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Sand Canyon Trail

Intermediate/Difficult
 2.9 (8)

A great out and back trip with many ancient pueblos along the way.


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Map Key

5.8

Miles

9.4

KM

Singletrack

6,840' 2,085 m

High

5,498' 1,676 m

Low

1,381' 421 m

Up

39' 12 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

38%

Max Grade (21°)

Dogs Unknown

E-Bikes Unknown

Bikes must stay on the main trail. Please walk the short spur trails to the archeological sites.

Description

Sand Canyon contains many Puebloan archaeological sites. Sand Canyon Trail is 6.5 miles (one-way) from the trailhead in McElmo Canyon.

The trail is open to hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, but the upper section is steep and rugged. Part of the singletrack dirt trail crosses slick rock marked with rock cairns. The trail could be shuttled by leaving one vehicle at Sand Canyon Pueblo, and leave a second vehicle at the bottom (south) end of the trail in McElmo Canyon. There is a very steep section with 30 switchbacks about 4.5 miles into the ride. It's only about 1/2 mile and will be a hike-a-bike for most people. Because it's uphill from the McElmo parking lot, you can turn around anytime and enjoy the downhill back to your vehicle.

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, toilet, or other services are available.

Contacts

Shared By:

Kevin Christopherson

Trail Ratings

  2.9 from 8 votes

#22572

Overall
  2.9 from 8 votes
5 Star
0%
4 Star
25%
3 Star
50%
2 Star
13%
1 Star
13%
Trail Rankings

#2,134

in Colorado

#22,572

Overall
37 Views Last Month
8,336 Since Jun 6, 2015
Intermediate/Difficult

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29%
14%
14%

Photos

Checking out the ruins
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
Ancient rock house near the trail.
Jun 5, 2015 near Cortez, CO
Be careful not to bust the Crust!
Sep 26, 2017 near Cortez, CO

Weather


Current Trail Conditions

Unknown
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Check-Ins

Feb 19, 2022
Lisa Verdon
When you come to the sign that says very difficult, believe it. Super rocky and steep. Un rideable and very difficult to get the bike up the hill. 7.4mi — 9h 00m
May 12, 2019
Kyle M
Once the trail becomes a creek bed just turn around 15mi
Feb 7, 2018
Kt Howard
Great trail conditions. The mud is gone but the sandy patches are still packed in. 7.5mi — 2h 00m
Apr 6, 2017
Liz Blair
Trail conditions were excellent, ended up doing an out-and-back on the Sand Canyon trail then a loop around East Rock Trail. Trail run, not mtb 18.6mi — 3h 15m
Mar 23, 2017
Daniel Green
Apr 4, 2016
Ol' Elk Dickens
Fun downhill, also tough for grade.
Mar 24, 2016
Ol' Elk Dickens
Fun Downhill, Short difficult section dropping into canyon