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Canyons of the Ancients Hiking, biking and riding are not just ways to exercise and get from point A to point B they are also a means of experiencing and getting a feeling for the place you are at.  Canyons of the Ancients National Park is an amazing place you just need to get out and experience for yourself. Located near Cortez Colorado and situated in the deserts of the southwest, this National Monument boasts the largest concentration of Pueblo Indian (Anasazi) ruins in the U.S. with about 6000 recorded archaeological sites! These are just the sites that have been recorded and documented and further discoveries are being made each year. A popular way to enter Canyons of the Ancients is from the trailhead on county road G and going north into the Sand Canyon.  The trails follow along incredible red sandstone cliffs with amazing rock formations and almost every cove you look into has Pueblo dwellings in them. There are several loops that the trails make and each one has its own views and unique aspects so if you miss one come back and try another!  This spot has become very, very popular with mountain bikers as it has loads of slickrock and you can cover more ground than if you are on foot.  It also allows you to linger longer at the ruins and see a bit more in a day.  Horseback riders can also enjoy this aspect and you will occasionally see people riding along the way. Most of the trail is fairly well marked and consists of slickrock, hard pack, and sand with only a few technical sections.  Hikers and bikers will find the terrain easy to moderate but in the summer it can be Very Hot, (100 degrees+) and the heat can make even lighter activities strenuous. Use caution, bring plenty of water and use common sense.  Winter time in the desert is very beautiful and a little bit of snow transforms the landscape into a photographer's paradise. Winter temperatures can be cold (30 F to -0 F) in some cases, but much of the time it is just "brisk" with daytime temps reaching the 40's F.  Early spring and late fall are about the best times to visit as the temperatures are near perfect. There is a lot of desert wildlife that can be seen here and visitors can see small animals like lizards, snakes (including rattle snakes) hare, desert fox, coyote, scorpions and tarantulas!  Some of the larger animals that call the desert home are deer, elk, bears and mountain lions. So bring your camera and keep your eyes open.  At this point there is no camping allowed and all visitors must stay on designated trails in order to protect the archaeological sites and BLM officers enforce these rules.  There are plenty of designated off trail pull outs and view points along the way which will give you a chance to see things without disturbing them.  Sand Canyon trails are a great way to see historical monuments in their raw form.  No guides, no pavement and most of the ruins are pretty much as they have been for hundreds of years. A few miles west of the Sand Canyon trailhead along county road G is another access road that takes you into the National Monument.  This will lead you to Cannon Ball Mesa and southern portions of the Moccasin and Yellow Jacket Loops which have some 4x4 sections.  This is also a good spot to see Pueblo ruins and beautiful desert back country. Another popular entry point into The Canyons of the Ancients is near the north side of Sand Canyon at the aptly named Sand Canyon Pueblo.  Located northwest of Cortez Colorado on county road N, you can see a very large Pueblo ruin that has about 420 rooms, 14 towers and 90 kivas! (Kuckelman, 2007)   From there you can drive into the monument or take Sand Canyon Trail south by bike, hike or horseback.  There are still other points of interest to the north and for people wanting to educate themselves about the Pueblo culture they can visit the Anasazi Heritage Center. Located about 12 miles north of Cortez on Co. hwy 184.  They are the Canyons of the Ancients headquarters and have some of the best information available.  This is a museum with artifacts, historical information, maps and much more! The monument is public lands managed by the BLM and visitors can visit their website here. http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/nm/canm.html Canyons of the Ancients is an amazingly beautiful area that offers an insight to a cultural past and a good place to get away from it all. Visit with respect, pass a smile to others and remember to Go Outdoors! References BLM. (2011, April 26). Canyons of the ancients national monument. Retrieved from http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/nm/canm.html Kuckelman, K. (2007). The archaeology of sand canyon pueblo: Intensive excavations at a late-thirteenth-century village in southwestern colorado. Retrieved from http://www.crowcanyon.org/ResearchReports/SandCanyon/Text/scpw_contentsvolume.asp
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