to Moab Bike
by Rich Henke
In September 2006, a group of us rode our mountain
bikes 190 miles from Telluride, Colorado to Moab, Utah. We met my
VW camper van each night at selected campsites. The van carried
our food, ice chests, sleeping bags, tents, chairs, adult beverages,
books, and anything else that we wanted for the 7-day, 6-night trip.
Each of us drove the van 1 day and 6 of us prepared an evening meal.
A 4-wheel drive vehicle was not necessary. We were all responsible
for bringing our own breakfasts and lunches. Participants were Ron
Bartell, Christine Mitchell, Armando Menocal, Alfredo Lopez, Greg
Scarich, Janet Niichel, and Rich Henke. Pat Neely also joined us
for some of the camps.
This trip can also be done commercially. The San Juan Hut System's
Mountain Bike Tour from Telluride to Moab has become very popular
over the years. This tour provides food and sleeping bags at 6 separate
huts along the biking route for a cost of $620 per person. I am
told that it is almost fully booked during the summer. http://www.sanjuanhuts.com
We started the ride from Alfredo's house in Telluride on September
8. Day 1 was the hardest part of the ride. We were caught in a storm
going up Last Dollar Pass making the road so muddy that most people
could barely push their bikes. We had planned on camping at the
pass, but the van was not able to drive that far on the slippery
roads. Everyone was wet and cold by the time we met the van north
of the pass. Many thanks to Pat Neely who helped drive the van that
day in very difficult conditions.
The rest of the ride was fairly routine. Much of the riding was
on gravel roads suitable for passenger cars. We were caught by a
short thunderstorm on day 3 that covered the ground with sleet and
hail. Some of us rode the 10-mile Ute Creek single-track on day
5. The ride up John Brown Canyon on day 6 was long and steep. And
some of us finished the tour with a descent of the 14-mile Porcupine
Rim route, one of the best single-tracks at Moab on day 7. Our evening
meals were excellent! We had fresh food every night thanks to good
cooks and the ice chests. We were all happy with our choices of
campsites and fresh water was available along the way. Equipment
failures were minor and were easily handled by Greg, our equipment
Our "approximate" daily schedule
was as follows:
Day 1 - 18 miles, 2800 ft gain, start in Telluride, camp 5 miles
north of Last Dollar Pass.
Day 2 - 20 miles, 1600 ft gain, camp near Johnson Spring.
Day 3 - 32 miles, 1800 ft gain, camp at Columbine Campground.
Day 4 - 33 miles, 1600 gain, camp at Divide Forks Campground.
Day 5 - 26 miles, 2000 gain, camp 2 miles past Gateway on John Brown
Day 6 - 30 miles, 4100 gain, camp at Rock Castle Campground, at
the top of Castle Valley road.
Day 7 - 30 miles, 2000 gain, including Porcupine Rim ride, finishing
Totals were approximately 189 miles, and 15,900 feet of gain.
More information about the ride can be found in the Falcon Book
titled "Mountain Biking, Hut to Hut, Telluride to Moab".
Although the book is basically an advertisement for the commercial
trip, the route descriptions are useful for independent riders.
Two maps, the Uncompragre National Forest map, and the Latitude
40 map, "Moab East", cover the route.
The consensus was that doing this route with a support van had several
advantages over the commercial hut-to-hut version of the trip.
(1) Dinners were more elaborate since we could keep fresh vegetables
and meat in our ice chests.
(2) Our group of 7 felt that camping was more comfortable than having
to all sleep in a small hut.
(3) We saved over $4,000. Camping was free and the only costs were
gas and food.
(4) A big advantage is that we didn't carry much on our bikes. We
carried only our lunch and clothes needed for the day, plus the
normal bike repair equipment that one takes on a day ride. This
allowed us to ride the single-track trails more easily. The hut-to-hut
riders need panniers to carry all their clothes, repair items, and
everything else that they need for the 7-day trip other than breakfasts,
dinners, and a sleeping bag. Most of them do not ride the single-track
In October of 2002, some of the same group of people did a different
mountain bike route, "The Kokopelli Trail", from Moab
to Fruita, near Grand Junction. It was similar in that we used my
van for support and took turns driving and preparing dinner. A 2-wheel
drive support vehicle was sufficient for that trip also. The ride
took 6 days, 5 nights, covered 151 miles, and had a total gain of
about 19,000 feet. It was a more interesting ride, in that it had
more single track, probably better scenery, and less riding on roads
frequented by cars. It was also more strenuous and difficult. An
advantage of the Telluride to Moab ride is that it is suitable for
riders who do not have experience on technical trails.