Monday, August 31, 2009
Sand Canyon trail(s), which lie in the new Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, should be divided into two parts, especially for day hiking. The complete trail system in the area, which features many great ruin sites, is too much for one day. The terrain is for the most part easy to traverse, so I am managing this blog as two long day hikes. Both start on McElmo Canyon Rd., which is also County Rd. G. This paved road heads west off of Hwy. 491 at 3 miles south of Cortez, Colorado. Sand Canyon is 12 1/2 miles down the county road, on the north side. Watch for bicyclists and horses. This is a multi-use area.
Part 1: I would recommend an out-and-back 13 1/2 mile trek. A little less than half is fairly strenuous, either up or downhill. For the most part you are in for a nice walk, with lots of ruin sites. The most famous is probably the "Saddlehorn" site. Allow a long day for this hike. From the well marked trailhead, head uphill, north on the slickrock. Stay right at all junctions for 3.8 miles, then head left and steeply uphill. At the top is a reward of a large pueblo site.
Part 2: I also really enjoy bicycling this one. It's a lot flatter, but challenging. Same as the start on Part 1, then you will turn left at 1.9 miles on East Rock Trail. At 2.8 miles, turn right on single-track. At 5 1/2 miles pass a trail on the left. At 6 miles turn right on West Rock Trail. At 10.2 miles, turn right, back onto East Rock Trail, if you haven't messed up. Then in just a tenth of a mile, cross an old 4WD road, and the trail bears left. At 11.2 miles the trail is marked across slickrock with cairns. At 11.6 miles, turn right and you will back on the main trail and to your vehicle, for a loop of just short of twelve miles.
If you are undecided on your ability, the second trail is easier. It also features a natural arch in the east fork of Rock Canyon. Both trails are great for ruins, if you want to climb around in the canyon on part 2. Part one is easy access ruin sights.
Good sites are "A Day Hike in Sand Canyon", at www.anasaziadventure.com, in PDF and www.utahtrails.com/Colorado pages/SandCanyon.html.
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