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Canyons of the Ancients Loop.

 9 votes


7.5 Miles 12.1 Kilometers




791' 241 m


-803' -245 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (11°)

5,935' 1,809 m


5,444' 1,659 m




Getting forecast...

A fun ride in a National Monument that takes you right to archeological sites.

Kevin Christopherson


Bikes must stay on the main trail. Please walk the short spur trails to the archeological sites.
This is your trail if you like fun slightly techy singletrack, great scenery, and amazing cliff dwellings. The East Rock Creek Trail section is mostly easy, but there are some technical sections. Be on the watch for these sections. They are short and can easily be walked.
Dogs: Leashed

Need to Know

Please do not take you bike off the main trails. The short spur trails are for hiking only.


To reach the McElmo Canyon trailhead, head south of Cortez on Highway 491. Turn right (west) on County Road G at the signs for the airport and/or Hovenweep National Monument. Go 12 miles on this paved road. Trailhead parking is an unimproved slickrock surface on the north (right) side of the road. No water or other services are available.

The trails are well marked with maps at every major intersection and markers for spur trails leading to archeological sites.The main trail (Sand Canyon Trail) starts a little wide then narrows to singletrack. There are two side loops of the main trail that go up parallel canyons. The loop described here goes up Sand Canyon Trail for about 1.5 miles and then takes a connector over a saddle to the canyon to the west. Take the second connector trail to the East Rock Creek Trail.

At the Junction with East Rock Creek Trail take a right and follow the loop counterclockwise back to the parking lot (you could also go left at the intersection for a shorter loop). If you want a longer ride add the Rock Creek Trail the loops west. The Rock Creek Trail (not East Rock Creek) is more technical. These trails are rideable almost year round, but get hot in the summer.

History & Background

Mountain Bikes have historically been banned from trails in National Parks and National Monuments, and bike trails are often rerouted around archeological sites. This trail is significant in that is does neither. It represents a progressive new era for mountain biking. Please be on your best behavior in the National Monument.


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Apr 16, 2017
Jason Cross
Great ride. Definitely challenging in parts with some technical climbs in spurts. A few spots had to be hiked but I think they are doable if prepared. 11mi — 2h 30m
Oct 8, 2016
Miranda Doran-Myers
Sep 3, 2016
Sara Boyd
May 24, 2016
mike gibson
Mar 20, 2016
Zachary Pinnau
This is challenging, There were a couple parts that I'm not sure how they expect you to get up them without dismounting your bike. Pretty area 6.8mi — 1h 23m
Sep 1, 2015
Chris Killer
wasn't all that fun. areas of the trail are unclear. quite rocky without the more fun aspects of technical riding. A disappointing experience

Trail Ratings

  3.2 from 9 votes


  3.2 from 9 votes
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because of the precarious nature of this trail remaining open to bikes ( in a National Monument full of archeological ruins and hikers ) , I'd recommend staying off the Sand Canyon Trail as much as possible to avoid user conflicts and complaints . do this by taking the 2nd left (1st on this map) to get to and ride East Rock Creek more quickly , then ride West Rock Creek , which is visible , but trail not shown here . this way makes a better , longer ride , and avoids the bulk of ruins and those who are hiking to see them . Oct 22, 2015

aka , don't ride the yellow trail , but the blue one instead . right before the 6.1 mile marker on this map , the West RockCreek loop starts on the right , and is a bit longer than East Rock . both of these loops are best ridden counter clockwise . I've hardly ever seen hikers (or even other bikers) on these loops , especially West Rock Creek . Have Fun ! Oct 22, 2015
Abe Gold
Tucson, AZ
Abe Gold   Tucson, AZ
Also known as Sand Canyon Trail. East Rock a bit more fun than West Rock Canyon. You may feel the spirits. May 23, 2016

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