Over the water and through the woods, are backcountry forester cabins for rent

If you’re looking for someplace different to throw a bedroll this summer, the U.S. Forest Service has a deal for you.

Across the West, the Forest Service is opening to the public many of its backcountry cabins and fire towers that now sit idle.

A handful of these cabins are scattered across the Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre national forests and offer a getaway experience unlike any other. Most of the cabins were built prior to the 1950s to house patrolling Forest Service workers, and they carry a bit of history with them.

Now that the cabins no longer are used on a regular basis, the government has opted to rent them out instead of seeing them go unused. Many of these sites have been upgraded to include running water, electricity, showers and flush toilets, although some of them still are considered rustic. That means you need a flashlight to find the bathroom.

“Some of these are more rustic,” agreed Kathy Moore, recreation program manager for the Grand Mesa, Uncompaghre and Gunnison national forest, with a laugh. “But most of them have water, electricity and flush toilets.”

The cabins on the Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre national forests include several multiroom cabins that can hold up to eight or more adults and range in cost from $40 to $180 per night.

Since most of the cabins are located where spring arrives late and winter comes early, they are available starting in mid-June or early July and may close for the season as early as October.

Some of the cabins, such as the Matterhorn near Telluride, are going to be open year-round, she said, making it perfect for hunters and skiers.

The Matterhorn cabin still needs some work before it’s available to the public, she said.

The cabins offer a great summer weekend getaway, wedding site or the perfect camp for hunters, Moore said.

“We have several cabins in the Uncompahgre, including the Silesca cabin, that have been very popular with hunters,” Moore said. “It isn’t like checking into the Marriott, but the experience is wonderful, and the
scenery is unbeatable.”

For example, the Moose Manor cabin at Mesa Lakes on Grand Mesa is described in the website brochure as a traditional Forest Service cabin. It originally was built in the 1930s and has since been remodeled and upgraded.

“Oh, it would be perfect for a wedding. It has a beautiful, big yard,” Moore said.

Other possible summer activities include, hiking, biking, fishing and boating. The array of fall colors offer a “beautiful backdrop for weddings, family gatherings and those that enjoy crisp fall weather for mountain biking, hiking and fishing,” the brochure says.

Last year was the first year the GMUG participated in the nationwide program, Moore said.

“We were very surprised at how popular the cabins were,” she said. “We hope to have several more available soon.”

Moore said 95 percent of the rental fees return to the local forest to help pay for upkeep and renovations.

“That’s the real beauty of having these cabins to rent,” she said. “Our budgets might not allow us to keep them open otherwise.”

Information about the GMUG cabin-rental program is available at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/gmug/recreation.


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