Hikers and bikers at the Sand Canyon trailhead who park on McElmo Road will be fined $100, Montezuma County officials say.
“It’s a safety issue, and within our authority to prohibit parking on a county road,” said road department manager Rob Englehart.
No-parking signs will be installed soon warning visitors of the violation.
Parking at the popular trailhead has been a growing problem since the area was designated Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in 2000.
It escalated on Feb. 13, when 70 vehicles were recorded at the trailhead. Vehicles overflowed the slickrock parking area and were parked along the narrow Road G for a quarter-mile.
Sheriff Steve Nowlin supports the crackdown on parking there and plans additional patrols. BLM manager Connie Clementson says ticketing is necessary.
“It’s dangerous,” she said. “We will be educating the public on other local trails to visit when the parking lot is full.”
County commissioners urged the BLM to come up with a solution before the hiking season is in full force.
“Something needs to be done. The monument encourages people to visit Sand Canyon but does not provide enough parking to accommodate them,” said commissioner Keenan Ertel.
Monument officials have been working to solve the problem. They purchased the nearby Lamb House and plan to provide trailhead parking there. But determining how to safely protect “significant” archaeological sites at the property have held up the project.
As an alternative to Sand Canyon, BLM officials suggest visiting the nearby Mud Springs area. To get there, travel west on McElmo Road (County Road G) from U.S. 491. Turn left (south) on County Road 21 and drive for less than a mile to a parking lot and trailhead.
The area is multiple-use BLM land. There are designated routes for non-motorized and motorized users, and the area is popular with rock crawlers.
“It’s a beautiful place to hike in the winter,” Clementson said. “Hikers do not have to stay on designated trails, so there is a lot of opportunity to explore.”