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Sand Canyon Trail

Intermediate
 4.4 (11)

A great out and back trip with many ancient pueblos along the way.


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Map Key

5.8

Miles

9.4

KM

Point to Point

6,840' 2,085 m

High

5,498' 1,676 m

Low

1,381' 421 m

Up

39' 12 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

38%

Max Grade (21°)

Dogs Leashed

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.

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Kevin Christopherson with improvements by Rex Knepp

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 11 votes

#6390

Overall
  4.4 from 11 votes
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Trail Rankings

#463

in Colorado

#6,390

Overall
45 Views Last Month
3,705 Since Aug 18, 2017
Intermediate

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Photos

Beautiful desert scenery
Jun 26, 2021 near Cortez, CO
Canyons of the Ancients
Sep 5, 2017 near Cortez, CO

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Weather


Current Trail Conditions

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All Clear 24 days ago See History
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Check-Ins

Oct 5, 2021
Peder Bisbjerg
Sand Canyon and a pleasant detour down East Rock Creek on the way back. 9.5mi — 4h 00m
Jul 1, 2021
Nick Kepf
Jun 25, 2021
Gabi Dee
3mi
Jun 20, 2021
The Turk
Dec 7, 2020
Bill Carter
5mi — 2h 30m
Nov 25, 2020
Marc Corona
May 2, 2020
Sharilyn B
Nicely marked trail. Bring water! 4.9mi
May 12, 2019
Linda Reeves