Get back to the Wilderness with this route—it passes through such pristine forest that no trail marking is allowed! Map, compass, altimeter, GPS, pull out all the stops—this is the real thing! From the Benedict Huts, ski SE and E across the famed Warren Lake peat bogs. Stay at the northern end of the bogs where you don’t risk falling up to your knees into a pothole filled with freezing water. At the second large clearing, with the double Warren Lakes to your right (S), you have crossed the line into the Hunter/Frying Pan Wilderness.
Don’t expect trumpets to sound, but do expect to find an unmarked trail. The decision to keep this trail as primitive as the legal Wilderness it exists in was made while planning the Benedict Huts. Using all your navigation tools, head E, passing just south of point 11,140. Continue E and try to follow an old trail cut leading E and NE down into No Name Creek. When you near No Name Creek, you’ll notice a concrete structure (10,120 feet) that’s part of a water diversion project (use as a trail marker or ignore, depending on your own wilderness ethic, but note these structures are allowed while mountain bicycling is prohibited, hmmm). Cross No Name Creek, and ski down the drain into Hunter Creek.
The next section of trail is marked with standard tree blaze markers chopped into the bark of conifers. Cross Hunter Creek, and head slightly E then N directly up the side of the Hunter Creek Valley (you’ll be just east of Thimble Rock, a good landmark). Continue climbing and intersect Hunter Flats at 10,280 feet. At the north end of Hunter Flats, head through a clearing the passes you N through a saddle, where you take a slight drop into Slab Park. Ski to 10,420 feet in Slab Park, then head NW to a saddle (Bald Knob will be to your left). Swing W at the saddle, traverse the 10,800-foot contour 1/2 mile, and drop N to the McNamara Hut. Brew tea and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Locations of Observed or Reported Avalanche Activity: No avalanche activity has been reported along this suggested route.
To reach the Upper Hunter Creek Skier Drop-Off, start in the town of Aspen. Follow Main Street to Mill Street (the stoplight near the center of town, next to the Hotel Jerome). Turn N on Mill and drive a short distance down a hill, then across a bridge over the Roaring Fork River (.25 miles). Bear left after the bridge and follow the Red Mountain Road 1 mile to its second switchback. Just before the switchback, turn right and downhill on the Hunter Creek Road. Drive approximately .3 miles on Hunter Creek Road, and take note of the Hunter Creek Trailhead entrance on your left (if entering this trailhead parking, take a hard left on an unpaved driveway that leads up past a water tank 300 feet to a parking area). To continue on to the upper drop-off, travel NE through the stone pillars and follow Red Mountain Road for approximately 6/10 mile to a 3-way intersection. Take a very hard right turn, and continue E 1/10th of a mile through two sharp switchbacks. You are now on private property. Please respect the homeowners, and do not enter the private, marked driveways, and do not cross the bridge.
This location is intended primarily as a skier drop-off area. Be prepared to drop your gear here and return your car to the Hunter Creek Parking area. There are a total of four (4) parking spaces in the skier drop-off area. Two are designated parking spots for 10th Mountain Division Hut users. One is for senior citizens and the last is for handicap parking. The parking spots are on a first-come first-served basis. If you are using it for overnight parking you must leave a copy of your confirmation sheet on the dashboard of your car showing the designated night(s) you will be at the hut. Your car may be ticketed or towed if you a) do not leave proof of hut use or b) are illegitimately parked in the senior or handicapped parking spot. Four-wheel drive is recommended.