Unlike anything you’ve seen or experienced, The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is a rugged and breathtaking landscape containing the highest known density of archaeological sites in the United States covering 176,000 acres.
More than 6,000 ancient sites including cliff dwellings, kivas, and rock art have been identified. Six miles from the heart of Cortez, Canyons of the Ancients was declared a National Monument in 2000.
The canyons are accessible from various points along the Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway. Cortez, Dove Creek, Cahone, Pleasent View and Yellow Jacket are all access points in Colorado. Bluff, Blanding, Montezuma Creek and Anetha are access points in Utah.
Most Roads in the Monument are primitive and unpaved. Motorized travel is restricted to designationed roads, but scenic mountain biking is allowed on several trails. There are no campgrounds, but camping is allowed in most areas. Becuase archaeological sites in this “outdoor museum” aren’t apparent to the untrained eye, visitors should stop at the Anasazi Heritage Center for maps and current trail conditions.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Lowry Pueblo is the only developed recreation site within the Monument. Stabilized standing walls, 40 rooms, eight kivas and a Great Kiva make Lowry Pueblo a ‘must see.’ The picnic area, restroom, and trail is wheelchair-accessible. Note: there is no water or phone service.
Painted Hand Pueblo is a beautiful tower perched on a boulder. The site has never been excavated, but stone rubble shows where rooms were built against the cliff-face and on boulders.
Sand Canyon Trail is a 6.5-mile trail used for hiking and mountain biking. It is one of the largest prehistoric settlements in this region with 420 rooms, 100 kivas, and 14 towers, but no exposed walls. Sand Canyon Pueblo is adjacent to the upper (north) trailhead. There is a small parking area, but no water, restroom, phone, or wheelchair-access.
*Do not dig in the sites! It is illegal to remove artifacts. For more information, visit. www.co.blm.gov/canm, or call 970-882-5600.
Know before you go
- Mountain bikes
- Horses, and leashed pets allowed
- Rock climbing allowed but not on designated archeological sites
- Bring your own water, directions, maps and other information can be obtained at Anasazi Heritage Center
- Sand Canyon Trail
- Painted Hand Pueblo
- Lowry Pueblo
Amenities & Services
- Self-guided interpretive trail open year-round
9651 Rd N, Cortez, CO
(970) 882-5600 (Canyons of the Ancients National Monument)