Hovenweep National Monument

As we left Moab our plan was to explore a few more places in the four corners area (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet). This is one of our favorite areas in the Southwest. Hector suggested we visit Hovenweep National Monument, which frankly I had never heard of, but I am always up for seeing another of our nationally protected sites.

We camped at Cadillac Ranch RV Park, which had been recommended by friends. Check out my review of the RV park here.

We headed out to Hovenweep National Monument in the afternoon after checking in at the park. It was a long drive across a remote corner of Utah, so I was becoming kind of dubious about the whole thing. But it was a really pretty landscape along the way and we continued.

The Visitor Center was closed by the time we arrived and the ruins are only viewable along trails. But we discovered that a couple of the shorter trails were open from sunrise to sunset. And a happy surprise – dogs were allowed on the trails! Yay!

Since Hector still had what he thought was a sprained ankle (which we later found out was actually broken) we decided to take the shortest trail – one mile. That also was best for Angel with her arthritis. Plus it was less than two hours before sunset.

We set out on the path, not fully knowing what to expect since we weren’t able to check out the Visitor Center. Luckily, trail guides were available at the entry to the trails. To my surprise, there were a number of different ruins on this short path. The ruins are situated in a canyon and along its rim. It was a much more interesting place than I had initially thought.

This area was said to have been inhabited over 10,000 years ago by people who moved according to the seasons. Ancestral Puebloans started to settle in the area year-round about A.D. 900, and by the late 1200s about 2,500 people lived here.

They built many types of structures at between A.D. 1200 and 1300 that are known for their careful construction and attention to detail. These include D-shaped dwellings and many kivas, which are ceremonial structures. Some structures that were built on irregular boulders remain standing after more than 700 years.

The Ancestral Puebloans prepared the land for cultivation by creating terraces on hillsides, forming catch basins to hold storm run-off, and building check dams to retain topsoil.

The square and circular towers that they built are particularly striking, but although archaeologists have found that most towers were associated with kivas, their function remains a mystery.

Theories about the purpose of the towers are many: they may have been celestial observatories, defensive structures, storage facilities, civil buildings, homes or a combination of some or all of those. Still a mystery.

The sites were thought to be abandoned when the Ancestral Puebloans migrated south to the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and the Little Colorado River Basin in Arizona at the end of the 13th century. Although preceded by a prolonged drought, it is still not clear what different factors drove the migration. Another mystery.

As we took in the sights and read about the history, my husband the photographer was getting extremely excited about the fabulous ruins and the beautiful light. It always takes us much longer to cover ground than most other people, even when he doesn’t have any injuries. So it was slow going but very enjoyable.

We were enthralled by the towers and watched the sun set over some of the ruins that sat in the canyon. We only encountered a couple of people on the trail, and only one other this late in the day, another photographer that we spotted on the other side of the canyon. We stood still and enjoyed the beauty and quiet of the place.

Now we had two choices for returning to our car: turn around on the same path we walked out on, OR continue (adding ½ mile) and cross the canyon. Hector decided to go down the canyon. It was only an 80-foot descent, with mostly stone steps, but had some steep spots. So there we were, a guy with a broken ankle, an old dog with arthritis, and me – the only fully healthy one – descending into the canyon.

It was slow going and the light was dimming but we made it to the bottom. After a short walk came the climb back; up another 80 feet. Once back at the top, we just had a final, flat section of the trail back to the parking lot. No photos on this part since it was getting dark and we were focused on getting back.

We barely made it out to the parking area before total darkness. Not our wisest decision-making, but all turned out well. This National Monument is totally worth seeing, and we would definitely visit again to see more of the ruins.

~ Brenda





16 thoughts on “Hovenweep National Monument

  1. Great to see you on the road again!!!! I look forward to your posts and the progress on the new home. I have the house on the market and plan to move to the west coast of Florida, Bradenton/Sarasoto area and will keep you posted.

    Happy Trails and great having you both, actually three, back on the trail/internet again.
    Be well, and safe, my friends.
    Miami Bob

    • Oh, we are not on the road, still catching up on last year’s final stops. But at some point we will be on the road again. We were wondering about your progress in moving – best of luck on selling the house. And don’t forget you are welcome at our home anytime.

  2. I’ve often seen the signs for it but we’re usually on some sort of schedule thus have never stopped. Now I know we should. Thanks for sharing. Do you miss the diversity of living in the RV or happy to be settled?

    • Hi, Ingrid! Definitely go with more time, there is an option to drive to a more remote area if you have a high-clearance vehicle, and there is also a 12-mile trail. I do miss living in Island Girl and I am happy in our little paradise as well. Travel will always be a part of our life, and there will be a next chapter. Best to you and Al!

  3. What a neat trip! I hope Hector is healing up good as new. Especially love the photos of the horses and clouds. Thank you for sharing, my friends!

  4. I am so happy the saga continues, with or without Island Girl. Great site and you have made me want to visit the ruins. Thanks.

  5. Love to hear about your adventures even if they are delayed. I have a fair share of my own. We will be heading east again in May to South Carolina to welcome our second grandchild. We went on 10 last time and thinking about going on 20 this time. I always have my yellow marker to highlight my map to sights to see along the way.

  6. We just discovered Hovenweep last year. We had the main trail to ourselves for awhile which was amazing. There are several other areas with hikes to more ruins and petroglyphs. Also, there is a back road that takes you up to Canyon of the Ancients and some amazing pueblos just west of Cortez, CO. So there is lots more to see if you should get back to the area. Hector, your photos are spectacular and you captured the quiet, beauty of the place so well, especially with Brenda beautiful narrative. Thanks for taking us back!

  7. It was nice having two good ankles there sorry you had to miss the petroglyphs. But still Hovenweep is an amazing sight at any level, with great accessibility to the ruins. As always, Hector, your pictures are excellent!

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