Hovenweep National Monument


Long before the Utes named this area Hovenweep, or "Deserted Valley," a thriving Ancestral Puebloan culture built architecturally sophisticated pueblo villages here on the Cajon Mesa. Located in the Four Corners region of Utah and Colorado, Hovenweep National Monument preserves six clusters of ruins, some of which still stand over 20 feet tall even without their original mortar. Until about 900 AD, Anasazi peoples moved about nomadically, according to the seasons. But then they began to farm the mesa. At a higher elevation than the surrounding desert, the mesa catches a larger share of the scarce moisture. First these new farmers built pit houses, but later they began constructing multistory dwellings out of sandstone blocks and mortar. Most of the structures still visible today were built in the early 13th century, at the height of this civilization and just before these people moved away from Hovenweep. Current theory holds that a prolonged drought and depletion of resources, in combination with other factors, may have been the reason the Ancestral Puebloans moved away. Today visitors may hike contemplatively around the fragile yet impressive dwellings. Set in silent, rock-strewn sweeps of the sunbaked southwest, this 784-acre monument invites investigation into the daily lives of a hardy and resourceful group of people. What to see and do: Begin your visit to Hovenweep at the ranger station, where small exhibits offer an introduction to Ancestral Puebloan culture. Between 8 AM and 6 PM April through September and until 5 PM in the winter (except for major holidays), a ranger will answer questions, and guided tours are available. Your main destination will be the Square Tower Group, a large cluster whose various buildings line a Y-shaped canyon. As many as 200 people may have once lived here. Among the many dwellings, look for the Eroded Boulder House, a dwelling inside a large boulder. There are two self-guiding loops; you should plan on about two hours on the rough trail marked by cairns. Both a longer hike and a shorter, more level one are possible; check with the ranger for more information. If you visit Hovenweep during the summer, be sure to bring plenty of water. Temperatures easily top 95 degrees. Because the dwellings are fragile, as is the soil surrounding them, you're asked to stay on the marked trails. Don't pass up the other five areas of Hovenweep National Monument. If you'd like to visit the Holly Group, a four-mile round-trip hike will take you there or you may drive with easy directions from a ranger. Another short walk along a dirt road brings you to the Horseshoe and Hackberry Groups. At Hackberry, you'll notice lusher vegetation due to a large spring in the neighborhood. Both sites offer more examples of pueblo architecture. Bring along a camera, especially if you prolong your visit until sunset. The dying light of day brings these sandstone dwellings to life with subtle color shadings and shadows. It's possible to drive between the sites, but you should have a high-clearance vehicle for the rough terrain. At the ranger station, you can get a map and good advice from the ranger about how best to reach the other "outliers," as the sites beyond the Square Tower Group are called. A late May or early June trip will coincide with the annual biting gnat visitation, so bring plenty of insect repellent. Bring all your supplies, including gas and food, with you to Hovenweep because there are no stores nearby. You'll find picnic tables at the ranger station, which has a trash-free policy, meaning you should expect to pack out your refuse. A small campground is located at Hovenweep National Monument(25-foot RV limit). All sites are first-come, first-served. Fees: A nominal entrance fee is collected.


McElmo Rte
Cortez, CO 81321


37.38304500, -109.07149500
Visit Website
(970) 562-4282

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