Canyons of the Ancients
Lowry Pueblo Photo by Lanny Wagner
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is accessible via
county-maintained paved and gravel roads.
the Bureau of Land Management at:
Anasazi Heritage Center
27501 Highway 184
Dolores, CO 81323
For More Information, visit
Drilling wellpads in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
deer, elk, mountain
lion, coyote, fox,
rare snakes and rare
lizards. Falcons and
eagles hunt in the area
Some archaeological sites are clearly identified, while others are
intended as exhibits in an ‘outdoor museum’ experience. The BLM
allows a variety of
uses such as hiking,
horseback riding, oil
and gas development,
research, hunting and
conservation, in the
monument, but not
every use is allowed
on every acre.
Thousands of archaeological sites have been recorded in the monument,
and thousands more await documentation and study. Some, such as
those with standing walls, are obvious, and other sites consist of rubble
mounds or depressions in the earth. These sites all need protection. As
you explore the monument, please do your part to protect the natural
beauty and archaeological integrity of the landscape.
National P ark
Canyons of the Ancients National
Monument encompasses more
than 170,000 acres of high
desert in the southwest corner
of Colorado. Part of the Bureau
of Land Management’s National
Landscape Conservation System,
the monument is managed to protect
a rich landscape of cultural and natural
resources. Monument headquarters are located
at the Anasazi Heritage Center, near Dolores, which provides up-to-date
visitor information, maps, exhibits and advice on travel conditions.
MAP & INFORMATION
perspectives. Artifacts, microscopes, a loom and other hands-on experiences
encourage discovery and exploration of the past. A ½-mile (3/4-km),
self-guided interpretive trail leads to Escalante Pueblo, which offers a
panoramic hilltop view. The museum shop offers books,
videos and teaching materials about the ancient and
recent history of the Four Corners area. The Center
also has a movie theater, curation facility and
If you have a few hours, visit the Anasazi Heritage Center, Canyons of the
Ancients National Monument Headquarters.
Guided trips are provided by permitted
private companies only. Contact
Monument headquarters for a list.
The Anasazi Heritage Center is fully wheelchairaccessible. The Center is open daily, except
January 1, Thanksgiving and December 25. Call
970-882-5600 for admission fees and hours. The
Heritage Center is 10 miles (16 km) north of Cortez.
Painted Hand Pueblo Photo by Lanny Wagner
Visitors observe more than 100 bird species throughout the year.
Cross-country motorized travel is not allowed. If a route is not signed,
it is not open.
There are no formal campgrounds. Primitive, dispersed camping is
allowed, but vehicles must not be more than 20’ from the edge of a
Artifacts excavated from sites in Canyons of the Ancients National
Monument are preserved at the Anasazi Heritage Center (monument
headquarters). This museum explains Ancestral Puebloan life on the Great
Sage Plain and beyond and orients visitors.
Interactive exhibits illustrate
Ancestral Puebloan life
In the Sand Canyon/Rock Creek Special
Recreation Management Area, visitors
must stay on the designated routes. The
rest of the Monument is open to foot and
If you have ½ day, visit the
Heritage Center and Lowry Pueblo.
Lowry Pueblo National Historic Landmark is the only developed
recreation site within Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Lowry Pueblo has stabilized standing walls, 40 rooms, eight kivas and
a Great Kiva.
Lowry Pueblo also has interpretive signs and brochures, and the picnic
area, toilet and trail are all wheelchair accessible. The area does not
have drinking water or services except pit toilets, and there is no
To reach Lowry, turn west off Highway 491 at Pleasant View onto
County Road CC and go 9 miles (14.5 km) west. This asphalt road
turns to gravel, but is usually passable by all vehicles. Ask the staff at
the Anasazi Heritage Center for winter accessibility status.
If you have a day, visit the Anasazi Heritage Center,
Lowry Pueblo and Painted Hand Pueblo.
Bicycles are allowed only on existing county roads and designated
Painted Hand is a beautiful
standing 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. The site gets
its name from outlined hands
on a boulder (such paintings
are called pictographs). Please
respect these fragile paintings!
Oil and dirt from hands will
eventually destroy these
remnants of past lives.
Three BLM Wilderness Study Areas (Cross Canyon, Squaw/Papoose
Canyon, and Cahone Canyon) are open only to non-mechanized/nonmotorized travel.
Private property is interspersed throughout the monument. Please avoid
trespassing or blocking driveways.
To reach Painted Hand, turn
west off Highway 491 at
County Road CC and go 5.5
miles (8.8 km) west. Take
County Road 10 south 11.3 miles (18 km). Look for the small Painted
Hand sign and kiosk, then turn left. Follow dirt road 1 mile to Painted
Hand Trailhead. To get there, you should have a good map and a highclearance vehicle. There are no services or facilities.
Anasazi Heritage Center
Escalante Pueblo, built during the 1100s,
is on the Heritage Center grounds.
