We’re located in SW Colorado, between the towns of Silverton and Telluride. The OPUS is approximately 7 hours from Denver and 7 hours from Salt Lake City. This part of the state is off the beaten path, but experiencing the high mountain towns nestled in the expansive San Juan Mountains will quickly make you realize it was well worth every effort.
Note: Zoom in and change basemap to view details around the hut
The OPUS is located near the top of Ophir Pass (County Rd 8), which connects Colorado Hwy. 145 on the west side to Hwy. 550 on the east side, five miles north of Silverton. This dirt road is well maintained on east side of the pass (Silverton side – Hwy. 550). High clearance and 4WD is required if coming from the Ophir side.
The Hut itself is located 1/2 mile east of Ophir Pass, just off San Juan County road 8. There is safe parking along the road as well as in a small pullout uphill of the road. There is a small sign for the OPUS on the road, from here follow the hiking trail uphill to the east 1/4 mile.
One can also approach via many scenic hike-in options, starting from Telluride, Red Mountain Pass, Hope Lake, Clear Lake, and many other options. The best summer map for the area, printed by Latitude 40 Maps covers the Silverton, Telluride, Ouray area of the North San Juans. See our hiking page for details.
The Ophir Pass road is closed in the winter, and one of the two following approaches is required. Please check the CAIC Northern San Juan zone for current avalanche conditions.
This is the most straightforward route to access the hut. The winter trailhead/parking for the OPUS is the summer turnout at the beginning of the Ophir pass road, 5 miles north of Silverton on Hwy 550. Follow the Ophir pass road (not plowed), to the north, cross Mineral Creek and swing back south on the road. There is often a skin track heading straight down towards the creek and power station, do not take this.
Climbing along the north side of the creek, the road crosses the run out of three large slide paths, then the ruby creek ravine. Beyond the ravine the trees begin to open up and eventually you come to a large treeless area. This is the run out of several large south facing avalanche paths off the eastern shoulder of Lookout Peak above you to the north.
Continue up the Ophir pass road, traversing south facing slopes. You will encounter two gullies crossing the road before the road reaches the first of two switchbacks. Treat these cross loaded gullies with caution. Just before entering the trees at the first switchback, look up hill and you will see the hut. Upon reaching the first switch back, leave the main road and continue straight ahead paralleling the creek towards the pass. The route winds uphill through open trees to the meadow pictured in the photo below. There are blue diamond ski trail markers along the trail to the hut from this point. The route climbs through a group of trees right of the open meadow after crossing the Ophir Pass Road. 200 vertical feet above the road the trail traverses east through open slopes and trees before reaching the hut.
This approach is more intimidating than dangerous, and less straight forward than the Hwy 550 approach.
The overnight parking in Ophir is at the Town Hall/ Maintenance facility, which is in the western portion of the town. When you come into the town of Ophir from the Highway, take the right hand fork in the road. The Town Hall/ Maintenance barn is immediately on your left. Overnight parking is on the right side of the road opposite the maintenance barn. It is approximately a half mile ski up to East Ophir on the road until the pass road (unplowed) begins.
From the town of Ophir, follow the Ophir Pass road 1/2 mile to the first creek crossing. Continue another 1/4 mile on the road to a slide run out coming off the Silver Mountain ridge to the north. After crossing the run out go right on a typically snow packed road (this is the Swamp Canyon road). Follow this trail to a large open Meadow, the main trail will cross the Howards Fork river. At this point, instead of crossing the Howards Fork, go left and east uphill across this meadow to its northeastern corner. Here a road climbs the left side of the creek eventually leading to beaver ponds at 10,517 ft. Continue east towards the pass. The east end of the ponds is a good spot to take a break and add a layer, it often gets breezy beyond this point. From here you will follow the valley bottom up towards the pass, crossing the run out of many slide paths from north and south facing slopes (pictured below). At the end of the valley, a small climb of about 200 vertical feet presents a small challenge. The best route is often to climb steeper windblown west facing slopes just out of the trees. During stable conditions an alternate route climbs right through mature trees. After gaining this bench, climb gentle slopes up the center of the drainage. Climb to and cross the pass road. After crossing the pass road at 11,400 ft. climb the left side of the drainage to the pass. Descend to the meadow described in the east side approach above, this meadow is 1/2 mile east of the pass. The route from there climbs through a group of trees right of the open meadow after crossing the Ophir Pass Road. 200 vertical feet above the road the trail traverses east through open slopes and trees before reaching the hut (pictured above).