Ute Mountain Tribal Park – Towaoc, Colorado - Atlas Obscura

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Ute Mountain Tribal Park

Towaoc, Colorado

Ute tour guides have been sharing the ancient dwellings and rock art inside this large park with visitors for more than 40 years. 


Every tour at Ute Mountain Tribal Park is conducted by an Indigenous guide. Since 1972, these guides have been welcoming visitors to see the 125,000-acre park filled with Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, pottery shards, rock art, and more.

Located next to the Mancos River, the Ute Mountain Tribal Park is steeped in the history of the Ute and Ancestral Puebloan people. The park is operated by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, who are descendants of the Weeminuche band, one of seven original Ute bands that inhabited Colorado. Some 2,000 years ago, the Utes lived and ranged throughout much of the Colorado Plateau.

The park is located on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation. Its namesake mountain is located at the northern edge of the reservation, and is commonly known as “the Sleeping Ute.” According to Ute folklore, the mountain is the body of a great warrior god who fell into a deep sleep after fighting a difficult battle. Looking across the mountain range, you can see his head toward the north and arms folded across his chest. Different peaks are referred to as the legs, knees, and toes of the sleeping Ute.

Tours at the park cover not just geological history, but petroglyphs, artifacts, and stories of the land and the people. There are half-day and full day tours, with the full day being a more active and rugged tour that includes a three-mile hike on unpaved trails to see preserved cliff dwellings. 

Know Before You Go

Tours are offered April through October, and self-guided tours are not permitted; you must have a Ute guide to enter the tribal lands.  There is no food or water available in the park, and it is not ADA-accessible. Cliff dwelling tours are only available on the full-day tour. No professional photography allowed.

The visitor center is not currently open since Covid-19. 

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