Trail of the Ancients

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Fallen Roof in Comb Wash, Utah

The Trail of the Ancients is a National Scenic Byway located in the states of Colorado and Utah. The route highlights the archaeological and cultural history of southwestern Native American peoples, and traverses the widely diverse geological landscape of the Four Corners region. The entire route is approximately 480 miles (772.5 km) long.

Route Description[edit]


Four Corners to Mesa Verde[edit]

Begin Highway Directions Photo Comments
Four Corners Monument U.S. Route 160 Travel northeast along U.S. Route 160, crossing the San Juan River, for a total of 19 miles until the byway merges with U.S. Route 491. Four Corners NM.jpg Four Corners, the only quadripoint in the United States, is also the border between the Navajo Nation (in the states of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico), and the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation, (in the state of Colorado).
Junction of U.S. Route 491 U.S. Route 160 / U.S. Route 491 Turn north at the junction with U.S. Route 491 for 20 miles to Cortez. Along the route is the turn-off for Yucca House National Monument, an unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan site. Cortez the county seat of Montezuma County. Located within Cortez is the Cortez Cultural Center, and its Hawkins Preserve and Hawkins Pueblo.[1]
Cortez U.S. Route 160 Traveling east on U.S. 160 for 8 miles to Mesa Verde National Park. MesaVerdeNationalParkCliffPalace.jpg Mesa Verde National Park, a U.S. national park preserving over 4000 archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, of the Ancestral Pueblo people.[2]

Cortez to Hovenweep[edit]

Begin Highway Directions Photo Comments
Cortez CO-145 / Colorado State Highway 184 Travel north on CO-145 for 8 miles to Dolores. Turn left onto Colorado State Highway 184 and travel 1.4 miles to the Anasazi Heritage Center. Anasazi Heritage Center - CO - BLM - Escalante Pueblo.jpeg The Anasazi Heritage Center, a museum of the Ancient Pueblo (or Anasazi) culture and other Native cultures in the Four Corners region. Also visit the Escalante and Dominguez Pueblos on the center's site. As the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument visitor center, you may also pick up information for Lowry Pueblo and other Canyons of the Ancients site.[3]
Anasazi Heritage Center Colorado State Highway 184 Continue on Colorado State Highway 184 6.6 miles to the highway's terminus at U.S. 491. Mcphee Dam and Reservoir.jpg McPhee Reservoir, located off of Colorado State Highway 184, is visible from the Anasazi Heritage Center.
Junction of Colorado State Highway 184 / U.S. 491 U.S. 491 Travel north for 9 miles, passing through Lewis and Yellow Jacket to Montezuma County Road CC, just south of Pleasant View. Map of Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.png This is the beginning of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Junction of U.S. 491 and Montezuma County Road CC. Montezuma County Road CC Travel west on Montezuma County Road CC for 8 miles towards Lowry Pueblo. Lowry Pueblo.jpg This section of the byway crosses parts of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail, a historic trade route connecting Santa Fe with Los Angeles.[4] Lowry Pueblo is a National Historic Landmark originally excavated in the 1930s and dating to around 1060 AD.[5] The pueblo is part of Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, a Bureau of Land Management site encompassing over 6000 archaeological ruins over 183,000 acres.[6]
Lowry Pueblo Montezuma County Road CC / Montezuma County Road 10 Return east on Montezuma County Road CC 2.9 miles to Montezuma County Road 10. Travel south and west on Montezuma County Road 10, through the Canyon of the Ancients, for 17.5 miles, before reaching the Utah state line, where it becomes San Juan County Road 212 (Hovenweep Road). Hovenweep.jpg The route passes some of the outlying sites of Hovenweep National Monument
Colorado / Utah state line San Juan County Road 212 (Hovenweep Road) The road turns south and intersects with the main entrance to Hovenweep 3.3 miles past the Colorado-Utah border. Hovenweep national monument vistor center.jpg Hovenweep National Monument preserves six different sites in Utah and Colorado of Ancestral Puebloan settlements, many skillfully constructed in and on canyon walls and ledges.


