Sand Canyon Trail System
Located near Cortez, Colorado and situated in the deserts of the southwest, this National Monument boasts the largest concentration of Pueblo Indian (Anasazi) ruins in the U.S. with about 6,000 recorded archaeological sites! These are just the sites that have been recorded and documented. The popular Sand Canyon Trail is 6.5 miles (one-way) from Sand Canyon Pueblo down to the lower trailhead in McElmo Canyon. The trail is open to hiking, horseback riding, and mountain bicycling, but the upper section is steep and rugged– not recommended for bicycles. Part of the singletrack dirt trail crosses slick rock marked with rock cairns. Combining the main canyon trail with other trails, such as the East Rock Creek Trail, makes for an enjoyable loop. Do not enter structures, climb on walls, take or move artifacts, or touch rock art–the oils on your skin accelerate deterioration of this rare evidence of past lives. Collect nothing and leave what you see for others to enjoy. Pack out your trash and do not leave “offerings.” These only confuse the meaning of the sites.
History: There are points of interest to the north and for people wanting to educate themselves about the Pueblo culture they can visit the Anasazi Heritage Center, the Canyons of the Ancients headquarters with some of the best information available. This is a museum with artifacts, historical information, maps and much more.
Map & Directions
Map Coordinates: 37.341476, -108.817644
Where's the Trailhead?
dIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD
To main trailhead:
Sand Canyon Trails are located about 12 miles north of Cortez on Highway 184. To reach the McElmo Canyon trailhead, head south of Cortez on Highway 491. Turn right (west) on County Road G at the signs for the airport and/or Hovenweep National Monument. Go 12 miles on this paved road. Trailhead parking is an unimproved slickrock surface on the north (right) side of the road. An additional parking area was added to Sand Canyon just east of the Canyon of the Ancients main trailhead. A 0.4-mile singletrack trail connects this secondary parking area to the main trail system.
help build our trails!
Join Durango Trails for our monthly First Saturdays Trailwork Party! Help us maintain our regional trails while spending a fun day outdoors. No experience is necessary for trailwork, and Durango Trails will provide the necessary instruction, safety tool talk, tools, work gloves, and water and snacks for the entire crew. Please note, registration is required to join us for Trailwork; please click below to register.