The New Zealand Department of Conservation is currently in the middle of a three-year feasibility study to see if turning some of the countries classic “great walks” into “great rides” is a good idea. The 80-kilometer Heaphy Track is their testing ground, so for the next two years you can ride through the Kahurangi National Park, located in the northwest corner of the South Island.
There are five huts on the track, so riders can stretch it out to six lazy days, but it’s easy to do it in less. You’ll ride in a variety of ecosystems, from forests and tussock fields to beaches. Keep in mind that weather on the Kiwi coast, especially in the winter, can change quickly and that the area is prone to storms and flooding.
When to go: The track is open to bikers from May to September. Cost: $20/night, heaphytrack.com
The three Maine huts have been open to hikers and cross-country skiers for the past four years. Maine Huts and Trails, the non-profit that oversees the huts, has been working with the local NORBA chapter to makes the trails that connect them bikeable. Once you get to the huts, there’s hiking, swimming, and fishing to keep youngsters, and you, entertained.
Currently, the best riding for families is on the southern side of the trail network. Start at Tufulios, near the base of Sugarloaf Mountain, and link up the Poplar Stream Hut and the Flagstaff Lake Hut for a three-day, two-hut ride. The entire trip is less than ten miles, and the riding is relatively mellow—some of it is on dirt service roads—so it’s ideal for less-skilled and younger bikers. There are also alternative routes, so kids who are less comfortable on technical trails can still come.
A fourth hut, the Stratton Brook, is in the works. It’s slated to be constructed on an existing section of bike trail in the Carabassett Valley, so if things go according to plan you’ll have more riding, and staying, options by the end of the summer.
When to go: September and October, when the leaves are prime and the black flies are not. Cost: $79/adult, $42/child on weekdays; $99/adult, $54/child on Friday-Sunday; mainehuts.org
A winter trip to one the 10th Mountain Huts is a Colorado right of passage. It’s not uncommon to see grandparents or babies holed up in the huts on January nights. Summer in the high country is just as good, and staying at the huts gives you access to mountains of alpine singletrack, including some sections of the Colorado Trail.
You’re only paying for your bed, which keeps the cost down, but that doesn’t mean that the huts are sparse. At a bare minimum, each is outfitted with a kitchen, and many have extras like saunas.
Our advice: Head to the Leadville area, home to the notorious Leadville Trail 100, and link up Betty Bear, Skinner, and Uncle Bud’s huts. When you get back to town, take yourself out for a $9 steak at Quincy’s, the best, and cheapest, post-ride dinner imaginable.
When to go: Because of the elevation, the riding season can be short. By mid-July most of the snow is usually gone and your chances of thunderstorms are lower than they are later in the season. Cost: $30/night; huts.org
The original hut-to-hut bike trip, riding from Telluride to Moab via the San Juan Huts, has been around since 1988. “We cobbled it together with a number of different structures, including a sheepherder’s camp.” says Joe Ryan, the founder.
Now, things are a lot less piecemeal. The organization runs 12 huts, and sends bikers out on two 215-mile-long routes: a seven-day, technical, singletrack-packed ride from Durango to Moab, and the original weeklong trip from Telluride to Moab, which is more remote.
Ryan, who built the hut system after spending time at huts in Canada, says he wanted to give riders a way to explore new terrain every day. “People want to see new mile after new mile,” he says.
This year, the huts are also hosting a 200-mile cross-country race. If you’re there the last week of June expect a crowd. And, most likely, to get passed.
When to Go: June 10 to July 15 to avoid early season snow and late season thunderstorms. Cost: $850; sanjuanhuts.com
The four-day Mt. Hood loop, which circumnavigates the volcano and includes a stay in the eight-person, 256-square-foot Cascade Huts, offers picture-perfect views of the Columbia River Gorge and Oregon’s highest, and most likely to erupt, peak.
Every day of the 137-mile ride has options. You can stick to service roads, or you can dip into more technical terrain, including some extra climbs for the masochistic. This summer, the Forest Service has given the Cascade Huts Organization permission to add two new huts, which will allow for a beginner trip that lasts three days and covers less technical terrain.
When to Go: August has the most consistent good weather (read: no rain), but September brings fewer crowds. Cost: $300/person; cascadehuts.com