“A fun ride in a National Monument that takes you right to archeological sites.
— Kevin Christopherson
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.
Bikes must stay on the main trail. Please walk the short spur trails to the archeological sites.
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.