Skip to Primary Content Skip to Footer Navigation

Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway

The Trail of the Ancients is a scenic route through southeastern Utah, southwestern Colorado, and northeastern Arizona: the Four Corners. The route accesses archaeological sites as well as significant cultural and historic sites in this remote region.

On this journey of discovery, you'll travel through the arid desert of northeast Arizona, the sandstone rimmed canyons and green valleys of southwest Colorado, and the snow-capped mountains and red rock country of southeast Utah.

Begin your adventure at any point along the trail. Road conditions vary from paved highways to native surface, some requiring stiff suspension or high clearance. Many sites are on or within a short distance of a paved road. During stormy weather, local inquiry should be made about road conditions.

Your adventure will take you through the archaeological heartland of America. The earliest inhabitants in the Four Corners were nomadic people who lived in the area from at least 10,000 BC. The Ancestral Puebloans occupied this canyon-cut country from about AD 1 to AD 1300 and left remnants of their civilization throughout the region.

But the ancient cultures are not the only intriguing cultural heritage here. Modern communities and Indian lands compliment the archaeological remains. The Ute people historically inhabited large portions of Colorado and Utah, living in dispersed communities between the mountains and canyons. Today there are vital Ute communities along the Trail at Towaoc in Colorado and White Mesa in Utah.

This vast area is also home to the Navajo whose name for themselves, Dine', means 'The People.' Until recently, most Dine' lived in small family communities scattered through the Navajo Reservation.

Spanish traders worked through southeast Utah in 1750 and named the La Sal Mountains. Spanish explorers entered the area in late 1776 with the Dominguez/Escalante Expedition. Vaqueros, or cowboys, brought their families to the Great Sage Plain between Cortez, Colorado and Monticello, Utah some time later. White pioneers entered the Utah portion of the trail in 1880, and many families still living here trace their roots to the people who built the Hole-in-the-Rock trail from western Utah.

This is a trail from the past to the future, from adventure to understanding. For an experience you'll never forget, join us along the Trail of the Ancients.

Contact San Juan County Economic Development & Visitor Services at 800-574-4386 for a complete Trail of the Ancients brochure.