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Sand Canyon Trail

MODERATE 146 reviews

Sand Canyon Trail is a 12.4 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Cortez, Colorado that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 12.4 miles Elevation Gain: 1,965 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

bird watching

running

cave

views

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

washed out

no shade

This trail provides beautiful views of the canyons. Pass by ancestral Puebloan ruins on your way to the top. The hike begins fairly easy but, the final miles of the trail are the most challenging. There are many side trails off of the main path to explore the area. This version of the trail extends past the trail markings to San Canyon Pueblo. Feel free to turn around before reaching the pueblo.

hiking
no shade
1 month ago

Great trail and lots of cool ruins! Tons of crypto soil along the way so be sure to stay on the trail!! Very little shade cover so wear a hat and sunscreen and pack lots of water. This was a moderately easy trail.

hiking
1 month ago

All Trails is showing 12.4 but it’s actually 13.1 round trip. Beautiful trail but very hot. Worth the hike.

hiking
2 months ago

This a relatively smooth trail. We did it on October 1 and it was still fairly hot. Other reviews mention the lack of shade and I concur. The ruins were awesome. I recommend picking up a free map from the welcome center in Cortez. It shows the location of the ruins.

hiking
2 months ago

Pretty tough trail, for what it’s worth I would stop at about 5.3 miles in (right after you get to the top of the upper rim) beyond that it’s pretty normal hiking that only leads to a parking lot. Stop at the top and enjoy the view. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen!!!

hiking
no shade
3 months ago

hiking
rocky
3 months ago

I love this area...beautiful terrain and rock formations with wild flowers and native vegetation. I sat down to rest a bit, beneath the shade of a pine tree on the trails edge, when I looked up to see a looming silhouette for what I named "Coffee Pot Rock"! It could only be seen on the return path as one makes their return to the parking area. Rebecca R Brennan

hiking
no shade
4 months ago

Note: As of April, 2019 the trailhead has moved about 1/2 mile east on road G with a large gravel parking area, but the Canyons of the Ancients sign has not been moved yet. We hiked 7 miles RT including spurs in 95 degree heat. It was hot but very interesting. Junipers offer limited shade stops. I drank all 100oz on our 3:30 hike.

hiking
5 months ago

I did this backwards according to the description. So I started off Road N. went to the second ruin about 3.25 miles in then turned around. If you start it from the other side I would not go up the switch backs. The ruins are definitely the highlight of the hike. Bring lots of water, try to start early. Did with my dog

hiking
5 months ago

Really fun trail with lots of cool ruins to see. Not to challenging for the first 4 miles.

hiking
5 months ago

Killer trail!! Lots of ruins, sunshine, lizards, and one creepy snake!

hiking
6 months ago

We had a nice hike. I'm not in shape to do the whole 12 mile round trip, so we just hiked in about 2.5 miles, had lunch, and hiked out. We took all the side trails marked with white markers. Some of them lead to ruins, but others don't seem to. I was surprised to learn later that there's an entire village of ruins around the stone butte that's right in front of the original parking area - Castle Rock Pueblo, it's called. We walked to one small part of it, but most of the ruins were carried off in the early 20th century by local white settlers who wanted to reuse the rocks to build their homes and barns and things, which is why almost none of it is visible today. I was also surprised to not hear a single canyon wren.

hiking
6 months ago

Awesome trail! I did the full 6 miles in and 6 miles back. AllTrails map is wrong for the ending point. Lots of little off shoots to get close to the Pueblos. The last 2 miles has the 700ft elevation gain in 0.5-1 mile of switchbacks which is a bit grueling. Awesome views from the top. The last walk at the top of canyon is so-so. Lots of beautiful wild flowers!

hiking
7 months ago

Hiked to the marker and back on the All Trails map for a total of 8 miles. This is where the trail intersects Sand Canyon creek. The trail actually continues further for a couple more miles. No shade = no joke. Starting before 9am wasn’t early enough to beat the heat for the 4+ hour hike. Trail is well marked. No huge gains/loss in elevation. Birds and lizards everywhere. Wildflowers were blooming, though rare in this desert landscape. The cliff dwellings are really cool and most are just a few short steps away from the main trail.

hiking
7 months ago

I parked at the south lot and did the full Sand Canyon (out-and-back) hike. The first half of the trail is easy and has incredible up-close view of Ancestral Puebloan ruins. While not under close watch like Mesa Verde for vandalism, it is perhaps more intmate, which is incredible to experience. The second half of the trail is a little more strenuous, with a .5 mile switchback of a 700 ft. elevation gain. There are some great views of the canyon in that short bit, but I wasn't particularly fond of the rest of the trail to the north traihead. The wildflowers are in bloom this time of year, though, and the weather is just warm enough before becoming difficult. Almost no shade, and I would not call this trail lightly trafficked, especially on the south end. Lots of super noisy groups not interested in preserving the natural life of the canyon.

hiking
7 months ago

We started later than planned, so when we got there it was pretty warm. We hiked about 4 miles total, out and back. We saw some awesome ancient Puebloan sites and some beautiful natural scenery. The Puebloan sites are accessible by the spur trails makers with white diamonds the spur trails are really short.

