Distance: 2 miles round trip
Elevation Gain : 765 feet
Altitude: 10,585 feet at the trailhead, 11,350 feet at the Broome Hut
To get there: Take US Highway 40 to mile marker 240 on Berthoud Pass. Park at the pullout on the west side of the highway. There is no trailhead sign, but there is a large, orange, sticker-covered avalanche warning sign in the parking lot.
I am thankful to hear Second Creek babbling alongside the trail for the first few minutes; it’s just what I need to erase the sounds of my own whirling thoughts on this solo hike. There is easy creek access off of the trail for about the first 1/8 of a mile, then the trail veers away from the creek to the right. Dead pine trees- I assume it’s beetle kill- are interspersed with the tall, shading pines. For half an hour I climb steadily up the trail, with views of James Peak Wilderness behind me. The wildflowers are starting to make an appearance, and I make a mental note to come back here in a month when they will really color the forest. As I get closer to the tundra there is a faint smell of dust and pine, the perfect summer smell. I can still hear the traffic on Berthoud Pass, but as I round the corner to the Broome Hut that sound is gone.
The Broome Hut stands in front of a patch of trees with views of the Second Creek Cirque in one direction and James Peak wilderness in another. And I wouldn’t exactly call it hut. It would fit in perfectly in some of Winter Park’s nicer neighborhoods; the outside is coated in tan stucco and boasts a spacious raised deck and big windows. The inside is nothing too fancy, spacious but clean and simple and smelling of freshly cut wood. The hut was built in 2012, with one third of the space open to public day use and the other two thirds for overnight reservations. Day users can take advantage of the bathrooms, kitchen, and deck. Overnight reservations are $35 per person, and the Grand Huts Association, the folks who built the Broome Hut, are still looking for volunteers to work at the hut and it is said that hours worked can earn volunteers a free night at the hut.
For lunch, I sat at a lone table perched up on a little hill in front of the hut.
This gave me uninterrupted views of James Peak and its neighbors and I sat there wondering how long it would be before I could climb up these beautiful mountains. Every day I look at these same mountains from my front porch, from a different angle and a greater distance so, of course, I want to see the view from the top.
I left the table after a while and followed the trail behind the Broome Hut. I was actually trying to go left, toward a trail I could see cutting across the tundra, but I couldn’t find the right spur so I just kept heading straight back. The trail had many spurs and wildflowers and willows and swampy snowmelt patches. I squelched through, just to go see what I could find. Before too long I came to a snowfield, with Second Creek running out from below it. I assessed the direction of the creek, naively assuming that it was flowing in a straight line. I decided against crossing the snow and turned left into the willows to see what I could see there. I came to the bottom of a scree-covered slope and, being alone, decided against scrambling up it (safety first!). I returned the snowfield and took I couple steps on it, having decided to cross
after all. I listened to the sound of running water nearby and stopped crunching my feet on the snow to listen more closely. ‘That sounds really close,’ I thought as I looked around. It was quite close; it was right under me. Second Creek was not flowing from the direction that I thought it was. Imagining wet feet and pins-and-needles ankles I quickly scampered off the snow and settled on heading back down the trail. The quickening wind and the clouds building over the Divide affirmed my decision.
Hiking Info from Hiking Grand County, Colorado by Deborah Carr and Lou Ladrigan.