Polar Star Inn ELEVATION: 11,040 feet
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Polar Star Inn (see below), Peter Estin Hut
GPS: 359 557 E, 43 75 974 N
TRAILHEADS: West Lake Creek, Yeoman Park USGS 7.5 min map: Fulford
10th Mountain Map: New York Mountain
Getting set for a day tour from Polar Star.
Polar Star Inn (along with Carl's Cabin) is a privately owned backcountry lodge located on 10th Mountain suggested routes, just below timberline on the west side of New York Mountain in central Colorado. The Inn is a tall-standing structure with a big deck that looks west over the Colorado Plateau. There are five private bedrooms. Running water eases kitchen work and eliminates the issue of snow melting that's somewhat of a chore at other huts.
Open year round, Polar Star Inn provides all-season access to a huge area of National Forest including the Holy Cross Wilderness. Outside the wilderness you'll find superb mountain bike riding on jeep trails and unimproved roads. One popular bike trail is the old Fulford Road that descends from the west end of Fulford down to East Brush Creek. Other good rides follow the jeep trail from Dubach Meadows out into the Bumpity Park area. If you're fit you can ride from Bumpity Park to Eagle. Hikers and equestrians can also find options in all directions.
Skiers can take their pick of trails to and from the Inn, as well as several fine branch routes. For starters, you'll find superb tree skiing just out the door of the hut. For advanced skiers, a short easterly climb leads above timberline to the west slopes of New York Mountain. From there take your choice of bowls and steep gullies. Intermediate backcountry skiers can also climb New York Mountain, then use a low-angled route for descent.
Map below connects to Peter Estin Hut on the bottom (south). If you have trouble viewing or printing the Polar Star Inn map below, please try our PDF version.
If you plan a ski-through to the north from the Polar Star, be aware that you'll have to use a car shuttle to get from the West Lake Creek Trailhead to the nearest 10th Mountain suggested routes.
Yeoman Park Trailhead—Polar Star Inn via Fulford Road DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Polar Star Inn (see above), Peter Estin Hut
TIME: 5 hours up, 3 1/4 hours down
DISTANCE: 6 1/4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,080 feet; loss: 100 feet
This route follows distinct road-cuts and well-marked trails. It is heavily traveled by snowmobiles and skiers. Thus, the foot-travel-only Newcomer Spring route described below might be a more attractive alternative for skiers.
From parking at Yeoman Park Trailhead (probably at Yeoman Park Campground) ski or walk (depending on snow cover) back N across the bridge and turn right onto the East Brush Creek Road. Follow the obvious road-cut up the valley for just under 1/2 mile and make a hard left turn onto the well-signed Fulford Road. Follow the Fulford Road as it climbs NW then N around a shoulder, then winds up through superb forest via several switchbacks to McGinley Gulch. Stay on the road from McGinley Gulch as it climbs NW 1/4 mile, then turns N around another shoulder, then drops 3/4 mile and about 100 vertical feet to cross Nolan Creek (10,060 feet) just E of the small group of buildings known as Fulford.
Just after you cross the bridge over Nolan Creek, turn right on another snow-covered road and ski 1/8 mile to a left (N) turn onto a marked 10th Mountain trail. If you had your nose to the grindstone on the roads to this point, look up. This section does not follow a snow-covered road, so it requires more attention. Climb 1 mile up 5 switchbacks to the New York Mountain jeep trail (10,520 feet). Take a right on the snow-covered jeep trail and follow it as it climbs 1/2 mile to 10,830 feet. Leave the jeep trail here and continue NE on a 10th Mountain marked trail 1/2 mile to the Polar Star Inn.
REVERSE ROUTE: From the front of the Polar Star Inn, carefully locate the 10th Mountain marked trail leading SW down the mountain in a dropping traverse. At 1/2 mile (10,830 feet) the trail intersects the New York Mountain jeep trail. Ski down the jeep trail 1/2 mile (to 10,520 feet) and turn S off the jeep trail. If you want the quickest downhill, take care not to miss this turn.
