Need to Know
There is a new parking lot, also on the right-hand (north) side of County Road G, about 0.5 miles before the "historic" lot. The new one is flat and graveled instead of on slick rock. There appears to be space for at least 30 vehicles.
Sand Canyon contains many Puebloan archaeological sites. Sand Canyon Trail is 6.5 miles (one-way) from the trailhead in McElmo Canyon.
The trail is open to hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, but the upper section is steep and rugged. Part of the singletrack dirt trail crosses slick rock marked with rock cairns. The trail could be shuttled by leaving one vehicle at Sand Canyon Pueblo, and leave a second vehicle at the bottom (south) end of the trail in McElmo Canyon. There is a very steep section with 30 switchbacks about 4.5 miles into the hike. It's only about 1/2 mile. Because it's uphill from the McElmo parking lot, you can turn around anytime and enjoy the downhill back to your vehicle.
To reach the McElmo Canyon trailhead, head south of Cortez on Highway 491. Turn right (west) on County Road G at the signs for the airport and/or Hovenweep National Monument. Go 12 miles on this paved road. Trailhead parking is an unimproved slickrock surface on the north (right) side of the road. No water, toilet, or other services are available.
Shared By: Kevin Christopherson