Trail of the Ancients – CO


  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2005)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesArcheological
  • LocationCO, NM, UT
  • Length116 of 480 total miles
Byway Visitor Information
Trail of the Ancients
Statewide Byway Partners
Downloadable Colorado Byways Guide
Colorado Tourism
Around 1200 AD
National Park Service, Hovenweep National Monument Photo


The Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway provides a unique, well-preserved view of the history, memories, and traditions of the native peoples who lived in the American Southwest as hunters and gatherers thousands of years ago. The region and the scenic byway protect sacred archaeological remains and cultural and historic sites and allow visitors to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the landscapes while experiencing ancient native cultures.

Local Byway Partners
  • Care for Colorado Coalition
  • Colorado Byways Map Download

Story of the Byway

The Trail of the Ancients passes through the unique geology of the Colorado Plateau high desert, offering a rich but fragile mix of natural resources. The stunning rock formation, Shiprock, is a central scenic point that is visible from most places on the Trail of the Ancients. The visible cultural heritage of the Four Corners area boasts numerous archaeological sites, modern communities, and Indian lands. Chaco Culture National Historic Park, a world heritage site, is the centerpiece of the New Mexico segment of the byway. Scenic turnouts along the Trail of the Ancients reveal vast valleys, towering mountains, badlands, clear blue lakes, raging rivers, and gentle streams.

Driving Directions

You can start at any point along the route. From Hovenweep National Monument, head north on CR268A toward CR212, then take Co Rd 10 to Rd BB in Pleasant View. From there, take US-491S to US-491S/N Broadway, then US-160W to NM-597 until you arrive at the Four Corners National Monument.

Points of Interest

  • Hovenweep National Monument

    Located on the Utah/Colorado border, Hovenweep is known for its oddly shaped towers.

  • Mesa Verde National Park

    Mesa Verde National Park, located in southwest Colorado, is known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, notably the huge Cliff Palace.

  • Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

    Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is a national monument protecting an archaeologically-significant landscape located in the southwestern region of Colorado.

  • Yucca House National Monument

    Yucca House is a large, unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site in Montezuma County, Colorado.

  • Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park

    Located in the Four Corners region, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Park is a perfect place to spend time with a Native American Ute guides who will interpret area history, pictographs, geological land formations and petroglyphs.


  • Two National Monuments

    Starting from Cortez, head northwest along the byway to Hovenweep National Monument. Spend an hour hiking to Hovenweep Castle, or take a high-clearance, four-wheel drive to explore the land. Head west a few miles to land at the Canyons of the Ancients Monument. Hike through grand cliff dwellings to get a feel for where the Ancestral Puebloans lived. Stop by the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum for exhibits and interactive demonstrations. Stay overnight in a nearby ranch or continue along the byway.

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