Heavy Adventure Without the Weight

Photography by Matt Janson

Photography by Matt Janson

Few are the options for traveling between the outdoor meccas of Fruita and Moab by bicycle.

    You have the Kokopelli Trail, a draw for mountain bikers who want a hardcore three- or four-day self-supported tour of dirt roads and trails.

    For those more inclined to gravel bikes and skinny tires, there are the old Highway 6 route and the terrifying pavement of Interstate 70 — a challenge to even the hardiest of riders.

    Now there’s an alternative for those who seek a scenic backway, interspersed with segments of gravel road, that winds through the stunning scenery of Western Colorado: the San Juan Hut Systems Tour of the Canyons.

    Unlike either the Kokopelli Trail or the paved highways, this route is a combination of the two and is supported by overnight stays in well-stocked huts in Gateway and Paradox.

    The journey begins in Grand Junction and, like all San Juan Huts routes, takes you along the most picturesque paths. Getting to Gateway, the route is along Scenic Highway 141.

    Those who have taken time to drive this stretch of road know its incredible beauty. The dark walls of blended schist and granite climb hundreds of feet in the air as you wind through verdant valleys. In spring the cottonwoods are dressed in bright green finery as they stretch their arms to the sky.

    Upon arriving in Gateway, the hut awaits you in a gentle bend of the Dolores River. There’s cold beer, fresh fruit and vegetables, and snacks and provisions to satisfy both light appetites and gourmet cravings. There’s also clean water, bedding, and a spectacular view of the Palisade climbing thousands of feet above you. For a more bourgeois experience, the Gateway Canyons Resort offers hut visitors a selection of chef-prepared food and beverages from around the world.

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    The San Juan Huts route description alerts you to points of interest along your journey: a historic mansion, a natural arch, a clear flowing spring, a beehive-shaped kiln, and an abandoned bridge. The second day of riding features a steady gradient and the historic Hanging Flume. There is something for every interest on the stretch of road and trail.

    Your second night is spent in the Paradox hut, where you can watch the sunset bathe the San Juans in alpenglow, followed by the La Sals blushing pink in the sunrise. The climb out of Paradox is challenging, but the views are well worth your effort. A natural spring awaits at the top, where you drink your fill and douse yourself in cold freshness.

    The third-day’s ride traverses the base of the La Sal mountains. You’ll ride through a riot of wildflowers or, in fall, aspens dressed in yellow. Arriving in Moab, you can bask and relax, knowing you’ve done what many only dream of: ridden an immensely beautiful, challenging, and rewarding route from one epic destination to another.

    The Tour of the Canyons route is open for booking in May and October exclusively. Learn more at sanjuanhuts.com