7 months ago

Gorgeous trail into the canyon! Cliff dwellings everywhere & the trail is really well marked/ easy to follow. Start early if you can, it gets toasty. Worth doing the entire trail if you have time!

hiking
7 months ago

Easy hike for the active person. Interesting geology and yes, archeology. Great views of Ute Mountain from the Sand Canyon trail. My only concern is the area looks over used. Boot prints and bike tire tread marks off trail in several areas. Disappointing. Still, beautiful canyon. Very quiet when I was there.

hiking
7 months ago

Highly recommended. Be sure to try the side trails that take you off to see the cliff dwellings up close.

8 months ago

This is a very interesting trail with a lot archeological sites to see along the way. We hiked this in early April so the weather was nice and cool. The trails are well marked and we had no problem finding the trailhead using this app. Since we were off season there was a lot of parking available. Note that the parking lot is on natural rock which is relatively uneven, so don't show up in a low clearance sports car.

hiking
8 months ago

Beautiful hike and well worth it. People do have dogs off leash unfortunately.

8 months ago

Some nice ruins can be found along this often-crowded trail. Parking can be an issue but if you find a spot it is worth it!

Fri Oct 12 2018

We hiked this trail yesterday as we have had so much rain in Durango. So glad we had the chance as the sun broke through for our 3 hour hike and we saw only one other hiker. Trail is well marked with maps at each junction. We took the first loop option using the posted maps. We saw three small cliff dwellings spaced well along the hike. We had 5 min of trouble finding the exit trail on top of the Mesa because there were so many smaller view trails- just pay attention to the sign post. Cliffs, mountains and vegetation, made every turn a photographic event. Lack of serious stretches of elevation made this an easy hike. Our 15lb dog loved it as her first hike. The soft sand/soil was easy on her pads. If you don’t see the parking lot using Apple maps, just keep driving a little bit further-you can’t miss it. Our maps tried to take us up a small road near the parking area that said no public access.

hiking
Fri Oct 05 2018

Great hike, amazing to see ruins up close without the crowds. Thoroughly enjoyed myself . Please be respectful of the ruins, let’s keep them around for everyone to enjoy!

Wed Sep 19 2018

Watch out for cougars.

hiking
Sun Sep 16 2018

This is a popular local trail. Sometimes it can be hard to find parking at the Sand Canyon entrance (mostly on the weekends). This is a great place to stop off if you are visiting and want to get a taste of the area without getting too far out there. If you enter from the Sand Canyon side, you will pass a hogan up at to the right of the first sandstone slab that you walk up out of the parking area. There are archeological sites littering the whole area. It does not take much effort to spot the countless walls remaining in the caves and overhangs you will see along the trail. Keep an eye out, and you are sure to see some ruins. They are out in the open for the public to enjoy, but nonetheless marvelous archeological sites, so please remember to respect them and help preserve them.

hiking
Tue Aug 28 2018

First of all I want to say that we got a late start on this trail and only went 3 of the 7 miles in and then back out. The trail is well marked and quite easy to follow. The three miles that we hiked provided several opportunities to view ancient cliff dwellings both up close and in the distance across the canyon. The Canyons of The Ancients is an amazing place and this trail invites you to imagine what it may have been like to live in this area thousands of years ago. The pinion/juniper landscape is healthy all through the canyon and I'm sure there are plenty of opportunities to view wildlife if your quiet during your hike. We recently moved to the four corners area and I'm sure we will be back to walk the entire trail when the weather cools

hiking
Tue May 29 2018

We did about 5 miles of this trail. We saw some awesome ruins. It was too hot to do the whole trail with our pup this time. Really good signage, not sure why people said it was poorly signed.

hiking
Sun Apr 29 2018

We did as a loop coming back on rock canyon. also nice dwellings there as well. gorgeous area

hiking
Fri Apr 20 2018

The parking area is pretty easy to find, you have to be paying attention because the signs are set back a little and the "lot" is actually on a rock, not a paved area and has a unique rock formation that sticks out from the landscape! The trail was fairly obvious as well once you get past the first .2 miles which is also on rock but if you keep and eye out and follow the cairnes and sign posts it's really easy to navigate! Definitely take the spur trails so you can get up close to the ruins! There were a few spurs that I couldn't find anything but all the rest get you right up to them so you don't have to go off trail! Also, this trail is a point-to-point (not 6miles RT). You can definitely make it however long you want as it's pretty flat if you start from the GPS this app gives you. I hiked about 5 miles in (including spurs) and then it was like 4miles back to the parking lot. I turned around before the switchbacks but there were about 9 different sites I saw in that distance! You can definitely make this hike shorter and still get some cool views! Lot is a decent size but rough terrain for low-clearance cars, no facilities and it's in the desert so bring lots of water and sun protection!

hiking
Sun Apr 15 2018

First off, we only knew where the trailhead was because there were a lot of cars parked on the side of the road. No signs along the road before here. Then, no signs that said where there might be sites to see, just a generic map. We came to a couple of people coming back down the trail and they described the mapping as "lean", "thin" and "non-descriptive". That's about what we found. We hiked up a few miles not knowing if there was anything to see or not. Bummer. Hard to know if we should've kept going or not seeing as we're in our 70s. Every time I went ahead to scout it out, I came across nothing.

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