CO – Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

I said my sad goodbye to Joan after our wonderful week exploring Capitol Reef and the Henry Mountains. My plan was to drive straight to the Anasazi Heritage Center in Delores near Cortez, Colorado, a mere 110 miles. But instead with signage teasing a detour, I found myself driving 250+ miles over the next 3.5 days while hiking and exploring both Hovenweep and Canyon of the Ancients National Monuments. Regrets? Heck no! 

At 170,000 acres, this National Monument feels similar to Grand Staircase Escalante where BLM land is intermixed with private and with other National Monuments, in this case Hovenweep. The freedom of BLM lands provides easy dispersed camping and off-trail hiking opportunities. 

There are thousands of archaeological sites within the National Monument but only a few are on the beaten path. Those are the ones I focused on this trip.

Lowry Pueblo 

According to the BLM website, “Visit a 1,000-year-old ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) ruin, which includes a 40-room village. The Lowry Pueblo site was first excavated in 1931 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1967. It is one of the most significant BLM archaeological sites in the Four Corners region, where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona meet.” According to the BLM brochure, “It is the only developed recreation site with the National Monument. Lowry Pueblo has stabilized standing walls, 40 rooms, eight kivas and a Great Kiva.

Painted Hand Pueblo

You can see Sleeping Ute Mountain in the background. 

I like how it’s a bit like finding a needle in the haystack; a treasure so easily hidden among the natural landscape. 

The hands are difficult to discern, about to fade into oblivion. 

Sand Canyon Pueblo 

According to BLM literature, “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.” As a result we are left to imagine because we can only see a bit of rubble. 

The interpretative signs are quite good; however, and help with that imagination thing. 

Sand Canyon Ruins 

This is a heavily traveled, multi-sport trail. The ruins aren’t marked and offer the opportunity for personal discovery. 

Many alcoves hold secrets to the past.

Don’t forget to look way up. 

It appears there were even ground dwellers in the area. 

Escalante Pueblo at Anasazi Heritage Center 

Off The Beaten Path

If you are willing to do some research and ask the right questions, you might find some of the more interesting treasures within the National Monument.

Adventure Dates:

  • April 4-11, 2018


  • The names of the roads on the generic map provided by the National Monument do not match those on Google Maps (although navigation was accurate).
  • I was able to drive the roads with my Honda CRV 4×4 equipped with Mud and Snow tires. The roads are dirt with lumpy bumpy flowing rock which you must traverse.
  • Take time to watch the film at the Square Tower Visitor Center.
  • Reminders: 
  • Lack of LNT can be a problem.



2 thoughts on “CO – Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

  1. OMG, I had no idea this was there. Thank goodness for your wanderlust! I am truly inspired to get out there.

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