Hovenweep National Monument

Bluff, UT

On Tuesday we drove almost 50 miles east to visit Hovenweep National Monument.  The monument was established in 1923 to protect five prehistoric ancestral Pueblo canyon villages located along a 16 mile stretch of land near the Colorado – Utah state line.

We stopped in the small visitor center to talk to a ranger and gather information for our visit.  Armed with information we set out on our first adventure, a two mile loop hike around Little Ruin Canyon, also called the Square Tower Unit, on a trail that begins right behind the visitor center.

Looking across Little Ruin Canyon

Twin Towers on the left, Eroded Boulder House down in the canyon on the right

Eroded Boulder House

Hovenweep Castle (below) consists of two D-shaped towers perched on the rim of the canyon.  The stone walls, two and three courses thick, show detailed masonry techniques.  Growth rings on the wooden beam in one tower indicate that the log was cut in 1277, one of the latest dates on any structure in the region.

Hovenweep Castle

Square Tower is a two story structure situated in the canyon on a large sandstone boulder.

Square Tower

Together the Twin Towers had sixteen rooms.  The two buildings rise from the native bedrock, their walls almost touching.  One tower is oval, the other horseshoe shaped.

Twin Towers from the side

As we hiked the far side of the canyon the ranger we spoke with at the visitor center was coming toward us on the trail.  As we approached her she jumped, startled by something on the trail.  It turned out to be a midget-faded rattlesnake.

We stood quietly as the little guy slowly made his way among the rocks.

The rattle

We hiked the loop trail in a counter-clockwise direction.  The trail first went around the end of the canyon but to get back to the beginning of the loop we had to hike down into the canyon and back up the other side.

Going down into Little Ruin Canyon

Looking back up the canyon

Once back at the visitor center we got into the Jeep and drove four miles up the main (paved) road then turned south on a narrow dirt road.  After about two miles on this road (high clearance needed) we came to a parking area for another area of the monument, the Holly group.  The five named buildings at the site are Curved Wall House, Great House, Holly Tower, Isolated Boulder House and Tilted Tower.

Great House

Holly Tower built right on top of a boulder

The Curved House and the Great House (with original wood beams)

While in the visitor center a volunteer told us about Lowry Pueblo located in Canyons of the Ancient National Monument, an excavated 1,000 year old Ancient Puebloan village maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  So after exploring the Holly group we turned north and drove 20 miles through beautiful Colorado farm land.  Arriving at the pueblo we found the parking area empty so we had the place all to ourselves.

Some of the 40 rooms of the pueblo – a roof now covers Kiva B

A view from the other side

The display in the above photo shows the changing floor plan as the pueblo was enlarged over the years.

On the east side of the structure a small doorway allows visitors to  Kiva B (a chamber, built wholly or partly underground, used by male Puebloans for religious rites).  The Ancient Puebloans did not use this entrance, they entered through an opening in the ceiling and climbed down a ladder.

Kiva entrance

Hallway to the Kiva

The Kiva

Panorama view of the Kiva

Nearby is another kiva, the Lowry Great Kiva. With a 47 foot diameter it is one of the largest found in this area.

The floor of the Great Kiva

For the return ride to Bluff we drove in a large circle.  Leaving the Lowry Pueblo we drove about 8 miles east to Hwy. 491.

Observers near the pueblo

At Rte. 491 we turned south and drove through Cortez, CO.  As we drove through Cortez we passed a City Market (part of the Kroeger chain) and noticed a sign for a coffee shop chain based in Seattle.  We tried to drive by it but this Jeep has a mind of its own and we ended up in the parking lot.  What could we do?

South of Cortez we turned southwest on Rte. 160, then north on Rte. 162 back to Bluff.  The scenery from Cortez to Bluff is impressive.

Chimney Rock

After a long day we arrived back at Bluff tired but pleased with another great adventure!

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41 Responses to Hovenweep National Monument

  1. Laurel says:

    Looks like you had a wonderful day for visiting Hovenweep. We were there several years ago and loved hiking the trails to the ruins. The campground there is beautiful, too — but no hookups. Thanks for the great post and wonderful photos — that last image of Chimney Rock is especially gorgeous!

  2. Jeff says:

    Hovenweep – check. But Lowry Pueblo – never heard of it and what an awesome find! Great inspiring post, gotta go back there! Are you doing Mesa Verde?, Chaco? on this trip. Would sure like to see them thru your lens and words.

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Jeff! We had never heard of Canyon of the Ancients and the Lowry Pueblo either. We were so glad the park volunteer suggested we drive up. Actually, the Holly, Hackberry, and Cutthroat areas of Hovenweep NM are surrounded by Canyon of the Ancients!

      We did Mesa Verde many years ago briefly on a motorcycle trip. Chaco is most definitely on the list for one day!

