Canyons of the Ancients National Monument was created to protect cultural and natural resources on a landscape scale. It is part of the Bureau of Land Management's National Landscape Conservation System and includes over 170,000 acres of public land. Many archaeological sites are located within the monument and are considered living, ancestral homes to 25 different Tribal Nations. Please visit with respect.
Visitors to Canyons of the Ancients are encouraged tostart at the Anasazi Heritage Centernear Dolores, Colorado, where they may get current maps, road conditions, and recommendations of the best places to visit. Visitors may also experience the museum's exhibits, films, and hands-on discovery area, in preparation for what they will see in the monument.
Canyons of the Ancients is predominantly rugged backcountry and remains a multiple-use landscape. There are no restaurants, gas stations, or developed facilities. Hunting is allowed during appropriate seasons, oil and gas development is active, and grazing cattle are regularly seen. Private property can be found immediately adjacent to the monument. Please respect private property and other public land users.
Trail of the Ancients Byway bisects the monument and connects it to Hovenweep National Monument.
Four areas within the monument have been prepared and interpreted for visitors including:
- Lowry Pueblo—Designated a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s, this 12th- century village was excavated by the Chicago Field Museum in the 1930s. A large roof covers half of the main room and protects the sole remainder of five painted kivas. An exhibit about all of Lowry's painted kivas is located at the Anasazi Heritage Center. Facilities at Lowry include accessible pit toilets, picnic tables, and a trail that circumnavigates the main room block. Camping is not allowed; drinking water is not available. Access into Lowry may be limited by winter snow. Check at the Anasazi Heritage Center for current information.
- Painted Hand Pueblo—Similar to the towers of Hovenweep National Monument, Painted Hand Pueblo includes a beautiful standing tower dating to the 13th century and associated mounds of stone rubble. There are no facilities at Painted Hand; the trail is not handicapped accessible and requires some cliff and boulder climbing. The unpaved and unmaintained road access is limited seasonally especially during times of snow and mud. Check at the Anasazi Heritage Center for current information.
- Sand Canyon Pueblo—Although no standing walls are exposed, Sand Canyon Pueblo includes the remains of 420 rooms, 90 kivas, and 14 towers. Sand Canyon Pueblo dates to the 13th century—the same time as many of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park —and reflects similar villages spread throughout the Great Sage Plain. There are no restrooms or facilities. An informal footpath allows visitors to navigate through the tree-covered site. Seven interpretive signs with architectural renderings of the the village in its heyday are placed along the trail. Much information is known about Sand Canyon Pueblo thanks to years of excavation led by professional archaeologists from Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. Some of the artifacts are on exhibit at the Anasazi Heritage Center, and research continues. Access may be limited during times of mud and snow. Check at the Anasazi Heritage Center for current information.
- Sand Canyon & Rock Creek Trails—Althoughparking is extremely limitedat both the north and south trail heads hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders frequent this area. There areno restrooms or facilities; cell phone service is limited; and visitors should bring a gallon of water per person. The trail is unpaved with limited directional signs. A series of over 30 switchbacks occur within a 1/2 mile section of the trail and involve an elevation change of over 700 feet. Seven small cliff dwellings are visible along the main Sand Canyon,.
- Although archaeological sites look inviting, please stay out. Routes are designated and areas are closed to protect these fragile places. Visitors should always STAY ON THE TRAIL. A 16-page brochure (including a trail map) of the Sand Canyon and Rock Creek Trails is available from the Anasazi Heritage Center.
Year-round depending on snow and mud.
No entry fees at this time.
ADA Accessibility Notes
Monument headquarters at the Anasazi Heritage Center is fully accessible and open seven days a week. Lowry Pueblo offers accessible pit toilets and picnic tables, and hard-packed trail that circumnavigates the site.
Pet Friendly Notes
Pets are welcome. Leashes are strongly encouraged. Be sure to bring water and a drinking bowl for your pet, and be aware of temperature extremes if you leave your pets in the car.