When it comes to glamping, Northern California has no shortage of fire lookouts and huts to spend the night in. These rustic destinations have the bare minimum, and then some, to make your night in the wilderness one to remember. Robbs Mountain Hut in Eldorado National Forest is one to add to your to-visit list.
Getting to Robbs Mountain Hut
All visitors must stop at the Placerville Ranger District to pick up paperwork between 8AM-4:30PM, Monday through Friday. This paperwork is your key to getting into the hut. If you’re arriving later, give the ranger station a call and they’ll leave the paperwork in a lock box for pickup. This packet contains everything you need to know about staying at the hut, and a maintenance checklist for the Forest Service to help them keep it in tip top shape. Additionally, there is a map on how to get to the hut, in case you get lost.
When there’s no snow, visitors can drive all the way up to Robbs Peak. There is a locked gate about a half mile from Robbs Mountain Hut. The Placerville Ranger Station will provide a code to open the gate.
When there’s snow, you’ll have to hike in from Ice House Road. It’s a gradual 3 mile walk along the forest service road, with a little over 1000 feet in elevation gain. It’s a straight forward walk up Robbs Peak Road. After 2 miles, you make a right onto Helix Flat Road. A sign indicating Robbs Hut points the way. You can’t miss it.
We hiked in mid-February 2020. It’s been a low snow year, so no snowshoes were needed. Hiking in just trail runners was a-okay, but your mileage and comfort level may vary. Check with the rangers to see if you’ll need traction or flotation.
To get into the Robbs Mountain Hut, you’ll need to take a look at your reservation paperwork. Your paperwork will have a code to get inside.
Amenities at Robbs Mountain Hut
Robbs Mountain Hut is one of the fancier spots I’ve stayed at within our public lands. (Calpine Fire Lookout, you’re great, but you’re cramped!) This hut sleeps 6 people. It’s a cozy fit; there are three large bed spaces, so make sure you bring people you don’t mind snuggling with.
A small table is provided for dining, board games, and whatever you might want to do sitting down. There’s also a small wooden bench next to the propane stove. A huge window lets in tons of natural light and lets you look out onto the majestic Crystal Range in Desolation Wilderness.
Solar lights power the cabin. These can be hit or miss depending on the weather. Make sure you bring your own lights, in case the power goes out. The MPOWERD Luci Pro Inflatable Light and the Luci Core Light are my favorites for packing a ton of punch into a small, packable light.
A small, stocked kitchen is available for you to use. The Forest Service suggests bringing things to cook with, plates, cups, utensils, etc. We found the cabin was fully stocked with these. We were only there for a night (had to hike out for work the next morning), so we packed in pizza for minimal effort and clean-up.
A fancy propane heater keeps Robbs Hut warm. A thermostat controls the temperature, just like you’re at home. If it’s still too chilly for your liking, wool blankets are available for you to cozy up with.
Steps away from Robbs Hut is the pit toilet. There’s no digging your own poo hole here, folks. The Forest Service also keeps it stocked with toilet paper, so you don’t even have to pack that in. Just make sure you fill out the post-visit checklist and send it to the rangers, so they can keep the supply of toilet paper flowing.
If it’s super snowy, there’s a shovel for you to dig out a path to the bathroom (and to melt snow). A broom and mop are available for you to clean up in case you make a mess.
What to Bring to Robbs Mountain Hut
- Water. There is no running water, so you’ll need to pack it all in. If there’s snow, you can shovel water to melt, but aside from that, camel up.
- Sleeping bag (or a quilt, if you sleep warm) and pillow
- Lights. The MPOWERD Luci Pro and the Luci Core are awesome.
- Food. Need suggestions? Try my instagrammable snack board.
- Cookie dough. There’s an oven. Might as well take advantage!
- Coffee. The views are fantastic. You should sit and enjoy it.
- Paper towels and garbage bags. You need to leave the hut better than you found it, clean up after yourself.
- Board games. UNO is always a crowd favorite, and lightweight, too! If you forget, don’t fret. There are puzzles, dominoes, knock-off Jenga, and a deck of cards.
- Hand sanitizer. We forgot ours. Luckily the cabin had some, but don’t leave germs (E. coli) to chance.
- A pen. Don’t want to miss signing the guest log.
What to do at Robbs Mountain Hut
Sit and enjoy the view. The window in Robbs Mountain Hut opens out into spectacular views of the Crystal Range. Download the Peak Finder app before your trip and spend time pointing out each mountain.
Play board games. Snuggle with your friends.
Disconnect. Cell service here is spotty, so why not take it a step further and switch to airplane mode completely? Staying present in the moment is fun sometimes.
Read. Write postcards. Paint with watercolors. Be still. Hang out on the fire lookout. Catch the sunset and the sunrise. When was the last time you slowed down? When was the last time you weren’t on your phone? This isn’t a half bad place to do absolutely nothing. With the hut going for $65 per night, you might as well take advantage of it.
Best time to visit Robbs Mountain Hut
Spring, summer, and fall are great. You don’t have to hike in. You can bring as much stuff as you’d like, because it’s all going in your car. That being said, there’s nothing like Robbs Hut in the winter, with a layer of snow blanketing the ground. Snow makes everything quiet. And it feels so much more remote. If you’re up for the 3-mile walk up, visit in the winter. You won’t regret the huffing and puffing it took you to get there.
How to Book Robbs Mountain Hut
Robbs Hut is bookable six months in advance via recreation.gov. Each night costs $65. Reservations release daily at 7AM PST. This spot is popular with weekend warriors. For your best bet at scoring a reservation, try for a weeknight booking. Additionally, keep checking back for last minute cancellations. Sometimes things open up. Make sure you use your nights wisely. You are only allowed to stay 12 nights total at hut systems within El Dorado National Forest.
Looking for something similar to Robbs Mountain Hut? Check out Calpine Fire Lookout near North Lake Tahoe. Visit the Sierra Club Hiker’s Hut in the Bay Area. Want a little more glamor and glitz? Head to Oregon and stay at the Minam River Lodge.
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