Canyons of the Ancients

Hike, Bike, Or Ride

Covering 176,000 acres, 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. 6,000 ancient sites, some visible to the eye, dot the landscape, including cliff dwellings, villages, and rock art. Plus, the monument is just 10 miles from the heart of Cortez.

Explore at your own pace at this self-guided destination. The outdoor site contains miles of trails ideal for hiking, mountain biking and by horseback. Discover for yourself the rich heritage and cultural significance of the Canyons of the Ancients!

Points of InterEst

Start your trip at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum to discover the past through artifacts, microscopes, a loom and other hands-on experiences. The Canyons of the Ancients was once populated by the Ancestral Puebloan people, also known as the Anasazi, as well as other Native American cultures. The museum explains the heritage and way of life for the Ancestral Puebloan culture from the Native American and archeological perspectives.

Take home a book, video or teaching material at the shop to remember the history. Visit the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum daily, except for January 1, Thanksgiving and December 25.

Bike laying down at park
Homes built in side of cliff


One of the Great Houses, Lowry Pueblo is the only developed recreation site within the monument. This site is a ‘must see’ due to the stabilized standing walls and 40 rooms to explore. Lowry Pueblo also has eight kivas and a Great Kiva—large, circular subterranean rooms created by Puebloans for religious rituals and political purposes.

Explore a half-mile nature trail picnic area, and restroom, all of which are ADA-compliant Note, there is no water or phone service at Lowry Pueblo. Truly get away from it all!


Named for the ancient outlined hands painted on the site, Painted Hand Pueblo is a beautiful tower perched on a boulder. While the location has never been excavated, stone rubble shows where rooms were built against the cliff-face and on surrounding boulders. Maps are available at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum.


Sand Canyon Trail is a scenic 6.5-mile trail used for hiking and mountain biking. It’s one of the best ways to discover the striking formations and incredible desert landscape. Please note, hiking can be steep, rocky and remote.

Sand Canyon Pueblo is adjacent to the upper, north trailhead. Sand Canyon Pueblo is one of the largest prehistoric settlements in this region with 420 rooms, 100 kivas, and 14 towers, all without exposed walls.

Parking is very limited with access from the south or north trailheads. Please note, this is a primitive access point. No water, restroom, phone, or wheelchair-access is offered at this location. Maps are available at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum.

Please respect the Ancestral Puebloan Homes. Do not dig in the sites! It is illegal to remove artifacts. For more information, visit the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum online, or call 970-882-5600.

Canyons of the Ancients park at nughts

Know Before You go:

  • Mountain bikes are allowed on existing county roads and designated BLM routes
  • Horses are allowed on designated trails
  • Leashed pets are allowed at the Canyon of the Ancients
  • Rock climbing is allowed as long as it’s not on designated archeological sites. Please respect these fragile cultural remnants!
  • Bring your own water, directions, and maps. Visit the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum for more information and interactive exhibits.
  • Motorized travel is restricted to designated roads. The best way to explore the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is by mountain biking ion the several scenic trails throughout the site.
  • There are no designated campgrounds, but camping is allowed in most areas in the BLM area
  • Because archaeological sites in this “outdoor museum” aren’t apparent to the untrained eye, visitors should stop at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum for maps and current trail conditions.


  • Self-guided interpretive trail open year-round
  • ADA-compliant restrooms, picnic area and nature trails
  • Maps & Brochures Available at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum
  • Multilingual Materials Available
  • Gift Shop
  • Handicapped Parking
  • Interpretive Displays
  • Parking on site for passenger, Bus & Motor coach vehicles
  • Pets Allowed On Leash
  • Picnic Area
  • Restrooms
  • Visitor Center on site

Getting There

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

9651 Rd N, Cortez, CO (970) 882-5600
Cortez Colorado Ruins at night

The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is accessible from various points along the Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway. Most Roads in the monument are primitive and unpaved.

Access points in Colorado to the National Monument are available in Cortez, Dove Creek, Cahone, Pleasent View and Yellow Jacket. Access points in Utah are available in Bluff, Blanding, Montezuma Creek and Anetha.

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