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National Parks National Parks

Colorado National Parks
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument


Canyons of the Ancients National Monument was home to the Anasazi people as early at 7500 B.C. For the past 8500 years, the Ancestral Puebloans, nomadic Ute and Navajo tribes have moved in and out of the region. The area was once a spot for villages, field houses, check dams, reservoirs, great kivas, cliff dwellings, shrines, sacred springs, agricultural fields, petroglyphs and sweat lodges. Now the highest density of archeology sites in the United States, the monument was designated a National Monument in June of 2000 by President Clinton. In the 164,000 acres the monument covers, there are 20,000 - 30,000 archeology sites. In some places such as the Mockingbird Mesa, there are as many as 40 sites per square mile. Located in the 4 corners area, the park is 28 miles from Mancos, 10 miles north of Cortez, just west of Dolores.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Welcome Sign, Colorado
Welcome to the Canyons of the Ancients
Painted Hand Pueblo Cliff Dwelling at the Canyons of the Ancients, Colorado
Painted Hand Pueblo at the Canyons of the Ancients

Saddle Horn Pueblo at the Canyons of the Ancients, Colorado
Learn the History of the Anasazi

Be sure to stop at the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores. Here you can learn more about the ancient people who once inhabited the land. Also for your exploration are permanent exhibits on archaeology and the history of Native American cultures, interpretive programs, archaeological sites and a picnic area.

The Monument is home to many unique animals. One of its inhabitants is the Mesa Verde nightsnake, whose survival depends upon this area. Other inhabitants of the area are long nosed leopard lizards, twin spotted spiny lizards, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and red tailed hawks.

Be sure to visit the McElmo Dome. This is one of the most beautiful areas of the park. The dome is buttressed by sheer sandstone cliffs with mesa tops rimmed by cap rock and punctuated by canyons.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument with a coat of snow, Colorado
Winter is a Beautiful Time to Visit the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
The Great Kiva at Lowry Pueblo in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado
Visit all the Historic Sites at Canyons of the Ancients Along Their Trail System

Because of the fragileness of the archeology sites, there are a few rules to follow. Touching the rock art will transfer the oils from your hands to the rock and the art will fade away. Do not dig in the sites. It is illegal to remove artifacts from the sites. The desert environment is very fragile so you must also stay on trails at all times. Climbing on the archeology structures is strictly prohibited. Motorized or mechanized vehicles are only prohibited on a few designated trails.

Also located nearby is:
Hovenweep National Monument
Mesa Verde National Park


View an area map of the Canyons of the Ancients
(Map provided by the U.S. National Park Service)


From Dolores: travel west on State Highway 145, then turn west (right) on State Highway 184.
From Cortez: travel north on State Highway 145, then turn west (left) on State Highway 184.

Places to Stay & Fun Things to Do

Canyon Trails Ranch: Guided Horse Rides, Campground, Shepherd Wagon Glamping Web page link icon
Canyon Trails Ranch, family glamping with guided horse rides, campground, shepherd wagon rentals. Hike or ride into Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. 10 miles from Cortez. LQ Horse Camping.
Groundhog Lake RV Park, Campground and Cabins Web page link icon
Outdoor Family FUN! Between Telluride and Dolores, Groundhog Lake is a favorite local fishing spot. Campground: RV sites, lakeside tenting, mountain cabins. Sustainable trophy hunting. Boat rentals.

More Activities & Information

Dolores Area, Colorado includes: Mcphee Reservoir, Stoner

Dove Creek, Colorado

Mesa Verde Area, Colorado includes: Cortez, Mancos

National Parks and Monuments in Colorado

Click to return to main Colorado National Park Map

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