Travel Tip: Hut-to-hut mountain biking
A few weeks ago I covered the topic of cycling to fire lookouts for a bike overnight. Another non-camping option is hut-to-hut touring, an activity of which Colorado is king. There you can tackle a fat-tire adventure beginning in the southwest corner of the state (in either Telluride or Durango), and wind up a few days later in Moab (okay, that’s in Utah, not Colorado). The trips are organized by San Juan Hut Systems, whose mission is "to provide low-impact, human-powered, lightweight backcountry travel opportunities for the independent, health-conscious adventurer at a practical price.” The distance from one hut to the next is generally about 35 miles; the terrain ranges from dirt roads and trails in the alpine vastness of the San Juan Mountains, to desert canyons and slickrock. Each hut is stocked with food and utensils, water, a cookstove, and sleeping gear.
Another Colorado option: Take one of the trips organized out of Fruita by "The Hut Guy," who, according to the Colorado Backcountry Biker website, "spent years scouring hundreds of miles, identifying the premier mountain biking trails in western Colorado." As a result, it says, Colorado Backcountry Biker offers self-guided, budget-friendly bike trips on which you can spend two or three nights in fully stocked huts, and by day experience some of the best mountain biking in the West. Options include riding on the storied Tabeguache Trail, with baggage transfer from hut to hut and other amenities that are somewhat luxurious, considering the backwoods setting.
If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer -- or haul-it-yourselfer (your own food, sleeping bag, etc.) -- there are some great trail rides to the huts maintained by the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association. Not all thirty of the system's huts are reachable by mountain bike, but a lot of them are. These huts are relatively large, sleeping an average of sixteen people, and come equipped with wood-burning stoves and propane burners, cooking and eating utensils, and mattresses and pillows. (See Bikepacking to Backcountry Huts in Colorado, a story by Kirsten Armbruster that appears here at BikeOvernights.org.)
Up in the great Pacific Northwest, Cascade Huts offers self-guided multi-day trips in Oregon's Mt. Hood National Forest. Again stocked with supplies to enable lightweight riding, the huts line a loop around Mt. Hood that ranges from 135 to 160 miles in length, depending on the exact route chosen. And to the north of there, in Washington state, the five Rendezvous Huts in Methow Valley offer rustic but cozy accommodations for summer cyclists in a location that, come winter, is one of the premier Nordic skiing destinations in North America.
In Washington's geographical counterpart on other side of the country, Maine Huts & Trails has big plans over the coming years to enhance the mountain biking possibilities it makes available. As it says on their website, "we envision offering mountain bikers a wide array of trails, from short, easy riding along our hut access roads and other dirt roads to technical singletrack deep in the backcountry. Riders will eventually be able to ride for several days along a variety of trails, staying overnight in the Maine Huts ... [and, in fact] cyclists are already finding some great riding along and proximal to the MH&T system."
This about wraps up the hut-to-hut riding opportunities my research turned up. If you know of others, please let me know so I can add them to the list.
Photo courtesy of Bike Hermit.