Many locals and visitors have experienced a madding crowd at the Sand Canyon trailhead parking lot during peak use.
Now, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument has a preliminary plan to add a parking lot nearby.
The Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office is seeking public comment on a proposed parking area and connector trail east of the main trailhead off County Road G in McElmo Canyon.
The new lot would accommodate up to nine passenger vehicles and three vehicles with horse trailers. A half-mile spur trail would connect to the existing Sand Canyon Trail.
“The proposed parking area along with the existing one would allow about 30 vehicles to safely park,” BLM public information officer Shannon Borders said in a news release.
Sand Canyon is the most popular trail in the monument, with over 18,000 visitors each year. While the capacity of the uneven slickrock parking lot at the trailhead is about 20 vehicles, during peak use on the weekends, there can be 40 vehicles and horse trailers jammed into the lot with more spilling onto the roadside. Cars and horse trailers sometimes get blocked in.
To discourage overflow parking along the narrow County Road G, Montezuma County passed an ordinance in 2015 that banned parking along the road and imposed a $100 fine for parking violations.
The monument originally hoped to create a parking lot at the Lamb House, which the BLM purchased in 2014 and is closer to the main Sand Canyon Trail. But sensitive archaeological resources in the area forced officials to find a new location farther down the road.
“The county is very supportive of more parking at that trailhead to handle overflow and to prevent cars from parking along the narrow roadway, creating a hazard,” said James Dietrich, Montezuma County federal lands planner.
He said the county preferred that the proposed overflow parking be made larger to accommodate future demand and additional horse trailers.
After a 30-day comment period, the BLM will review comments and develop alternatives that the public can comment on as well. When the parking lot can be installed is not yet known. Whether it will be paved also has not been determined.
To review the project information or to submit comments electronically go to bit.ly/SandCanLot Comments on the project should be submitted by Oct. 10 to the BLM Tres Rios Field Office, Attn: Keith Fox, 29211 Hwy. 184, Dolores, CO 81323. They also may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.