Exploring Canyons of the Ancients
Or Hike on the Sand
Canyons Humans have been part of this landscape for at least 12,000 years. Changes in
In the 1700’s, Europeans explored the area, often led by Ute guides. Today, many
descendant peoples still live in or near their ancestor’s homelands.
Please Respect Ancestral Puebloan Homes
Touching painted and plastered walls or
pictographs and petroglyphs leaves skin oils that
collection, or damage
resources to BLM law
enforcement at 970882-6849 or Colorado
State Patrol Dispatch
Act of 1979, the Native
American Graves and
Repatriation Act of
1990, and 43 CFR
anyone from removing
artifacts or disturbing
on federal public
lands without written
permission from the
BLM. Do your part
to preserve this rich
heritage for future
The remnants of Ancestral Puebloan homes are found throughout Canyons of the
Ancients National Monument. They are an irreplaceable link to history, and are
especially important to contemporary Native Americans. The biggest threat to
these places comes from careless visitors. Please preserve this legacy for future
Walk carefully to avoid stepping on fragile walls. Archaeological sites are extremely
delicate. It’s easy to destroy walls and artifacts.
Never burn wood from archaeological sites or
build fires in them.
Ute and Navajo people also used the Monument’s mesas and canyons for hunting
and gathering. Remains of hogans, brush shelters and wickiups tell their story.
Photo by Lanny Wagner
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument landscape
cultural life over time ranged from hunting and gathering to farming. By about
A.D. 750 farmers, now known as Ancestral Puebloans, occupied a widespread area
that included Canyons of the Ancients and much of southwest Colorado. Their
year-round villages began as clustered pit houses. Over time, these ancestors of the
modern-day Pueblo Indians developed larger masonry homes with connecting walls
above ground. Some of these homes were built at canyon heads where there was a
spring to supply water. Other homes were cliff dwellings. In time, factors such as
population growth, soil exhaustion and changing weather compromised the area’s
natural resources. By about A.D. 1300, these Pueblo ancestors migrated to New
Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley or farther west to where the Acoma, Laguna, Zuni and
Hopi people live today.
Canyons of the Ancients
A Rich Cultural History
Whether accessing the area from the south trailhead or the north trailhead, parking
is extremely limited. Please avoid parking within the county road right-of-way.
Please stay out of all archaeological sites. The 800-year-old
stone structures are both fragile and dangerous.
Sand Canyon Pueblo is located at the north trailhead to the Sand Canyon trail. To
reach Sand Canyon turn west off Highway 491 onto County Road P and follow
the map in this brochure. Eventually the county road turns to gravel, and is usually
passable by all vehicles. Call for winter accessibility and ask for the free Sand
Canyon brochure and map before your visit to Sand Canyon Pueblo at the Anasazi
Heritage Center. There are no services or facilities at the site.
Sand Canyon Pueblo includes the remains of about 420 rooms, 100 kivas and
14 towers. Researchers from the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center excavated
several rooms from 1983 to 1993, and then backfilled them to protect standing
walls and preserve the site. Interpretive signs provide Native American insights and
archaeological perspectives, show how the site was laid out, and display drawings of
what Sand Canyon Pueblo might have looked like in the mid-1200s.
Photo © Jerry Sintz
If you have a second day, visit Sand Canyon Pueblo…
The Sand Canyon and Rock
Creek trails are open for
hiking, mountain biking
or horseback riding on
designated routes only.
Hiking routes can be steep,
rocky and remote. There are
no services or facilities.
• Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is
a remote, rugged and harsh desert environment.
Summer temperatures may exceed 100 degrees
Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), and elevation
ranges from 4,875 ft (1500 m) above sea level
to 6,825 ft (2100 m) above sea level.
• Carry and drink at least one gallon (four liters)
of water per person per day.
• Use sunscreen.
• Have ample fuel for your vehicle.
• Always carry a good map, water, food and first
aid kit. Avoid travelling alone. Tell someone
your plans and expected route.
• Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pants,
sturdy footwear and good socks.
• Use insect repellant. Expect biting gnats in
Saddlehorn Pueblo in Sand Canyon
May and June.
• Watch for rattlesnakes, scorpions, mountain lions and other potentially dangerous
Ute Mountain Ute Reservation
Sand Canyon Trail
Ute Mountain Ute Reservation
National Park Service
Wilderness Study Areas (WSA)
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Picnics in archaeological sites attract rodents,
which tunnel and nest in the
site. Eat elsewhere; collect and
carry out your trash.
Leave artifacts exactly where
found for others to enjoy;
it is illegal to remove them.
Displaced artifacts mean little
to the archaeologists who rely
on location as a part of their
analysis; artifacts should be left for others to discover.
Leave No Trace
• Camping and campfires in archaeological sites are prohibited.
• Human waste left at archaeological sites is unsightly and unsanitary.
• Stay on existing roads and trails. Scars on the desert landscape heal slowly and
speed up soil erosion.
• Do not leave “offerings” at any archaeological site. They confuse the original story,
compromising the scientific and scenic value of a site.
• Treat these places with respect. They represent our shared cultural heritage, and
many hold special importance for contemporary Native Americans.