Escalante Ruins

Round Trip Distance: 1.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 7086 - 7214 feet
Cellphone: 2-4 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Anasazi Heritage Center
Fee: $3/adult Mar-Oct (Free Nov - Feb)
Attractions: Ancestral Puebloan Ruins, museum

The Escalante Ruins are located in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument just south of Dolores, Colorado on Highway 184. These Ancestral Puebloan ruins, which were named after Padre Silvestre Velez de Escalante, sit on the high point of a hill that now overlooks the present day McPhee Reservoir. There is no charge for hiking up the hill to the ruins. There is a charge for all adults over the age of 18 to enter the museum at the Anasazi Heritage Center during the months of March through October.

The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is located in southwestern Colorado. The area contains the highest known concentration of archaeological sites in the nation. The sites, some of which date back thousands of years, show regular use and habitation of the area from the Archaic period, 10,000 years ago, through the times of the Anasazi, Utes and Navajo.

The museum at the Anasazi Heritage Center is well worth visiting before hiking up to the ruins. The museum has a large assortment of artifacts and panels providing information on everything from how some of the pieces were made to a little incite into the life of the early inhabitants. There is also a replica of a dwelling that makes it easier for the imagination to grasp what the ruins may have looked like when they were intact.

The trail begins just below the museum at the site of the Dominguez Pueblo.

From the Dominguez Pueblo the paved trail passes through a very nice picnic area.

Many kiosks along the way point out interesting things to learn about such as the vegetation or surrounding area.

Since the trail does gradually climb a hill there are many benches providing a place to rest. There are also pull outs for wheelchairs so they don't need to block the trail. I thought that was a very nice tough.

One kiosk points out the making of the mountain across the valley. This mountain is call the Sleeping Ute Mountain.

There is a fork in the trail near the top of the hill where you can stroll over to a lookout point with great views of McPhee Reservoir.

Along the other fork at the top of the hill are the Escalante Ruins. There are many rooms and a large kiva. There are pictures in the museum that show the purpose of the kiva and how they appeared with the roof intact.

The walls are actually higher than what they appear. By filling in the area between the walls they are able to better protect them from crumbling and falling down.

The baccata variety of yucca gets some huge fruit.

There was a sign posted at the bottom of the hill that said the trail was only open during certain hours but the person at the information desk said it was perfectly alright to hike it even when the museum was closed. You may want to check out their website before making a visit to get more information. The Escalante Ruins are one of the only possible sites where you can visit Ancestral Puebloan dwellings without ever leaving the pavement. We made this visit from Grand Junction in one day leaving town around 10 am, driving through Telluride and over Lizard Head Pass to Dolores and returning home via Cortez and Durango. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.