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Adventure Guide

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Colorado's San Juan Hut System
Plan your own epic trek on the ultimate mountain bike trail system.

All prices in U.S. dollars


Most travelers fly by major airline to Denver, then take a charter flight to Telluride with Great Lakes Aviation (800 554 5111 [U.S. and Canada only]; www.greatlakesav.com). At the end of the trip, Mountain Limo (888 546 6894 [U.S. and Canada only]) can transport you from Moab back to Telluride for $300 per vanload (up to ten people). If you drive to the trailhead, Alpine Luxury Limo Service (877 728 8750 [U.S. and Canada only]) will shuttle your vehicle to Moab for about $200.


You don't have to be an expert rider to take the San Juan huts trip, but you should be in decent shape—the itinerary averages 30 miles [48 kilometers] a day at an altitude above 8,000 feet [2,440 meters]. If you don't bring your own bike, rent one in Telluride at Paragon Ski & Sport ($160 per week; +1 970 728 4525; www.toski.com/paragon) or The Trailhead ($175 per week; +1 970 626 5365). You'll want to bring or rent panniers for hauling the day's lunch, repair supplies (spare tubes are a must, and someone should pack an extra tire), and rain gear.


At a cost of $425, the weeklong San Juan Hut System trip (+1 970 626 3033; www.sanjuanhuts.com) is one of the nation's great adventure bargains. Besides lodging, the price includes three meals a day, sleeping bags at each hut, and trail descriptions and Forest Service maps with the singletrack sections clearly marked. Reservations are required.

On paper, the journey may look intimidating—you climb more than 17,000 feet [5,180 meters] total—but it's actually fairly easy, nontechnical riding on primitive dirt roads. In the past two years, the system's operators have cleared and mapped a series of singletrack side trips. One such offshoot is the Spring Creek Trail, on day three. Steep at the start, it levels into a wide, shady meadow and rejoins the main route after about ten miles [16 kilometers].


Colorado's Tenth Mountain Division Hut Association (+1 970 925 5775; www.huts.org) is one of the nation's oldest and most extensive, with more than 30 huts scattered along trails between Aspen, Leadville, and Vail. The huts are haute—some have woodstoves—but they're not stocked with food. Individual huts can be reserved from $15 per person, per night.

In Washington's northern Cascade Range, the Rendezvous Huts (+1 509 996 8100; www.methow.com/huts) were previously restricted to Nordic skiers but are now open to cyclists. The five huts sleep eight at a cost of $25 per person, per night, not including food. The distance between the huts averages about five miles [eight kilometers], with the trails winding through the Okanogan National Forest.


In Telluride, the New Sheridan Hotel ($100 and up; 800 200 1891 [U.S. and Canada only]; www.newsheridan.com) is a pretty Victorian with a rooftop hot tub and views of the San Juan Mountains. In Moab, the Redstone Inn ($70; 800 772 1972 [U.S. and Canada only]; www.moabredstone.com) has a bike-repair stand and a bike-washing area and allows riders to store their mounts in their rooms.


Jeff La Frenierre's San Juan Adventure Guide: A Guide to Hiking, Biking, and Skiing in Southwestern Colorado (Pruett Publishing, $26) is a pricey but comprehensive guide. Lee Bridger's Mountain Bike America: Moab (Globe Pequot Press, $18) covers the wealth of riding in red-rock country. The San Juan Hut System's own "Mountain Biker's Bible," provided free to all groups, contains advice on everything from gear to lightning and bear avoidance.

—Gretchen Reynolds


October 2002:

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