Round Trip Distance: .8 mile
Elevation: 6773 - 6830 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Usage: Hiking - Dogs
Time: 45 mins.
Trailhead: Upper Sand Canyon
Attractions: Ancestral Puebloan ruins
View Sand Canyon Pueblo in a larger map
The Sand Canyon Pueblo is located in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. The village consisting of about 420 rooms, 100 kivas and 14 towers was constructed around AD 1200-1290. The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument comprises over 6,000 excavated sites on over 164,000 acres of land managed by the BLM. The best location to begin exploring the monument is at the Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores, Colorado. There you will find information about sites you may want to visit as well as maps, brochures and a top notch museum.
There aren't any road signs that point to the Sand Canyon Pueblo and you probably won't find it on a map. The best route to take is to turn west onto Montezuma County Road P from US Highway 491. Follow Road P to Road 18 and turn left. Turn right again onto Road P and continue, past the unmarked trailhead for Goodman Point, to Road 16. Turn left on Road 16 and continue to Road N where you turn right. The Sand Canyon trailhead is about a half mile west on Road N. The total distance from US 491 should be around 9.3 miles. The road is all paved although it does have a lot of chuck holes. You will probably want to allow an extra hour to stop and tour the Goodman Point ruins.
The Sand Canyon Pueblo and the Sand Canyon trail share the same trailhead. This is actually the upper trailhead for the Sand Canyon trail. The lower trailhead is about 6.5 miles to the south on Road G in McElmo Canyon.
Take the easy trail to the right and follow it as it parallels the county road for a short distance before turning left towards the ruins.
At the 'T' intersection you have the option of exploring the ruins by following the trails in either direction. Both the left and right trails lead to a dead end where you return by the same route. The trail to the right is the longest and has more information to read. This post follows the trail to the right first. The trail to the left is still worth doing as it has a good view of the entire site.
Everything above ground is comprised of rubble. The ruins were reburied after being excavated so the walls wouldn't have to be stabilized. It is hard to make out what you are looking at but if you study a map of the ruins it becomes much easier. The trail follows the outside of a wall that enclosed the village so most of what you see is just the wall. There are places where it is possible to see over the wall and into the actual village, which of course, is more piles of rubble.
The half dozen or so kiosks go a long way to explain the layout of the ruins. More can be learned from visiting the Anasazi Heritage Center and the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center websites.
The trail ends at a rocky cliff overlooking Sand Canyon. After enjoying the view you can retrace your steps to the 'T' intersection and then explore the short trail to the left.
If you like looking at potsherds there are a good variety to study. Besides tree ring analysis pottery is another method for dating the age of the ruins. The pottery was made by assembling flattened coils of clay into the desired shape and smoothing them with stones before firing them in an open pit. Some have speculated that the rough texture of some of the pottery, like the above picture, may have come from using a woven basket for a mold.
The pottery would sometimes receive a coating of paint with decorative designs before it was fired. Most often the paint was applied to the inside of bowls and ladles.
Other pottery shards have no paint or decoration of any kind. Broken pots were often ground down and recycled by mixing them with the clay for new pots. The Edge of the Cedars museum in Blanding, Utah has one of the best displays of pottery and artifacts in the area. It is a great place to visit if you are interested in this type of stuff.
The Sand Canyon Pueblo lacks the examples of fine masonry skills that other sites in the area have to offer. Yet, it is still an intriguing site to visit. With thousands of ruins in the Canyons of the Ancients and those of Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon and all the other surrounding locations the southwest appears to have been a very busy place. The Sand Canyon Pueblo with its piles of rubble has a peaceful atmosphere today. Who knows if it was always like that or not. The Sand Canyon Pueblo does appear to have come to a violent end as documented by the study of human remains that were found. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.