Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Sitting just outside of Dolores, Colorado, about an hour from downtown Durango, lies the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. 

Canyon of the Ancients National Monument is an entryway into a world mostly untouched by modern man, consisting of nearly 200,000 acres. 

These acres feature the largest concentration of archaeological dig sites and Ancestral Puebloan ruins in the United States.

With more than 6,000 distinct buildings found out of over 20,000 identified dig sites, the Monument is home to priceless remnants of the past. 

Alongside those ruins of the Ancestral Puebloans are believed to be a variety of other cultural remnants from other Native American groups of the past. These remnants are not only buildings but communal gathering places, pictographs, and artifacts that give invaluable data on the people of the past.

Potential explorers seeking a new experience can visit the visitor center and museum or just explore the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument park. 

With trails available for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and even a variety of self-guided tours, there is plenty to do for the aspiring outdoorsman. 

As you venture out into the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, please respect the irreplaceable pieces of history and refrain from further damaging them so they will be around for years and more to come.

Things to Do at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Exploring the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum

A great starting point for new and returning visitors to the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument is the visitor center and museum. 

With tons of historical and informational data on the protected lands, the center is the perfect staging area for guided and unguided tours.

With its bathrooms and picnic areas the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum is also a great stopping point for someone needing a break.

Taking a Self-Guided Hiking Tour of the Archaeological Sites

Hiking at Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

With maps available online and at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum, many points of interest in the park can be toured without a guide. Self-guided tours are a common way to experience the park without the cost of a traditional tour.

Hiking isn’t your only option, either. If you desire, you can also ride horseback and bike. 

But all motorized vehicles should be kept on the proper roads to preserve the trails.

Taking a Guided Interactive Tour of the Archaeological Sites

Guided tours of Canyon of the Ancients are available through the official visitor center and several third-party groups. 

Interpretive events with tour guides are available through the visitor center every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 2 pm. Each day is different, giving visitors something new to see whenever they have the time.


Picnicking is an option anywhere in Canyon of the Ancients for those feeling hungry or planning a day out, as long as you don't mind sitting on a few rocks. There is an official picnic table at the visitor center, but very few other official spots exist to help preserve the lands. 

Please pack out any trash and food you brought in.

Maps and Site Resources


Travel Tips for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

  • Canyon of the Ancients is far from most stores and shops, so come prepared. Bring plenty of water, food, sunscreen, and any other supplies you might need.

  • Take the standard safety precautions for being out in the wilderness. Inform people of where you will be and when for your safety.

  • Motorized vehicles should stay on the roads and in designated parking areas.

  • Please be respectful of the monuments and ruins in the area. They are irreplaceable so refrain from purposefully damaging them.


Accessibility Information

  • The Visitor Center is accessible

  • For specific information on accessible trails, call the visitor center at 970-882-5600 to determine what trails will meet your needs.


Care for Durango

  • Practice Leave No Trace Principles

  • Camping and campfires are allowed in backcountry areas throughout the monument.

  • Campfires are prohibited in archaeological sites and within 300 feet of water sources and developed areas (trails, kiosks, parking areas, etc.)

  • Check for any fire bans or restrictions before starting a campfire

  • These ruins are considered sacred, please respect the archaeological sites. 

  • Do not destroy the sites, climb on them, or take anything from them.

Pledge to Care for Durango