By staff writer Emily Nelson
Sure it’s been named one of “America’s Newest Attractions Worth Exploring“, by MSN.COM and a “Mountain-Biking Mecca” by Outside Magazine, but what is it actually like biking from hut to hut along the Aquarius Trail? Well, we’ve just recently finished our first fully-booked week with all five huts occupied by mountain biking adventurers. There’s been some great feedback, and adjustments are being made.
On the home front, Jen Becker, Director of Marketing organizes stocking the huts and dealing with the inevitable hitches that come with launching a new backcountry experience. To her, every detail of the hut stay is important, from the amenities provided, to the technical difficulty of the trails. She notes, “Initially, we thought the guests might want a variety of snacks that are different in each hut. But then we start getting feedback that if someone had a favorite snack, they were looking forward to having it at the next hut as well, it’s just the little things that we couldn’t anticipate so we’re adjusting as we go.” She also mentions that some guests will ride especially hard one day and choose to whip up a quick bite, such as of burgers, rather than prepare the meal scheduled for that night.
To streamline the guest experience, Becker plans to send out detailed feedback surveys to the guests after they complete their stay in the Aquarius Trail Hut System. In the backcountry, many resources are scarce and even difficult to keep stocked. There are some conveniences that simply aren’t sustainable for that environment. So honing in on what will actually be useful for guests has been crucial, we don’t want anything going to waste.
Amenities and meals are something we can control. However, the terrain and the climate are a bit out of our hands! We’ve heard back from guests about the Aquarius Trail itself. Here’s three key takeaways so far:
1. Elevation Elevation Elevation!
Even on the days that you are not doing some serious climbing, you’re still going to be at a very high elevation. The Aquarius Plateau is THE highest timbered plateau in North America, at over 10,000 feet. This can mean fantastic views, and this can also spell out “altitude sickness” for some. Take it easy on your first few rides. Many riders who come to the mountains feel pretty good as long as they keep their efforts reasonable. But before you go hammering climbs, remember that once you start gasping for breath, it is sometimes difficult to get back down to a comfortable level of aerobic activity. Best to pace yourself until your body gets acclimated. Renee Callaway, a mountain biking guest, calls it “a combo of high altitude, heat and general exertion. #flatlanderproblems” !
2. Cool nights, hot days
Along the route, there’s some summer heat. Cooler temperatures won’t really hit until Day 4 at the Pine Lake Hut. Especially in the summer months, you can expect some heat from Southern Utah. But in those higher elevation huts, you’ll have some cooler nights. When checking the weather beforehand, you can monitor these three different elevations: Brian Head, Aquarius Plateau, and Escalante. Pine Lake and Hatch are also good areas to keep an eye on for temperatures that you’ll experience. If you missed our breakdown of packing essentials, get a full walkthrough on what your bike should be loaded up with. The creator of the hut system, Jared Fisher breaks down everything you need to bring to have an absolute blast. Link to the video is right here:
3. Serious climbs
There are some climbs! Renee Callaway, shared her experience of this as well: “Not going to lie it was a hard day – eleation, heat, climbs. But also the day started with some super fun Singletrack. Day one of six on the Aquarius Trail Hut System done.” We are happy that there was some Singletrack payoff for Renee, but urge everyone to get that training in before attempting this one-of-a-kind bikepacking adventure!
Want some extra help, jokes, expertise, or camaraderie along the way? Book a guided tour here.