Sand Canyon Hike

The Sand Canyon trail in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument has trailheads at both ends of Sand Canyon. The upper trailhead is at the canyon head off of N Road near Sand Canyon Pueblo. The lower trailhead is off of County Road G about 15 miles west of Cortez. Sand Canyon Trail is a 12 mile out and back trail that's rated as moderate. The hike presented here starts at the lower trailhead and proceeds for about 4 miles up the trail, then returns. Eight or so cliff dwellings and pueblos are located along the first 4 miles.

Castle Rock (in background)

The trailhead parking area is basically a large area of slickrock. A large sandstone butte known as Castle Rock greets the hiker at the beginning of the trail. Ancestral puebloans built a pueblo around Castle Rock Butte sometime during A.D. 1200. The pueblo contained 40 to 60 rooms, kivas, and towers. Ruins of Castle Rock Pueblo are visible along the beginning of the hike. The ruin of an isolated tower is located on a spur a little further up the trail from Castle Rock.

Indian Paintbrush and
Narrow Leaf Yucca

Ruin near Castle Rock

Small ruin near Castle Rock

Eroded cliff

Sleeping Ute

Tower near Castle Rock

Tower ruin

Sand Canyon

Sand Canyon trail

Saddlehorn Pueblo

Saddlehorn Pueblo about 1.4 miles from the trailhead. Its name derives from the formation above the alcove that looks like a saddlehorn. The cliff dwelling has two rooms in the alcove and two rooms on the rock formation above the alcove (not visible in my photo). Saddlehorn Pueblo was probably built in the mid 1200s, about the same time as Castle Rock Pueblo.

Saddlehorn Pueblo

If Sand Canyon is hiked in the late spring or early summer there are bunches of wildflowers to admire in addition to the cliff dwellings and terrific scenery.

Indian Paintbrush

Desert Phlox

Sand Canyon
Sleeping Ute in distance

Corn Cob House

There are 8 or 10 very nice cliff dwellings and pueblos along just the first 4 miles of the Sand Canyon trail, which is as far as this hike takes us. Corn Cobb House is located at about the 3 mile mark, and Double Cliff House toward the end of the hike. Corn Cobb House is so named because of the kitchen litter found at the site, I think. It has a few main rooms located on a ledge with what appear to me to be storage rooms located in a narrow alcove above the main rooms. Double Cliff House is built on two levels as the name implies. The first level is on a short cliff and the second on a ledge inside the alcove.

Double Cliff House

Wild Rhubarb

This is a really fun hike, and even though I've done it twice I plan on doing it again in November of 2019.

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