Sand Canyon Trail, located in the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, is remarkable and scenic. You can find Ancient Puebloan ruins deep in the Canyon walls. Desert landscape, numerous canyons, and views. It’s a stunning hike. 

I loved this hike. We started at the South End Trailhead just outside of Cortez, CO. Trying to beat the heat in August, we began our trek at 6:30 am. The sun is just hitting the tops of the rocks ahead, with the air crisp and cool. 

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It was not long before the sun was beating down on our shoulders, and the heat began less than an hour into our day. Small lizards cross our path, scurrying underbrush. Sunshine, waking the critters up. Thankful we never did encounter a rattlesnake!

Bright blue skies and towering canyon walls amid cacti and various desert flora are beautiful.


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About two or so miles in, we start to find Puebloan Ruins, and the excitement and the heat from the sun build!

Marked spur paths to explore off the main trail lead to various ruins, some larger than others, adding mileage and variety to our hike.

Six Moon Hiking Umbrella – Keeps you cooler, reflects the sun off, and I love it when it rains. I carry it on all my hikes! It is made for hiking, extremely lightweight. 

Nathan Hydration Back Pack – I own this pack and love it for shorter hikes that don’t require lots of extra clothing and gear. It holds my first aid, phone, sunscreen, & more. 

Nuun Tablets – for hyration. I add this to all the water I carry whenever hiking. In heat & cold weather in Colorado.

We had to go on all the spur trails because you never knew what might lie ahead. Several had significant, impressive ruins to observe.

KEEP HYDRATED:  Essential in any area of Colorado. Try these popular brands to keep safe > NUUN tablets or > Scratch Hydration Drink Mix  

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All ruins had a “stop here” signpost to view ruins. Stating, “Please stay on the trail” The ruins are fragile. Please do not climb around on them.

It is startling how high the ruins are in the canyon walls. Trying to imagine how they accomplish this and lived is mind-boggling.

The Canyon of the Ancients Monument contains the highest known archaeological site density in the United States.


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Even if there were no ruins along the trail, this area is breathtaking and a hike I would do again in the spring or fall! It got toasty and stopped us at nearly 5 miles before we headed back.

A hike for all ages and abilities! Plus, beautiful!

Note: the Visitor Center is located in Dolores, CO, away from the trail, standing alone.


Sand Canyon & Rock Creek Trailhead

12.4 miles out and back

Rated: Moderate

Open to Hiking, Mtn Biking, and Horseback


Trail Map – Sand Canyon & Rock Creek

Located: Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

Canyon of the Ancients Visitor Center, Dolores, CO

NOTABLE: Summer temps are high, and it is minimal shade, so a hat, sunscreen, lots of water, and good shoes are essential.

Two trailheads provide access to the canyon. The upper trailhead can be found near the Sand Canyon Pueblo off of N Road. The lower trailhead, where this post begins, is off of G Road, about 12 miles west of the town of Cortez. 

Note: Many of the links are affiliate links which means I receive a very small commission (at no added cost to you).


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Can't wait to see you on the trail!

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