The Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway traverses a portion of the American Southwest that, once experienced, cannot easily be forgotten. It is a trail from the past to the future, from adventure to understanding. Visitors will get to see geologic wonders, tough and complex plant and animal life, and a long occupation by native human communities. Extending from Paleolithic society to Ancestral Puebloans to nomadic Navajo, Apache and Ute tribes to the impact of European settlers, these native communities endure.
The only location in the United States where four states, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, meet in a single spot. Standing on the brass cap allows an individual to stand in four states at one time. In addition to the monument, visitors can experience local food and artistry of native Americans from the dozens of native American vendors located around the monument plaza.
Many consider Cortez the cultural center of Mesa Verde Country. Strong agricultural traditions and Native American heritage characterize this town, located in the valley that is shadowed by Mesa Verde. Ancient cliff dwellings, cowboys and farms mingle harmoniously below the surrounding mountains.
2. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Technically not on the scenic byway, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument covers a vast region that is surrounded by the scenic byway. The location identified on this map is the main entrance to Sand Canyon which offers plenty of trails to hike, mountain bike and horseback riding. In addition, many of the canyon walls contain cliff dwellings. The main trail through Sand Canyon is easily a half-day hike.
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is a research center located northwest of Cortez. Their mission is to provide the public an opportunity to learn about archaeology, participate in educational programs and partners with Native Americans in educating the public about past and present cultures.
Dolores is a must-stop for anyone who is nearby. A wonderful small town located in a canyon with the beautiful Dolores River cutting along one side and rock cliffs on the other. There are countless opportunities for biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, exploring ancient ruins, white water rafting and much more.
4. Anasazi Heritage Center
Just northwest of Dolores is the Anasazi Heritage Center. It is a museum that features permanent and special exhibits, archaeological site information, educational resources for teachers and a large research collection from various archaeological projects in southwest Colorado. It is also an ideal starting point for planning visits to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. They have maps, guidebooks, and current information about trail and road conditions within the National Monument.
Lowry Pueblo, named after early homesteader George Lowry, was constructed about AD 1060. It was excavated from 1930-1936 by Paul S. Martin of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1967 it is now a part of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. After re-excavation in 1974, the mural in one of the Great Kivas began to discolor and peel away due to exposure to light and air. None of it survives today, except for a salvaged fragment which is stored at the Anasazi Heritage Center.
Within this monument are six ancestral Puebloan villages spread over a 20-mile expanse of mesa tops and canyons along the Utah-Colorado border. The main complex and park facility is located in Utah. From this location, one can hike along a trail system on the mesa top to view numerous structure and ruins. A small campground (31 camp sites) is available at a first come first serve basis. Camp sites include tent pads, fire rings and picnic tables with shade structures, however there are no hookups available.
Blanding is the gateway to Utah's Canyon Country. Surrounded by more state and national parks than anywhere else in the United States, Blanding is the perfect base camp for your adventure.
7. The Dinosaur Museum
The Dinosaur Museum exhibits a complete history of the world of dinosaurs. Skeletons, fossilized skin, eggs, footprints, state-of-the-art graphics, and beautifully realistic sculptures present the dinosaurs from the Four Corners region.
Edge of the Cedars museum houses the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) pottery in the Four Corners Area. The museum was built at the site of an ancient village which included dwelling units and a kiva. The kiva and some other structures have been restored and can be viewed behind the museum. The museum offers programs for adults and children, including archeology and art exhibitions, storytelling, and craft workshops.
Declared a National Monument in 1908, three majestic natural bridges are named "Kachina," "Owachomo" and "Sipapu" in honor of the Native Americans that once made this area their home. View them from an overlook, or hit the trails and experience their grandeur from below.
From the mesa top view what took 300 million years of natural San Juan River erosion to create. You will see a 1,000-feet-deep glimpse into the Earth's geological past. Goosenecks State Park offers spectacular views of this amazing and rare geologic formation, known as an entrenched meander.
A 17 mile loop, this exceptionally scenic region is a miniature of Monument Valley. Features include towering monoliths, pinnacles, and other geological features that underscore its Valley of the Gods nickname.
Bluff is nestled between dramatic sandstone bluffs and the San Juan River on the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway in southeastern Utah. Bluff is an artist's community featuring quality lodging, shopping, and dining.
12. Bluff Fort
Located near the center of town is Bluff Fort (1880-1883). The original Bluff Fort has been rebuilt and lovingly restored through the efforts of the Hole in the Rock Foundation. It is open to visitors free of charge. One of the original cabins, the Barton Cabin, is present at the Bluff Fort. In addition, replicas of the original log cabins and the meetinghouse have been constructed to give the visitor a glimpse of pioneer life on the San Juan in the 1880's.