Hovenweep to Bluff and Blanding[edit]

Begin Highway Directions Photo Comments
Hovenweep National Monument Visitor Center Hovenweep Road Heads west from the monument along Hovenweep Road for 30 miles. Hovenweep Road is multiple roads along the 30 miles: CR 212, CR 413, Reservation Road and UT 262. Travel to the junction with U.S. Route 191. Hovenweep national monument vistor center.jpg
Junction of Utah 262 and U.S. Route 191 U.S. Route 191 Travel northern 15 miles to Blanding. Sun sculpture Edge of the Cedars Park.jpg Blanding is one of the most populous cities in southeastern Utah. Nearby Edge of the Cedars State Park (660 West 400 North)includes some Anasazi ruins, a museum, and some very well preserved artifacts, giving visitors a detailed view of how the Ancestral Puebloan lived and worked.[7]

Blanding to Natural Bridges[edit]

Begin Highway Directions Photo Comments
Blanding U.S. Route 191 Travel 4 miles south on U.S. Route 191 to Utah State Route 95, and
Junction of U.S. Route 191 and Utah State Route 95 Utah State Route 95 Head west 30 miles to Utah State Route 275. CombWashUT.jpg About 14 miles on Utah State Route 95 are turn offs for Comb Ridge and Comb Wash. The route ascends the eastern side of Cedar Mesa. Nearby ruins include the partially reconstructed Mule Canyon Ruin and the Butler Wash cliff dwellings.[8]
Junction of Utah State Route 95 and Utah State Route 275 Utah State Route 275 Travel 4 miles to the entrance to Natural Bridges National Monument. Owachomo laban.jpg The easily driveable park loop road takes visitors past three of the largest natural bridges in the world.[9]

Grand Gulch to Monument Valley[edit]

Begin Highway Directions Photo Comments
Natural Bridges National Monument. UT-275 Travel 4 miles east on UT 275 to UT-95 Owachomo laban.jpg
Junction of UT 275 to UT-95 UT-95 Travel 2 miles on UT-95 to Utah State Route 261
Junction of UT-95 and Utah State Route 261 Utah State Route 261 Heads south for 33 miles to U.S. Route 163 Muley Point.jpg The first half of this section of the byway courses along the top of Cedar Mesa, with turnoffs to Cedar Point and Muley Point, parts of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area overlooking the San Juan River. The route descends Cedar Mesa at Moki Dugway, a steep grade dropping 1000 feet in 3 miles, and enters the Valley of the Gods. A few miles through the valley is the turnoff for Goosenecks State Park; shortly after, UT-261 ends at U.S. Route 163.
Junction of Utah State Route 261 and U.S. Route 163 U.S. Route 163 Travel south 25 miles to the Utah / Arizona state border towards Monument Valley. Monumentvalleyviewfromnorth.jpg Passing through the town of Mexican Hat, so named for the unique rock formation north of the city, the byway crosses the San Juan River, reentering Navajo Nation. This stretch of the byway ends at Monument Valley, a Navajo Tribal Park known for its appearance in films, commercials, and other media.

Mexican Hat to Four Corners[edit]

Begin Highway Directions Photo Comments
Mexican Hat U.S. Route 163 Travel north on U.S. Route 163 for 21 miles. Mexicanhatrock.jpg
Where U.S. Route 163 becomes U.S. Route 191 U.S. Route 163 / U.S. Route 191 Travel five miles on U.S. Route 191
Bluff Utah State Route 162 / CO-41. Travel east 27 miles on Utah State Route 162 and at the Utah-Colorado border CO-41 to Bluff UT - aerial with San Juan River and Comb Ridge.jpg Bordering the San Juan River and passing through Montezuma Creek, UT and Aneth, UT, Utah State Route 162 becomes CO-41 at the Colorado border.
Junction of CO-41 and U.S. 160 U.S. 160 Travel southwest to the Four Corners about five miles to Four Corners. Four Corners NM.jpg

Neighboring Byways[edit]

San Juan Skyway[edit]

The 16-mile section of the Trail of the Ancients from Mesa Verde to the junction of CO-145 and CO-184 west of Dolores is part of the San Juan Skyway, a National Scenic Byway also designated as an All-American Road.

Kayenta-Monument Valley Scenic Road[edit]

The southwestern end of the byway marks the northern end of the Kayenta-Monument Valley Scenic Road, which follows U.S. 163 from Monument Valley south to Kayenta.

Monument Valley to Bluff Scenic Byway[edit]

U.S. 163 from Monument Valley to Bluff is also its own designated scenic byway.

Bicentennial Scenic Byway[edit]

The stretch of road from Blanding to Natural Bridges National Monument along Utah State Route 95 is also the Bicentennial Scenic Byway, which continues north on UT-95 to Hanksville, UT.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cortez Cultural Center." Retrieved on 2010-07-09.
  2. ^ "Mesa Verde National Park." National Park Service. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
  3. ^ "Anasazi Heritage Center."" Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  4. ^ "Old Spanish Trail Association." Retrieved 2010-07-09.
  5. ^ "Lowry Pueblo." Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
  6. ^ "Canyons of the Ancients: Background." Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 2010-07-09.
  7. ^ "Edge of the Cedars State Park." Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  8. ^ "Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway." Retrieved 2010-07-11.
  9. ^ "Natural Bridges National Monument." Retrieved 2010-07-11.

External links[edit]