After you turn off the jeep trail, ski 5 fast switchbacks (experts can cut some of these) down to Upper Town, then W 1/8 mile down a snow-covered road to intersect the Fulford Road. Turn left (SW) onto the Fulford Road and ski the distinct, snow-covered Fulford Road 4 1/8 miles to the Yeoman Park Trailhead. For easier downhill stay on the jeep trail and follow it to the Fulford Road, which you then ski SE to intersect the 10th Mountain suggested route near Fulford.
SAFETY NOTES: There is no avalanche danger on this route. Take care while tree skiing down to Upper Town.
SUMMER: The roads on this route make for fine mountain biking. To reach the Polar Star Inn by bicycle or car, simply stay on the Fulford Road past Fulford. You can either stay on the Fulford Road as it traverses through Triangle Creek then swings around and climbs New York Mountain, or you can use the New York Mountain jeep trail. Both routes are well rendered on topographic maps. There may be no sign at the turnoff from the main road to the Polar Star Inn. The turnoff is usually closed with a cable gate.
A classic David Hiser night shot of Polar Star Inn -- 10th Mountain Division Hut System.
Yeoman Park Trailhead—Polar Star Inn via Newcomer Spring
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Polar Star Inn (see above), Peter Estin Hut
TIME: 4 3/4 hours up, 3 hours down
DISTANCE: 6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 2,140 feet; loss: 160 feet
Pick this route for a more serene wilderness experience. It avoids snowmobile trails and climbs more efficiently than other routes which stick to the roads. This trail is slightly harder to find than the Fulford Road route described above.
From Yeoman Park Trailhead travel on foot back N across the bridge from the campground and turn right onto the East Brush Creek Road on the north side of the valley. Ski the Brush Creek Road upvalley. At just under 1/2 mile, while still in Yeoman Park, you'll come to the distinct switchback left (NW) onto the Fulford Road. Do not make this turn. Instead, continue another 3/4 mile to 9,280 feet. At this point look carefully to your left for a 10th Mountain marked trail which leaves the road. Turn left onto the trail (put your skins on) and follow it as it climbs a few hundred feet E (paralleling the road below), then switchbacks left (NW).
Stay on the trail as it makes a climbing traverse to 9,520 feet, switchbacks right, and climbs to 10,000 feet. The trail eases off here, gradually climbs N, makes a long contour around a shoulder, then drops a short distance to Nolan Creek at 10,180 feet. Cross Nolan Creek, then follow the trail N as it winds 3/4 mile to Upper Town (10,060 feet), where you take a right (N) turn onto the 10th Mountain marked route. See the Fulford Road route described above for the remainder of the route from Upper Town to the Polar Star Inn.
REVERSE ROUTE: Follow the Fulford Road route to Upper Town. Take care in Upper Town to turn left (E) onto a well-marked 10th Mountain trail that leads several hundred feet, crosses White Quail Gulch, then turns south and leads you across Nolan Creek. From here stay on the trail as it winds through beautiful forest, then drops down several switchbacks into East Brush Creek. Here the main road leads right (W) down the valley to the Yeoman Park Trailhead, or up the valley to the Ironedge Trail and other routes for Peter Estin Hut.
SAFETY NOTES: There is no slide danger on this route. Don't tangle with any aspens on the downhills and watch your feet at the stream crossings.
SUMMER: Hikers and horse people should check this one out. Cyclists should use the roads.
West Lake Creek Trailhead—Polar Star Inn DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAP: Polar Star Inn (see above)
TIME: 8 1/2 hours up, 6 hours down
DISTANCE: 7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 3,000 feet; loss: 180 feet
A fine wilderness tour. Remember that a large chunk of the trail is in designated wilderness and thus marked with tree blazes instead of glowing blue diamonds. The first portion of this trip makes several critical turns. From the West Lake Creek Trailhead ski a snow-covered road up the east side of Card Creek. Stay on the road as it crosses Card Creek at 1/4 mile, then follows the west side of Card Creek another 3/4 mile to another crossing (8,560 feet). Just past this crossing it is critical to swing back right (SW) to stay in the Card Creek drainage. From here the snow-covered jeep trail climbs the east side of the drainage for 1 1/4 miles to another critical junction at 9,370 feet.
