Middle Fork Creek to the Lost Wonder Hut - Buena Vista & Salida, Colorado Visitor Guide
  • Middle_Fork_Creek_to_the_Lost_Wonder_Hut_scott_anderson_2010_12_27


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.

Middle Fork Creek to the Lost Wonder Hut starts in the small town of Garfield, this route follows a mining road along the path of Middle Fork Creek. The destination is the Lost Wonder Hut, the only mountain hut in the Lower Arkansas River Valley. The road climbs steeply in places and is usually snowmobile-packed. Despite the intimidating nature of the first half mile, the road levels out considerably for the rest of the route. At the hut, the terrain opens up for big views of Mount Aetna (13,745 ft.), Clover Mountain (12,955 ft.) and Vulcan Mountain (12, 973ft.) The solar-powered hut sleeps 14 and makes a good base for additional tours in the area.

Trailhead Access: From the intersection of Highways 50 and 285 in Poncha Springs, drive west on US 50 for 12.7 miles up Monarch Pass. Park directly across from the Monarch Lodge in the cleared area on the right (north) side of the highway. Get your gear on and walk 0.1 miles up the pass and turn right on CR/FSR 230, just to the left of the snowmobile rental business. The mileage starts here at the bottom of the hill.

Location: Monarch Pass
Distance: 5.2 Miles – Out & Back
Travel Time: 3 – 4 Hours or Overnight
Type of Trail: Road
Aerobic Level: Moderate
Technical Difficulty: Ski – Advanced; Shoe – Intermediate
Avalanche Danger: Minimal – base of Mount Aetna
Elevation in Feet: Low Point 9,657; High Point 10,878; Climbs/Descends 1,221
Land Status: USFS, Private
Maps: Trails Illustrated #130; USGS Garfield
Notes: To make reservations at the Lost Wonder Hut visit www.lostwonder.com. On the steep road, use herringbone steps or even walk up the first section. If the road is frozen coming back down, it’s more of a bobsled run than a ski – caution is advised and telemark gear appreciated.

Advanced Option: Ski from the hut to the top of Chalk Creek Pass – see description for Lost Wonder Hut to Chalk Creek Pass. There are several old mining roads in this area that also make interesting tours – bring your map and explore.


Middle Fork Creek to the Lost Wonder Hut Mileage Log

0.0 Standing next to the snowmobile business, head uphill on the signed road to the Boss Lake Trail (38°33.16N, 106°17.80W).

0.1 Cross the old railroad grade and continue straight ahead. During the first part of this tour, several other small roads take off to the sides – do not take any of them and always stay on CR/FSR 230.

1.3 At this intersection, the Boss Lake Trail goes left, stay on CR/FSR 230 to the right. This is also part of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Just past this, stay to the right going uphill.

1.9 Stay right on the CDT.

2.1 At this intersection go left. After another 25 yards you reach another intersection, go right on the CDT.

2.4 Cross the very bottom of the avalanche run-out from Mount Aetna. Be careful in times of extreme instability, although the risk should be minimal. The peak to the left is Mount Clover.

2.5 Pass two USFS cabins – very rustic but free. About 30 yards past the cabins, cross a small stream. Just upstream in the creek is a plastic hose with running water – a good place to get water if you don’t want to melt snow.

2.6 The Lost Wonder Hut! Enjoy the amazing views across the valley – the peaks get great light in the morning. (38°34.32N, 106°19.77W)

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.


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