Trail of the Ancients

Scenic byways map

The Trail of the Ancients is a new 114-mile scenic/historic by-way in Southwest Colorado highlighting the long and intriguing occupation of the area by Native American peoples. This area is truly the archaeological heartland of America and takes you on a journey from the past to the future, and from adventure to understanding. All your day trips in Mesa Verde Country® could easily be centered around this spectacular by-way.

For additional information visit the Trail of the Ancients website.


Four Corners Monument, Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum, Lowry Pueblo, Hovenweep National Monument, Cortez Cultural Center, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, and the Galloping Goose Museum in Dolores.

DISTANCE FROM CORTEZ: 114 miles round trip
DAY TRIPPIN’ TIME: 4 – 5 days to see all attractions
ACCESS: Car; Hiking; Admission Fees
SERVICES: Cortez, Dolores, Mancos, Towaoc

The beauty of Trail of the Ancients lies not only in its windswept sandstone canyons, snow-topped peaks, and green hills but also in its lush, rich and long history of human involvement. For some 10,000 years, humans have traveled through and cultivated the arid desert lands alongside this 480-mile-long National Scenic Byway, and you can see evidence of civilizations they left behind cropping up all over the landscape. There are so many sites along this stretch of beautiful desert highway that it was the first National Scenic Byway designated solely for the sheer number of them, which means you’ll want to take your time exploring, get out of the car many times, and spend a few days just taking in the beauty and history all around you.

In Colorado, the Trail of the Ancients spans connects Hovenweep National Monument, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park. The trail passes both Cortez and Dolores, Colorado, and meanders through some of the most intriguing and mysterious parts of the history of the Southwest, the Ute and Navajo tribes and their Ancestral Puebloan roots. Sometimes wide and desolate, sometimes teeming with evidence of ancient lives, the Trail of the Ancients will leave you and your family with vivid sandstone colored memories and a solitary mystique.

Because Trail of the Ancients is so isolated in many places, it’s a good idea to start the journey prepared with plenty of water and food on hand for long, scenery-filled drives and hikes through any number of ancient pueblos, beneath petroglyphs that have been on display for thousands of years. Be sure to plan to make any of the lodging options and restaurants in Cortez, Mancos or Dolores destinations where you can regroup, relax and recharge along the route.

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