Mountain Biking Durango to Moab: Part I

Mountain biking the San Juan Hut system, from Durango to Moab. Trip report, part one.

On Thursday afternoon our group of four riders cruised down into Moab after 7 days of mountain biking from Durango to Moab. With limited cell phone service along the way (I only got a signal once) I’ll be sharing all my updates and pics this week along with articles on packing, gear reviews, logistics, and more.

Thanks to mudhunny for holding down the fort while I was gone. Look for pending GPS submissions and videos to be processed later this week.

Day 1: Molas Pass to Bolam Pass


Nate and Matt arrived at Durango Mountain Resort (DMR) early after parking the truck in Moab and catching the Porcupine Shuttle to Durango. The locals recommended skipping the fire road start out of DMR and shuttling to 10,800-foot Molas Pass to ride the Colorado Trail to the first hut. Since DMR sits at roughly 8,000 feet and the hut was at 11,400 feet we figured this would be a good way to skip some of the 3,000-foot climb to the hut. Bad assumption.


Our shuttle driver described the day’s route as “rolling” and the first part of the climb wasn’t too bad. We were passed early on by a group of day-trippers and later we passed another group of self-supported riders on a 4-day trip down to Durango. The trail eventually climbed above treeline and all of us struggled to adjust to the altitude since most of us had been at sea level just a day before. I crashed at one point on an easy section of trail and scraped a good bit of skin off my leg, a result of pure exhaustion. This part of the Colorado Trail eventually tops out around 12,500 feet and we were all anxious to descend off the windy pass. We lost 1,500 feet over the next 3 miles and then began another climb through a forest sliced with rambling creek crossings.


Nate beginning our first big descent.


Near the end of the descent I got a pinch flat, a result of not inflating my rear tire enough before we left. I brought 4 spare tubes for the trip and was a little pissed that I had to use one already but figured I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. But after just a couple miles I could tell I didn’t add enough air to my tire using the mini-pump so I decided to add more. Now I’m not sure if it was because of fatigue or if my pump was faulty but I ended up shearing off the valve stem on my presta tube, sending a blast of air toward the sky. Two tubes down, halfway through day 1.


By this time most of us were walking our bikes anyway because we were spent and the trail was rocky and steep in places. We had a map of the area but weren’t quite sure how far we were from the hut. The hut outfitters provided us with GPS tracks for each day but unfortunately only the standard route had been mapped. Eventually we came out at a fire road and seemed to lose the Colorado Trail completely. After about a mile down the road in the wrong direction we corrected our path and finally made it to the hut at 6pm after more than 8 hours in the saddle. Total mileage: just 24 miles and 4,200 feet of climbing.


Most of us drained our 100 oz. hydration packs & at least one water bottle on day 1. Good thing we brought along a water filter.

Each hut along the route is located just off a forest road and we had a key to open the doors and windows. I was the first to arrive at the hut and was shocked to find the door was completely wide open! The huts are stocked with food, candy bars, water, beer, sleeping bags, bunk beds, and other stuff and I was assuming the place would be completely ransacked with the door wide open like that. As far as we could tell the only group in front of us was about 4 days ahead which would have given someone plenty of time to clean the place out. Fortunately, everything was in place (though there were only 2 Snickers left 🙂 ).


After devouring candy bars and pretzels we were all too tired to cook and to be honest I wasn’t sure how I could make it 6 more days. Our first day was supposed to be easy but we barely made it in before dark – what would longer days with more climbing look like? Soon after we arrived we spotted a group of deer grazing just outside the hut which was somehow calming after a stressful day.


Deer right outside our hut door.

We stoked the wood-burning stove and turned the lights out around 8:30 that night as the temperatures dipped into the low 40s, happy to be in our sleeping bags.

Continue reading Part II of the trip story here.

Related articles

  1. Mountain Biking Durango to Moab: Part II
  2. Mountain Biking Durango to Moab: Part III
  3. Mountain Biking Durango to Moab: Part IV
  4. The Colorado Trail Trip Report