The Outdoor Life

Bikepacking the Colorado Rockies?

When I first got to Colorado over 18 years ago (fresh off the racing circuit) I heard about this winter cross-country skiing thing where skiers could ski a short distance from a hut to another hut - and make a sweet weekend or vacation adventure out of it. However, not being a "winter" outdoorsman, I didn't give it much thought... That is until the following spring. I was thinking; if they could ski it, why couldn't I bike it?

That 18 years ago came with a brand new baby boy, a new job, new home, even a new state... and well life as with most, consumed all and mountain biking was mostly put on the shelf - as well as any ideas of leaving the hustle & bustle of city life quietly faded away. Fast forward 18 years - I'm now 51, kids are gone, work is solid, my love and I now find ourselves planning bike trips to the beaches and mountains resorts all over the place; life is good!

Me and my horses after a week exploring Great Sand Dunes National Park on horseback. Mosca Pass in the background.

This got me to thinking about these hut systems again, and with the advances in bikepacking, it's much more of a realistically achievable adventure, than ever before. I am not unfamiliar with the idea of spending days or weeks in the mountains. Hunting and packing with horses in Colorado is something I have spent a great many years doing (see photo), and I think knowing how fricken cool it is to be in the mountains 100% self-sufficient is part of the itch that I may be feeling now!

How can anyone with an ounce of adventure in them, not think this is an excellent idea? Greg Benchwick wrote: Colorado offers some of the best skiing, snowshoeing and hiking opportunities in America. Moreover, out in the wilds under the big Rocky Mountain sky, you’ll find a remarkable system of remote huts that provide the chance to go further into the backcountry than you ever imagined.

Colorado’s hut systems make the wilderness accessible – and sometimes downright comfortable. These backcountry cabins have kitchens, beds and wood-burning stoves, and a few provide food so you can leave the hundred-pound backpack at home. A few are even complete with rustic, wood-burning saunas. However, the systems’ complexity and the rugged nature of the hikes, bikes and ski routes between them can seem daunting for first-timers. Here’s our guide to the Colorado hut system.

Colorado Huts Overview

There are over 160 huts and yurts (permanent circular tents reminiscent of what you’d find on the Mongolian Steppe) throughout Colorado. The vast majority of Colorado's huts are located in national forests and designated wildernesses in the mountainous central and southwestern portions of the state. It’s arguably the most extensive collection of backcountry huts in the United States.

Some of the top systems include the 10th Mountain Division, Never Summer Nordic, Braun and Friends Huts, and the San Juan Huts. Every year, new huts are added to the system, and a few luxury yurts – like the Opus Hut – serve up catered meals and hot showers.

The Bikepacking Series

Inspiration to Ride

Getting There

Planning the Route

It's the Journey
not the Destination

Chris Sgaraglino

Over the past 37 years of my adult life, I have gained a very diverse portfolio of adventures from which I have been blessed to be a participant. This wealth of experience and knowledge has defined my character, my morals and values, and my healthy respect for people and the great outdoors. It is a true definition of an Outdoorsman!