New Hut System Links 190 Miles of Trail in Southern Utah
Bikepacking that lets you go light on the ‘packing’
Originally posted in BETA
APRIL 25, 2021 TESS WEAVER
Jared Fisher, CEO of Las Vegas based bike touring company Escape Adventures and a bike shop owner in Las Vegas, Reno and Moab, has ridden all over the country, including several cross-country trips. The former BMX rider, ultra-distance mountain biker and avid bikepacker has covered a lot of miles on two wheels, but he says there’s nowhere in the world more beautiful to ride a bike than the Aquarius Trail Hut System, a new bike route in Southern Utah connecting five shipping-container huts with 190 miles of double and singletrack from Brian Head to Escalante.
“I wanted to go on the coolest routes possible through the most scenic areas possible on the best trails possible,” says Fisher of the route and system 30 years in the making. “It’s a backcountry route that a lot of people don’t know about and a place most people don’t get to see. It includes scenic Powell Point where John Wesley Powell surveyed southern Utah and the famed Thunder Mountain Trail—which I consider the most scenic trail in the world. You’re literally riding through red rock hoodoos—there’s nothing like it in the world.”
Creating an almost 200-mile route, converting shipping containers to solar-powered cabins and gaining approval to place them on public land was no small feat. But the energetic and determined entrepreneur and endurance athlete often tackles challenges. In 2018, having never run for elected office before, Fisher ran for governor of Nevada, kicking off his campaign by cycling on a 1,400-mile listening tour around the state. While the Forest Service spent three years processing Fisher’s proposal, he bought private land for his first hut location in Hatch, Utah, converted a shipping container into an off-the-grid unit that required no foundation and invited Forest Service officials to come see what he was hoping to repeat four times, every 30-40 miles along a route through southern Utah’s Color Country.
The route is inspired by a trip Escape Adventures first offered in the ’90s. Brian and the Bullfrog took riders from Brian Head, Utah, to the Bullfrog marina on Lake Powell, stopping at local hotels and B&Bs along the way. But the combination of a snowy start at the 11,306-foot peak of Brian Head and a sweltering finish at Lake Powell limited the dates Escape could run the trip. For the Aquarius Trail, Fisher eliminated the final low-elevation days and incorporated huts so guests could enjoy a remote experience.https://8843ac0ad7ddf96636de3c8b356ae8b9.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
The Aquarius Trail Hut System comprises about 70-percent dirt roads and 30-percent singletrack, including prized trails like Bunker Creek, which descends 2,885 feet over 12 miles from Brian Head to Panguitch Lake, followed by 15 miles that roll through ponderosa and juniper forests dotted with ancient lava beds en route to Hatch. Days average between 35 to 40 miles and 3,500 feet of elevation gain. Fisher has done the entire 190 miles on his downhill bike, but he recommends riding the Aquarius on a hardtail. Gravel riders can skip singletrack days and take dirt road detours. The huts are spaced distances many riders can pedal in a day, and e-bikes can cover without running out of power. Fisher hopes families utilize the system—kids can ride pedal-assisted while their parents spin it out and non-riders can drive support vehicles and meet up in the evening at the hut. There are options to take detours. For example, users might ride through Bryce National Park one day. In the future, Fisher hopes spider webs of trails extend from the route.
The huts, which run on solar PV electricity (enough to charge electronic devices and e-bike batteries) and accommodate 12-14 riders, include beds, a bathroom, showers and a fully stocked kitchen with a gas grill, a two-burner stove, kitchenware, cooking equipment and tableware. The fridges and freezes are stocked with ingredients to prepare dinner (think salmon, tacos, burgers or spaghetti) and breakfast (everything from oatmeal to breakfast burritos) as well as to-go lunch items and trail snacks. Escape can even stock the huts with beer and wine prior for guests. The luxury bikepacking experience includes hammocks, large decks, repair tools and stands, games, a fire pit and more. For the six-day adventure, you only need to carry clothes beyond what you’d bring on a normal day’s ride.
Self-guided tours are available July-October and start at $889 per person for 6-days/5-nights. Escape Adventures offers a guided tour starting at $1,800 per person. Shorter trips are also available. For more information, visit aquariustrail.com.