BLM Camping

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for 1 in every 10 acres of land in the U.S.

The Bureau of Land Management is a federal agency that oversees areas of cultural and geological significance. Approximately one-eighth of the country's land mass is managed by this agency. Bureau of Land Management campgrounds are located near many of their sites to provide a convenient stay for campers. Search "BLM camping near me" to find locations close to you. 

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument contains well-preserved archaeological sites of Native American cultures. This BLM site covers 176,000 acres and is 12 miles from Mesa Verde National Park. The San Juan National Forest and the Ute Mountain Reservoir are also near the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

What to See and Do

What to See and Do

Hiking and BikingHiking and Biking

Sand Canyon Trail

Admire the canyons and ancestral Puebloan ruins as you hike the Sand Canyon Trail. There are side trails from the main path if you would like to explore more of the area.

Length: 12.4 miles

Intensity: Moderate

Lowry Pueblo Ruin Trail

This short trail takes you to a pueblo ruin. You can go inside of the pueblo to get a closer look, but remember to treat it with care and not alter anything.

Length: 0.2 miles

Intensity: Easy

Painted Hand Pueblo Trail

The Painted Hand Pueblo Trail takes you to a small village that was built around 1200 AD. There are about 20 rooms in this historic village.

Length: 0.7 miles

Intensity: Easy

East Rock Creek Trail Loop

This loop trail travels through a canyon and features archaeological sites. You'll also encounter juniper, pinon, and cactus plants.

Length: 6.7 miles

Intensity: Moderate

Fishing and BoatingFishing and Boating

San Juan National Forest is a popular place for fishing thanks to its many lakes, reservoirs, streams, and rivers. Species of fish that you could target here include kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, German brown trout, brook trout, and cutthroat trout. Vallecito Lake, McPhee Reservoir, Williams Creek Reservoir, and Lemon Reservoir are popular areas for boating, but motorized boats aren't allowed on Williams Creek Reservoir or Lemon Reservoir.


Ice climbing is possible at the Silverton Area, Pagosa Area, and the Purgatory Area in the San Juan National Forest. For sandstone desert climbs, you'll want to head to the west side of the San Juan National Forest near the Dolores River. East Animas, X Rock, Transfer Park Campground, and Golf Wall are other areas where you can go sport climbing in the national forest.

Wildlife ViewingWildlife Viewing

Wildlife in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument include golden eagles, Gambel's quails, peregrine falcons, southwestern willow flycatchers, twin-spotted spiny lizards, long-nosed leopard lizards, and mountain lions. In the San Juan National Forest, you might see mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mule deer, elks, rock and morning doves, blue grouse, sage grouse, turkeys, and black bears.


There are several picnic areas in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. They don't have drinking water, so you'll need to bring your own. Other areas where you could have a picnic during your stay in the region are McPhee Recreation Area Campground, Williams Creek Campground, and Graham Creek Campground in the San Juan National Forest.

Horseback RidingHorseback Riding

Horseback riding is allowed on some trails in the San Juan National Forest. You can only feed your horse certified weed-free hay or processed feed during your stay in the national forest. If you plan on taking your horse into a wilderness area, then you can only give them processed feed. A lot of trails in the San Juan National Forest allow horseback riding, including Animas River Trail, Gold Run Trail, Horse Creek Trail, and Quartz Creek Trail.


Bureau of Land Management Camping

RV Camping Caravan Icon

RV camping near Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is available at McPhee Recreation Area Campground, Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA Journey Campground, and Williams Creek Campground. McPhee Recreation Area Campground has full power hookups, water hookups, flush toilets, barbecues, and fire pits. However, reservations are required at this campground. Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA Journey Campground features 50-amp hookups, Wi-Fi, and a fenced dog park.

Free Camping Campground Icon

Bureau of Land Management free camping is available in the backcountry areas of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Camping isn't allowed in archaeological sites.

RV Rentals Near Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Plan your next adventure

Planning Your Trip

Credit: Vanna Mae, @vannamaeart

Planning your Canyons of the Ancients National Monument BLM trip

You can stop by the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum to check the current conditions of the monument and other important information. The visitor center and museum are usually open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Campfires and camping are prohibited within 300 feet of water sources and developed areas, which include trails, parking areas, and kiosks. There are sometimes additional fire restrictions in specific parts of Colorado, so you should check before you set up a campfire. Colorado has a dry climate, so you should keep campfires small. Never leave a campfire unattended either.

People love camping in this area because of its scenic beauty and abundance of ruins to explore. There are over 6,355 specific places that feature archaeological evidence of past civilizations. These sites include houses, shrines, cliff dwellings, kivas, and reservoirs. The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is at a high elevation between 4,900 feet and 7,500 feet. Because of how much there is to explore in this region, you can easily turn your stay into a two-week vacation. Before you head out on your trip, check out our blog for all you need to know about BLM camping.

Leave No Trace Leaf

Leaving no trace of your stay is important so that others can see the ruins and nature in their most original state. You're not allowed to alter the archaeological sites or land in any way. Even seemingly minor things like carving on trees or collecting rocks is against Leave No Trace rules. You shouldn't move rocks or other items either because some of these items have cultural significance. Be sure to properly dispose of all waste, including cigarettes, food scraps, food peels, and human waste.

Leave No Trace

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Location

Address: 7501 CO-184, Dolores, CO

To reach the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument from Pleasant View, CO, take US-491 S and turn left onto CO-184 E. After about 6.9 miles on CO-184 E, you'll see the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument on the left side.

Ready to visit Canyons of the Ancients National Monument? An RV rental is a great way to experience your destination. Not only will you be close to all the action, but at the end of a long day exploring, you’ll have your RV to return to for the night where you’ll enjoy a full kitchen, bathroom, and nice soft bed. Not sure about renting an RV? Here’s a step-by-step guide to renting an RV with RVshare.