Here you turn right (SW) off the jeep trail onto the Card Creek Springs foot trail. Follow this trail S then W past Card Creek Springs (not that obvious), then up 500 vertical feet via 4 switchbacks to Card Creek Saddle (9,980 feet). From the saddle follow the 10th Mountain marked trail as it drops along the New England Traverse W then NW into the Squaw Creek drainage to 9,800 feet. Stay on the trail as it takes a gradually climbing traverse 1/2 mile, crosses Squaw Creek, then follows the Squaw Creek drainage (crosses creek several more times) up to nondescript Squaw Creek Saddle at the head of the drainage (10,620 feet). The trail passes slightly to the east of the low point in the saddle. From Squaw Creek Saddle follow the 10th Mountain marked trail another mile SE to Polar Star Inn and Carl's Cabin.
REVERSE ROUTE: The reverse of this route is a little easier because once you're at Card Creek Saddle, Card Creek leads you down to the West Lake Creek Trailhead, even if you lose the trail markers. The main thing to remember is that this trip uses two drainages and that you must switch at the proper point. To do so, take care to reach Squaw Creek Saddle from the Polar Star Inn (use your compass and GPS). Drop N from Squaw Creek Saddle down Squaw Creek to 9,840 feet. Turn NW then E here, drop a bit more, then take a climbing traverse to Card Creek Saddle.
SAFETY NOTES: This trip is basically a walk through the forest, so it has no slide danger. Since it does switch drainages, take care with orienteering to hedge against the dire consequences of trail marker addiction.
SUMMER: A fine hike and horseback ride. If you like mountain biking, you'll find good riding up to the wilderness boundary from the West Lake Creek Trailhead, but remember that even possessing a bicycle in the wilderness is a heinous crime (unless your bike is disguised as a horse).
Polar Star Inn to Peter Estin Hut via Ironedge Trail
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Polar Star Inn (see above), Peter Estin Hut
TIME: 9 hours
DISTANCE: 8 1/4 miles
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,920 feet; loss: 1760 feet
This is the only efficient ski route from the Polar Star Inn to the Peter Estin Hut. Even so, it is a long trail which requires many navigation decisions. First, pick a route on this page of HutSki.com that takes you from the Polar Star Inn down into the East Brush Creek drainage. The Newcomer Spring route is the most direct. Once on the snow-covered East Brush Creek Road, use the Ironedge Trail (see Peter Estin Hut routes) to ascend to the Peter Estin Hut.
SAFETY NOTES: Get an early start for this long route. See referenced routes for other safety suggestions.
SUMMER: To descend from the Polar Star Inn to the East Brush Creek drainage, cyclists should use the dirt roads via Fulford. Hikers and equestrians can use any number of trails, including the Newcomer Spring route. Ironedge Trail is a good uphill horse and hiking route, but too steep for bicycle travel. Cyclists should use the Hat Creek Road to ascend to Peter Estin Hut.
Polar Star Inn Regional Skiing
New York Mountain from Polar Star Inn DIFFICULTY: Intermediate to Advanced
HUTSKI.COM FREE MAPS: Polar Star Inn (see above)
TIME: Half day to full day
DISTANCE: 2 miles round trip
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,380 feet round trip
This popular summit climb gives you some honest mountain skiing and good views. Downhillers will like the turn options, but this terrain is above timberline, so be ready for dreaded trap crust.
Put your skins on at the Polar Star Inn, climb SE to timberline, then choose a route that intersects New York Mountain's north ridge. Follow the ridge to the summit. You'll want climbing skins for this route, and you'll probably end up walking up wind-scoured areas. Possible downhill skiing varies with snow cover. In general, try the west face (open areas drop down into the trees) or the upper part of White Quail Gulch.
SAFETY NOTES: Suddenly, this route takes you into alpine regions above timberline—a different environment than the forest below. Visibility can deteriorate rapidly and snow conditions can make downhill skiing all but impossible. There is steep avalanche terrain on the east side of the north and south summit ridges, as well as slide potential in upper White Quail Gulch. Also, given a load of extremely unstable snow, any of the slopes on New York Mountain could avalanche. Beware of cornices on all ridges.
SUMMER: This summit is a fine goal for a hike. The trail is too steep and rocky for bicycles and horses.
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, 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.