Lost Wonder Hut to Chalk Creek Pass - Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado Visitor Guide
  • Lost_Wonder_Hut_scott_anderson_2015_12_23


Buena Vista, Colorado

Published with permission from the guide book:
Skinny Skis and Snowshoes – Guide to Winter Trails in Colorado’s Upper Arkansas Valley by Nate Porter and Nathan Ward.

This guidebook gives detailed information on 25 of the best backcountry ski and snowshoe routes in the Upper Arkansas Valley, with trails for every ability level. If you count all the options presented for each trail, the actual number of routes is closer to 60 without even counting the individual trails at the Nordic centers – that is a lot of skiing. If you’re insatiable and need more, look at the sections titled: Other Areas to Explore. Be insatiable.

The Lost Wonder Hut to Chalk Pass route follows Continental Divide Tail (CDT) up the Middle Fork of the South Arkansas River, from the Lost Wonder Hut to the top of Chalk Pass. The top of the high pass is sandwiched between Van Wirt Mountain (12,024 ft.) and Sewanee Peak (13,132 ft.) with a nice view over the Hancock lakes below. It’s a nice day ski from the Lost Wonder Hut, or a long day from US 50.

Trailhead Access: To start from US 50, see the description for the route Middle Fork Creek to the Lost Wonder Hut. The following description assumes you are starting from the hut.

Location: Monarch Pass
Distance: 6.4 Miles – Out & Back
Travel Time: 3 – 4 Hours
Type of Trail: Road & Singletrack
Aerobic Level: Strenuous – Altitude
Technical Difficulty: Skis – Advanced; Snowshoes – Intermediate
Avalanche Danger: Minimal – except for last 0.7 mile during high hazard periods.
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 10,878; High Point 12,128; Climbs/Descends 1,388
Land Status: USFS
Maps: Trails Illustrated #130; USGS Garfield
Notes: This trail is usually snowmobile packed. Snow conditions vary wildly. This, combined with steep hills make for challenging skiing- especially on the way down. For this reason, we recommend snowshoes unless you are a strong intermediate or advanced skier.

Advanced Option: For a full day in the mountains, shuttle a car to Saint Elmo and ski from US 50 in Garfield, over Chalk Creek Pass to Saint Elmo. Create your own hut to hut tour by staying in the Lost Wonder Hut and the bed and breakfast in Saint Elmo. Have fun, be fit and be aware of avalanche danger.


Lost Wonder Hut to Chalk Pass Mileage Log

0.0 From the hut (38º34.31N, 106º19.77W) go north up the road.

0.6 At the CDT sign, stay left on the main road – probably the only broken trail.

1.1 Come to a large clearing and another CDT sign (38º35.04N, 106º20.27W). Go right up the CDT summer trail or left up the valley bottom, closer to the creek. Both ways lead up the valley towards the pass.

1.2 When you reach this clearing, go across the meadow on the valley floor. There will probably be a snowmobile trail.

1.7 At the north end of a clearing (38º35.47N, 106º20.43W), head north into the trees and work your way up valley on the path of least resistance. You can see the pass from here.

2.0 At the north end of the next clearing, stay right on the summer trail.

2.2 Pass a large stone cairn and continue up the valley. It’s tempting to hug the right side of the valley, but this leads onto benches above the trail. It’s better to stay lower here.

2.4 The pass is close and you should see it. This is a good place to stop and turn around if avalanche conditions or visibility are bad. If conditions are prime, switchback your way up the last snow slopes.

2.5 Pass another stone cairn with a pole in the middle (38º35.98N, 106º20.85W). The final bit to the top may be blown clear of snow, so drop your snowshoes or skis (but not your trousers) where you want to start your descent or pick your way to the top.

3.2 You’re at the top of the pass (38º36.38N, 106º21.05W). Put on your wind shell and enjoy the views. To the north is the Chalk Creek drainage and Saint Elmo. To the south lies Antora Peak and Marshall Pass. If on skis, be careful on the way down. The trail will probably be narrow and icy, so take it slow and stay in control. There’s no shame in walking steeper, thinner or icy sections. Nice going – few people make it up here in the winter.

Ski & Snowshoe With Care

Backcountry travel is a physically strenuous activity with many risks and dangers. Hazards, natural or manmade, whether noted in this book or not, can be encountered at any time, under any situation. As a backcountry traveler we assume you know your personal abilities, limitations and have a comprehensive background in avalanche safety.

This book represents nothing more than a guide to routes and is not meant to replace your common sense, your ability to navigate in the wilderness or your ability to travel in the backcountry safely.

The mileages, routes and waypoints listed in this text are only suggestions. There may be variances and changes, you may get lost. We recommend that everyone use a global positioning system and topographical map to navigate.

Most routes in this text are located on public land, but some trails pass through or adjacent to private land. Respect the landowner’s rights and obey all signs regarding trail use.

Neither the authors, nor the publisher, nor anyone else mentioned in this book are responsible or liable in any way for any accident, injury or any action brought against anyone traveling any route listed in this book. All backcountry travelers and their companions assume responsibility for themselves. Explore at your own risk, and always tell somewhere where you are going and when you’ll be back.


We want you to have a safe and enjoyable trip into Colorado’s backcountry. Be prepared it could be a long walk out. Be sure to read this list of equipment you should bring on your ride along with tips to make your biking trip more enjoyable.


The winter backcountry is becoming more popular in the Upper Arkansas Valley, which means you need to think of your neighbors while out on the trail. There are no hard and fast rules, but please consider the following:


If you require search and rescue services, it can be costly. Buy a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to protect yourself. Funds from the CORSAR program go into the Colorado Search and Rescue (SAR) Fund. If a CORSAR card holder becomes lost or injured in the backcountry, the Colorado SAR Fund pays eligible search and rescue expenses.


summer-mountains-buena-vista summer-mountains-buena-vista

Recreational Trail Map

Get Inspired


Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce
111 E Main St
Buena Vista, CO 81211

Salida Chamber of Commerce
406 W Rainbow Blvd.
Salida, CO 81201

connect with us!

© 2023 Chaffee County Visitors Bureau | All Rights Reserved