Rustic Lodging near Vail, Colorado

Stay at the Backcountry, High-Alpine Shrine Mountain Inn

Couples who don’t mind sharing accommodations, or families who want to rent out an entire cabin for a reunion, should consider this remote lodge in the mountains.

Vail, Colorado is chock full of luxurious resorts and slopeside condominiums. But visitors who would like to get away from the hustle and bustle of the ski area, and who are up for a backcountry adventure, might want to consider looking at the Shrine Mountain Inn. It’among Vail’s best budget lodging: the cost per person is just $41 per night.

Shrine Mountain Inn – Jay’s Cabin

This is a true backcountry experience, so be prepared for rustic accommodations. In fact, you can’t drive to the three cabins in the winter; you’ll need to pack in all your gear and blaze through the 2.7-mile trail on snowshoes or skis. That said, for couples who don’t mind sharing communal lodging, or families who might want to rent out an entire cabin of bedrooms, Shrine Mountain Inn is a pretty cool option.

The cabins’ location at the top of Vail Pass, at 11,209 feet, offers phenomenal views. The lodging is part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut System, which offers a number of different cabins (or “huts) throughout the Colorado Rockies. But those that make up the Shrine Mountain Inn are actually more decked out than most of the other huts.

Walter’s, Jay’s and Chuck’s multi-level cabins all have hot and cold running water, electricity, kitchens stocked with cooking utensils, showers or tubs and flush toilets. You’ll find an outdoor propane grill at each cabin, as well as outdoor metal fire pits with grates, and an outdoor sauna which feels heavenly after a day playing outside in the snow.

Decor is decidedly rustic, with basic beds, sofas and chairs and minimal accents and accessories. Visitors must provide their own bedding. Some rooms have dorm-style sleeping arrangements, with several single beds. Others are more private with one double bed only.

If you’re sharing accommodations with strangers, the general rule is “first come, first served”; you cannot reserve individual rooms in advance. But, if you don’t mind bunking in the dorm, and would be willing to give up a prized double-bedded room to a couple, you’ll make fast friends if you can forego some privacy.

And who knows? Maybe your new friends will offer to share their gourmet, hearty stew with their fellow travelers!

Important things to consider:

  • Dogs are not allowed.
  • No motorized transport to the cabins is allowed. That means absolutely no snowmobiles.
  • Visitors must subscribe to the “Leave No Trace” way of thinking. That is, whatever you pack in, you must pack out. Including all leftover food and trash.
  • If snowshoeing to the cabins in the winter sounds a bit overwhelming, think about visiting in the summer months, when you can drive a 4WD vehicle practically to their doors. The wildflowers in July are stunning.