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

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5,935' 1,809 m


5,444' 1,659 m


791' 241 m


803' 245 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (11°)

Dogs Leashed

E-Bikes Unknown

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.


Shared By:

Kevin Christopherson with improvements by Scott Kadera

Trail Ratings

  3.9 from 27 votes


  3.9 from 27 votes
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in Colorado


38 Views Last Month
14,249 Since Jun 5, 2015
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Trail benefits from some moisture, but will become muddy quickly. Keep an eye on conditions.
Mar 20, 2024 near Cortez, CO
Checking out the ruins
Jun 6, 2015 near Cortez, CO
Break time after a nice slickrock climb.
Jun 5, 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


Current Trail Conditions

All Clear 44 days ago
Add Your Check-In


Nov 8, 2022
Christian Henry
10h 57m
May 30, 2021
Ron Formanek
Sand Canyon great trail, reasonable traffic. Hikers were all very cool. Enjoyed the ruins. Canyon of the ancients, good time. 16mi — 3h 15m
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

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