AMC has a series of backcountry huts dotted across the White Mountains, spaced about 1 day’s hike from one another. They provide shelter, a bed, food, and an indoor toilet. They also co$t all the monie$. Are they worth your hard earned ca$h?
Okay I $wear I’ll $top replacing S with $ now.
A while back my old boyfriend and I stayed at Lakes of the Clouds hut during a modified Presidential Traverse (if you’re curious… we parked near the Highland Center, took the AMC shuttle to Pinkham Notch, went over Washington the first day, slept at the hut, and went over all the southern presidentials the next day. Highly recommended…except maybe the hut part). Deciding to stay at the hut was a big decision since it costs about $100 a night PER PERSON! I never indulge in such expensive hotels in the non-wilderness, so a $200/night wilderness “hotel” was quite the splurge (or $400/night if you’re a family with 2 kids…LOLZ!).
We decided to stay at the hut mostly out of laziness. A hut stay means you don’t have to carry food, a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, or tent. Woohoo! I’ve been to plenty of white mountain huts in my day, but mostly just to buy brownies on my hike in/out and really didn’t know what to expect from an overnight. Welp, I can safely say what we experienced was pretty different from my not-knowing-what-to-expect expectations.
We arrived at the hut pretty late in the afternoon when most of the guests had already checked in for the night. Boy howdy, does that hut seem smaller when there are ~100 people jammed in there. Our first surprise was that most of the hut guests were families with young-ish children, and not lazy hikers like ourselves. We were put in a 6-person bunk room with a family of four. It was slightly awkward. The second surprise was the free toenail that came with my mattress and blanket. Granted, I am well aware that there is very limited ability to do laundry in a backcountry hut… but can’t y’all shake out the blankets every once in a while and check for rogue toenails?
The third surprise was our “entertainment” during dinner. After the hut croo served dinner, they proceeded to regale us with a mandatory song hour, in a demeanor so cheery it seemed as if we were at tryouts for Disney park employees and not, in fact, at a backcountry hut. It was creepy. During this mandatory song hour there was quite a beautiful sunset developing outside. I wanted to escape and take some pictures, but the cafeteria-style long tables and benches meant I’d have to perturb many a hut guest and Disney-wannabe hut croo member in order to get outside. So I sat… accepting my fate… wondering how many songs a hut croo can come up with when they have no internet and no television.
After what seemed like 10000 years but was probably 10 minutes, we were free to go outside and enjoy the unique opportunity to witness sunset (almost) on top of a mountain. I’m sure you can also imagine that the view of the stars and lit-up cities in the valleys was also ballin’.
There’s not a whole lot to do after dark so the huts quiet down pretty early in the evening. I thanked my lucky stars that no one in our bunk room was an epic snorer, and got a decent though slightly chilly night’s sleep. The next day we had the luxury of someone else making breakfast and then continued on our merry way down the southern presidentials, and back to civilization.
So after my cheery recap my opinion of the AMC huts is probably pretty apparent. I felt really out of place in the family-oriented, backcountry-Disney environment of the hut. This, combined with the price, probably guarantees I won’t be staying in a hut again any time soon. In the interest of fairness, though, I have compiled this super well thought out list of pros and cons:
- Nom nom food. No seriously, the food is pretty good. And if you’re just day hiking past a hut you need to buy a brownie/blondie/cookie/whatever delicious sugar thing they’re selling. YOU WILL HAVE #NOREGRETS.
- You get to be real lazy. Not carrying an extra ~15 lbs is awesome. And lazy.
- You get to watch sunset and view the stars from a backcountry location with lovely scenery. Early morning high in the mountains is also not something I often experience (because lazy).
- Huts are conveniently spaced 1 day’s hike apart so you can have yourself an epic and epically expensive, lightweight, multi-day adventure.
- Select huts open in winter so you can have a winter overnight experience that is decidedly less clammy than a snowy tent (winter cost is also about $40pp but there is no food provided).
- ALL THE PEOPLE. SO MANY PEOPLE. SERIOUSLY. ALSO CHILD-PEOPLE. SO MANY CHILD-PEOPLE (uhmmmm, I mean, kids are great).
- ALL THE MONIES. SERIOUSLY ALL THE MONIES.
- All the free toenails.
- All the Disney wannabes.
- All the singing, perhaps trapping you inside the hut when you’d rather be outside of the hut not listening to singing.
- If someone snores in your bunk room… good luck with that.
Decide for yourselves, my friends.