts from UK Company BCT Outdoors, webpage, retrieved April 06, 2017
  13. ^ "Vernacular architecture | Grove Art". doi:10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000088875#oao-9781884446054-e-7000088875-div1-7000088881. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  14. ^ Yurts at Ontario Parks, webpage, May 15, 2018

External links


Colorado Backcountry Lodging Alternatives
Backcountry Yurts and Huts. Stories - Trip Ideas - Locations

featured photo by Shamus Lahman