Monday, March 9, 2009

Sand Canyon East Rim Exploring

The Sand Canyon Trail is a 6.5 mile north and south route in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, about 12 miles west of Cortez in southwest Colorado. The main trail runs on the west side of Sand Canyon and visits small Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites.

From the middle part of the main trail there are several alcove sites visible with binoculars across on the east side of the canyon, but the trail doesn't go over there. I started my hike at the north trail head to try to view some of these sites. However, in 2011, this area east of Sand Canyon is considered closed.

The second mile from the north trail head is steep with many switchbacks and descends 680 feet to the canyon bottom. Visible to the east are two drill holes, disturbed areas, with a service road connecting them.
Just north, this side, of the drill hole site there are two small side canyons that are options for climbing out of the lower canyon and getting up to the drill hole level. I used the more northern of the two choices and was able to climb out without too much trouble.  Crossing over to the service road, I followed that around to the south side the first large side canyon to see if any ruins sites are visible.
The large side canyon has two canyon heads with a peninsula in between. Viewing from the rim, there are two small sites at the upper end of the side canyon. This view is the second site. The environment here is Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper forest.
There are five sites spaced out along this south facing canyon wall, all associated with alcoves. This view is of the third and fourth sites. From the main Sand Canyon Trail, there are more side canyons with ruins sites visible to the south of this one. These alcoves are in the Entrada Sandstone. The trail guide helps identify the numerous geologic layers visible here.

The fifth site looks like the best of this group. This one can be vaguely seen with binoculars from the main Sand Canyon Trail. I took about 3:00 hours to get to this view point, including my stops and 2:00 hours to return up the steep trail to the north trail head. My total hike was about 5:00 hours for about 7 miles.

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