“an integral cultural landscape”
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwestern Colorado Saddlehorn Pueblo along the Sand Canyon trailcontains a huge number of archaeological sites—more than 6000 recorded so far, and up to 100 per square mile in some places—representing Ancestral Puebloan and other Native American cultures. Canyons of the Ancients is managed as an integral cultural landscape containing a wealth of historic and environmental resources. Auto routes through the Monument are few; most roads are unpaved and rough. Most of the archaeological sites in this "outdoor museum" are not apparent to the untrained eye, and precise locations are not publicized. This is a place to explore on your own. Most of the Monument is open to exploration on foot, but marked foot trails are few and limited to specific areas. For maps, guidebooks, current information about trail and road conditions, and general orientation, stop first at the Anasazi Heritage Center (Monument headquarters) before starting your expedition. The Anasazi Heritage Center is Southwest Colorado's premier archaeological museum of the Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) and other Native cultures of the Four Corners region. The museum features permanent exhibits on archaeology, local history, & Native American cultures two 12th-century archaeological sites special exhibits & events educational resources for teachers a research library of archaeology & anthropology resources a research collection of over 3 million artifacts and records from archaeological projects in Southwest Colorado a picnic area, half-mile nature trail, and gift shop
Ancient, haunted, highly recommended. Pretty warm, take lots of water, not easy to find a parking place, locals don't like tourists around.
This covers a large area and is meant to be backpacked across and make your own discoveries. Instead, we drove the 88-mile loop and did the four stops: visitor center (make sure you look up the hours before you go), Lowry Pueblo, Painted Hand, and Hovenweep (technically a separate monument but they go so well together). Everything is marked decently, as long as you know what you’re looking for (get a map at the visitor’s center!).
Lowry Pueblo was a huge, multi-room pueblo that they have built a roof over to help protect it from the elements. You can even go inside some of the (roof-less) rooms through short doorways (don’t climb the walls!).
Painted Hand, towers/pueblos/pictographs, was the only place difficult to find. It was down a long, rough dirt road that does have a marked parking area. But then good luck finding the sights! We felt like we were randomly finding trail markers going every which way and not seeing anything. We eventually found it all, and it was cool to see the pictographs (not petroglyphs) and towers and pueblos.
The highlight of the drive was definitely Hovenweep. It’s a series of extremely well preserved pueblos and towers all along both sides of a small ravine. There is a small visitor center (closed for Covid) at the trailhead.
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Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
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