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Canyons of the Ancients Loop.



7.5 mile 12.1 kilometer out and back
100% Singletrack


Ascent: 791' 241 m
Descent: -803' -245 m
High: 5,935' 1,809 m
Low: 5,444' 1,659 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 20% (11°)


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Current trail conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 25 days ago See History

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

Kevin Christopherson

Electric Mountain Bikes Unknown

Features -none-

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 easy to moderate with a number of short, technical sections. Be on the watch for these sections. They are short and can easily be walked.

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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May 12, 2019
Kyle M
Fun. Some sections of up hill and technical but easily walked if you are down or able to ride that part.
Apr 22, 2019
Kelsey McCallum
Patti's birthday 7.5mi
Apr 19, 2019
Roger Smith
Sep 1, 2018
Tyler McCafferty
Aug 31, 2018
Tyler McCafferty
Jun 2, 2018
Mark Laws
May 29, 2018
Chris Weyandt
May 26, 2018
Jackie White

Trail Ratings

  3.7 from 17 votes


  3.7 from 17 votes
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10,952 Since Jun 5, 2015



Break time after a nice slickrock climb.
Jun 5, 2015 near Cortez, CO
Checking out the ruins
Jun 6, 2015 near Cortez, CO
Fun Stuff
Jun 6, 2015 near Cortez, CO
Canyons of the Ancients
Jun 10, 2015 near Cortez, CO
Cliff dweeling in the distance along the first portion of the loop.
Apr 17, 2017 near Cortez, CO
A quarter mile of slick rock at the start of Sand Canyon
Apr 30, 2018 near Cortez, CO

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