  3. Gay says:

    I’ll say it was a great adventure! The ruins are quite impressive! Great pictures and information…

  4. geogypsy2u says:

    Hovenweep is a great monument. I’d choose Eroded Boulder House to live in. Cool to See the snake. I wish we’d had the time to take in Canyon of the Ancients, next time.

    • placestheygo says:

      It was driving me crazy, Gaelyn, that I couldn’t get into the Eroded Boulder house! The movie said there were a few pictographs inside. The double walls also fascinated me. A very cool structure:)

  5. Great post about Hovenweep. We really enjoyed our visit there several years ago. We did the loop trail but missed the Holly Group. We also thankfully missed seeing a rattlesnake!

    • placestheygo says:

      There were also three other areas that could be toured in Hovenweep NM, as well, but we wanted to have time to see the Lowry Pueblo. We were just happy it was the ranger that heard the snake first:)

  6. explorvistas says:

    I never knew of Hovenweep before this. Thanks for introducing us to it!

  7. Looks like there is a Do Not Enter sign in front of the Great Kiva, too bad that would have been nice to sit down on the stones and imagine days gone by!

    • placestheygo says:

      You are right, Pam! We couldn’t enter the Kiva. This is the reason I prefer unprotected ruins in the wild. We can walk among the ruins and feel those that came before:)

  8. Awesome day! We’ve not made it to Hovenweep yet but here is a post from the wonderful day we had at Canyons of the Ancients just outside of Cortez: http://metamorphosisroad.blogspot.com/2013/05/sand-canyon-hiking-through-land-of.html

    I want to spend more time in that area…I bet there are ancient ruins in every little canyon!

    • placestheygo says:

      The last part of our visit that day was to the Lowry Pueblo was in Canyon of the Ancients. The last two sections of Hovenweep are surrounded by Canyon of the Ancients. You would enjoy Hovenweep:) Yes, there actually are ruins in every canyon. There are several books written by people who actually explored most of southern Utah.

  9. montanaclarks says:

    Have never driven out to Hovenweep–but sure looks as if we need too–great post!

    • placestheygo says:

      Janna, it was so well worth the visit. The park brochure makes the site appear as if there isn’t much there. When I looked online, I realized how much there was to see.

  10. We’ve been to Canyon of the Ancients but haven’t made it to Hovenweep. Something for next time!
    If you haven’t done it, check out the trail to the False Kiva in Canyonlands while you are in Moab.

  11. Everytime I read your blog I have to get out my map and yellow marker to make sure to visit the places you’ve explored. Lol I’ve never heard of Canyon of the Ancients before. Thanks

  12. Debbie L says:

    Gotta love those Rangers! We do stop in every chance we have to get the scoop on where to go and what to see. This was a treasure to find. We need to get a map and do the same as Pam aka Desert Rat said!
    A few pics didn’t download for me, so wondering if i’m the only one: Eroded Boulder House, Square Tower and Twin Towers from the side. Sort of wish the snake picture didn’t….LOL We do keep our eyes peeled for snakes and my hubby is always so fascinated to see any wildlife. But not rattlers…

  13. girlonahike says:

    Looks interesting! I’ve always heard/seen this place but have never gone. I’m assuming dogs can’t go, and prob why I have never gone. Maybe if I am in the area again, I’ll check it out. Thanks for sharing! -Alicia @ http://www.girlonahike.com

  14. We loved our visit to Hovenweep, Painted Hand Pueblo is also well worth a look and it you get chance a trip to Ute Mountain Tribal Park, you have to take a tour or travel with a Ute guide, but it is well worth it.

  15. pmbweaver says:

    We have never visited Hovenweep. Thanks for all the super photos. Trying to image what that Great House would have looked like.
    Cool photo of Chimney Rock! Glad you could enjoy Seattle’s finest on the drive back.

  16. Kim Nowell says:

    What an awesome adventure. Enjoyed the photos. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Sherry says:

    Really wonderful pictures today. I just love the ancient dwellings. Such amazing stonework. Lowery is one I’ve never even heard of. How lucky to have it all to yourself. You guys sure do draw an interesting and interested crowd. That great shot of Chimney Rock is a super end to what looks like a perfect day.

  18. These are all new to me and sure hope we can spend a day there and get amazed at those ruins. They seem to know already how to diversify their structures then, very informative post.
    Oh no, that rattler would leave me shaken all the day long!
    The sun shone on that Chimney rock at the right time making it a perfect shot, and it does remind me of the same in Nebraska.

  19. Jodee Gravel says:

    I’m really impressed by how many different shapes they built. There had to be purpose for all that work. Lowry looks like an amazing place, and to have it all to yourselves is wonderful! I can only imagine standing in Kiva B – beautiful! That larger kiva is really something too – it looks like they were able to preserve much of the inner structure as well. Love the gorgeous snake!! What a nice surprise that the Jeep found that coffee place 🙂

  20. Debbie trekkingwiththebs.blogspot.com says:

    The lesser known places are so nice without all of the people. It is actually well preserved.

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