Mesa Verde Country, based in Cortez, announced this week that it has assumed the administrative and operational responsibilities of the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.
The administration and implementation of the byway resided under the Mesa Verde Country umbrella for its first 18 years but in 2014 was reintroduced as a stand-alone organization.
“We have been anxious to bring Trail of the Ancients back into the Mesa Verde Country fold for a while now, but we simply didn’t have the bandwidth to do so,” said Mesa Verde Country’s executive director, Kelly Kirkpatrick, in a news release. “We recently added an additional staff member, which enables us to make this move.”
Trail of the Ancients is a 114-mile route that traverses across the terrain of the Ancestral Puebloan people. It is also designated as an America’s Byway by the federal government.
Along the route, visitors can see clues about the ancient Puebloan civilization with cliff dwellings, rock art and pottery shards. Attractions along the byway include Hovenweep National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park, which both contain dense clusters of cultural sites.
The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Visitors Center and Museum in Dolores offers background and interpretive information. The trail also connects with the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez Cultural Center, the historic McElmo Flume and the Galloping Goose rail car museum in Dolores.
“What’s so neat about Trails of the Ancients is that it gives visitors a complete Mesa Verde Country experience along a single roadway,” Kirkpatrick said.
She said the plan is to modernize the Trail of the Ancients website and optimize it for mobile devices to make it easier for visitors to plan their trek.
One branch of the byway leads to the Four Corners Area, connecting with Utah's Trail of the Ancients byway. That byway explores Bears Ears National Monument, Valley of the Gods and the Navajo Nation.
Colorado’s Trail of the Ancients was designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as a National Scenic Byway in 2005.
The route won the National Scenic Byway Foundation's 2020 Public-Private Partnership Award for the McElmo Creek Flume Restoration, which added a wayside stop to the route. Read more about this award and the project at coloradopreservation.org
The Ride of the Ancients gravel grinder bike tour is the signature fundraising event for Trail of the Ancients and will take place July 9 on the roads and trails north of Dolores.
Last year, the event attracted 127 entrants, and this year’s ride is well on its way to meeting the cap of 200 entries.
The route features a 103-mile “Century” along gravel roads through the San Juan National Forest with aid stations. Shorter routes are also available. New this year, there will be a “Family Affair” route to engage multigenerational participants.
On July 8 the event weekend will kick off with Navajo comedians “James and Ernie,” who will perform at the Turquoise Raven Art Gallery on July 8. Learn more and register at rideoftheancients.com
Mesa Verde Country also has podcasts that offer an introduction to Southwest Colorado and all its wonders. Download the Ancient Voices Podcast here at mesaverdecountry.com