The Bureau of Land Management has approved a plan to improve parking and access to the South Sand Canyon Trail system in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
But a timeline on construction is not yet known because additional funding is needed for the project, officials said.
The current parking lot capacity will be expanded from about 20 spaces to room for 40 passenger vehicles and two oversize vehicles. The improved gravel lot will be 50 feet wide and 350 feet long and be lined by boulders. Parking curb stops will identify vehicle parking spaces. The lot will have a designated entrance at the east end and a designated exit on the west end. Improvements will also include a new information kiosk and interpretive signs.
“We’re thrilled to be through the planning process and have a signed decision. We have a shelf-ready project, so now we can go after funding,” said Monument Manager Marietta Eaton. “We want to provide safer, more reliable parking so visitors may continue to access, enjoy and explore this special place.”
The South Sand Canyon trailhead is a popular access point into the monument, with more than 30,000 visitors per year using the area for recreation. Inadequate parking has been an ongoing issue and has created a traffic hazard on County Road G when overflow vehicles park along the limited shoulder.
A design proposal for a Montezuma County-owned and maintained parking area east of the current Sand Canyon parking area might also be constructed by the county. It would be just west of the intersection with County Road J on county-owned property and provide parking for 17 passenger vehicles and six oversize vehicles.
If the county lot is built, the BLM and monument will construct a trailhead and half-mile connector trail from the lot across slickrock to the main Sand Canyon trail.
If both parking lots are constructed, there will be enough parking for 57 passenger vehicles and eight oversize vehicles.
Eaton said the next step is the design process and seeking additional funding. A cost has not been determined, and a timeline for construction is not yet known, she said.
If the county chooses to construct its parking lot first, then the BLM’s first priority would be to install the new trailhead and connector trail, said BLM Tres Rios Field Manager Connie Clementson.
County federal lands manager James Dietrich said the county does not have immediate plans to install its parking lot and is in the process of reviewing the next step. He said to ensure the county lot goes ahead smoothly, clearances should be sought from the State Historical Preservation Office.
BLM and monument officials praised the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners for its efforts to add parking spaces for the popular trailhead.
“They deserve credit for finding a solution to the problem, and it has been a collaborative process working with them to solve the issue of limited parking at the Sand Canyon trailhead,” Eaton said.
To review the planning and decision documents for the Sand Canyon parking plan, visit https://go.usa.gov/xQKjr.