Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Cortez, CO

Bureau of Land Management

Managed by the BLM as part of its “conservation lands“, Canyons of the Ancients offers boondockers free camping, though finding sites wide enough for medium to large sized RVs can be a challenge. There are, however, a number of larger sites along BLM Road 4725, just as its extends from County Road N. These sites are perched along the western rim of Rock Canyon and offer you spectacular views of rock walls with nearby access to hiking trails. Canyons of the Ancients doesn’t offer a great abundance of free camping sites, but it is one of the most sought after places for boondocking in Colorado.

Boondocking at Canyons of the Ancients

Canyons of the Ancients offers no developed or designated campgrounds. If you want to camp along one of its many canyons, you’re going to have to boondock. There isn’t a whole lot of boondocking available here, however. But where there are sites, they’re all found deep along its dirt roads.

BLM Road 4725 seems to offers the best boondocking in terms of easiest access and widest campsites. You will still have to navigate along several farm roads until you get into BLM grounds, and from there travel about another two miles of dirt road until you get the camping spots.

There are four sites along BLM Road 4725 that offer the best camping…

  • The first of these campsites (GPS 37.3971, -108.8215) is the best site, but is only suitable for small to medium sized RVs. We camped here for 9 days, and we could just “barely” back our 28 foot trailer into it, though I had to run over some bushes and take some scratches to the trailer. However, it’s the most gorgeous campsite along this road. You’re literally camped on the edge of a rock cliff. You get to enjoy campfires on the rock ledge, and gaze through the canyon.
  • The next site (GPS 37.3963, -108.8228) which is about 500 feet away, can only accommodate small RVs, but also offers spectacular cliff side views.
  • The next site after that (GPS: 37.3948, -108.8276) can fit a 40+ foot trailer and has a slot next to it for the tow vehicle. This space, however, is on the west side of the road and does not have cliff side access.
  • The next site after that (GPS: 37.3937, -108.8283), is only suitable for small RVs, but is on the cliff side.

Verizon 4G comes in at a weak to moderate signal. However, BLM Road 4725 is one of the few places in Canyons of the Ancients where you can actually get a signal. The cell tower original further south along McElmo Creek, and from there bounces off the walls off Rock Canyon until it reaches you.

You can literally camp right on the edge of the canyon. You should chock the wheels, just in case! But, there are few other places where you can enjoy such spectacular camping. Set up your table and chairs, along with your fire pit, and enjoy the sunset’s alpenglow across Ute Mountain.

Pros and Cons

Pros: Free camping, lots of peace and quiet, though some RVers can be seen scouting for a site, fair to decent Verizon 4G signal, spectacular views of Rock Canyon and Ute Mountain.

Cons: Some sites can be tricky to back into, lots of red dirt dust can make your vehicles dirty, not a lot of options for large RVs

Amenities

None. The town of Cortez is about 17 miles away, and offers all modern amenities.

Cellphone Signal Strength

Verizon 4G comes in fair to moderate. The closer to the canyon’s edge you can get, the better.

RV Dump Station

There is no dump station here, nor any potable water. The closest dump station is at the Maverik Station in Cortez along Main & Dolores Rd.

Pests

Some gnats seen flying about along with a few houseflies. Mountain lion tracks can be seen in the roadway. Plenty of deer about too. No problems encountered with mice or rats.

Noise

On the weekends, you will see more RVers and van dwellers looking for campsites. During the week it remains pretty peaceful.

Safe or Sketchy?

We camped here for a week and a half, and encountered no problems. Boondocking seems pretty safe here. You’re pretty deep into the National Monument that you’re protected from most traffic. We left our trailer unattended several times to go into town or go hiking.

Reservations

There’s no reservations, there’s not even first-come, first-serve. It’s all dispersed camping, you’re on your own.

Any Permits Needed?

Unlike other BLM National Monuments, Canyons of the Ancients doesn’t seem to require a camping permit.

How Crowded Is It?

On weekends, it can be more difficult to find a boondocking site. Canyons of the Ancients is a popular destination for campers and hikers. During the week, the place tends to empty out. Either way, we still consider this a secluded campsite due to its remoteness.

Authority

Bureau of Land Management
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Visitor Information:
Tel: (970) 882-5600

Location

GPS: 37.3971, -108.8215

 

Nearest Town: Cortez, CO

Details

Price: Free

Max Stay: 14 days

Amenities: None

Access: paved road along County Rd P, hard-packed sand/gravel along County Rd N, and BLM Road 4725.

Verizon Coverage: Fair to moderate along BLM Road 4725.

Crowded: Yes, on weekends. Light activity during the week

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