Early in September, Gina and I did a backcountry MTB tour with San Juan Hut Systems. It was 7 days, 215 miles from Telluride to Moab. For those who might be considering such a outing, here's my review. For booking info see, San Juan Hut Systems.
First off, San Juan offers 2 routes: Telluride-Moab and Durango-Moab. Telluride is supposedly the easier of the two, but I think this refers mostly to technical difficulty. There are two days that have significant climbing, and the route is by no means a walk-in-the-park. The route could be done on a CX bike, but there would be some rough sections and the steep climbing could be pretty tough (probably depends how lightly you pack). If you want singletrack, the Telluride is NOT the way to go. It has very limited singletrack options off the main route. The Durango route is apparently much better in this regard.
The huts are great. Some are nicer than others, but all are comfortable and get the job done. The food choices are necessarily limited, but its no problem to put together tasty meals and chase them down with some well-deserved beers. Each hut has room for 8 people, so you can put together 8 friends and fill up the hut, or go with fewer and either end up by yourself or make new friends if others book the same start date.
This was a short day--only about 15 miles--but it has some good climbing. The first few miles are flat-to-downhill out of town on a paved bike path. From there you turn north and make a decent 2 mile road climb up to the airport. The dirt/gravel begins from the airport and takes you up to the pass. It is basically uphill from here with the exception of a section of downhill early on (losing whatever altitude you had gained from the airport). The early parts of the climb are in an area with some housing so the road is smooth, maintained gravel. After a few miles, the maintenance ends and the road becomes rougher dirt. Close to the top there is a 1 mile section where the gradient kicks up dramatically. On a regular MTB ride the grade might not be too bad, but carrying or pulling gear (I had a trailer and probably 40-50 lbs of extra gear) makes it pretty challenging. And there is the 11,000ft of altitude item too! The day ends with a 1/4 mile hike-a-bike that, for me at least, was the hardest part of the day. Pushing 75 pounds of bike and gear up a loose gravel pitch was a bitch. Nonetheless, it is all worth it when you finally get to the hut. It sits on a ridge line looking down the way you came up. It is amazingly scenic and probably the best vista of the whole trip.
More to come...