Located on the border of Utah and Colorado, when visiting Hovenweep National Monument you’ll see six prehistoric villages that have been preserved by the National Park Service.
Hovenweep is an incredible place to visit in Utah for anyone looking to explore the ancient ruins of Ancestral Puebloan people to can get a glimpse into what life was like in this area hundreds of years ago.
The structures at Hovenweep are made from sandstone and mortar, and you can still see many kivas, towers, pit houses, petroglyphs, oracle circles and more.
It’s an amazing experience to walk among these ancient ruins while imagining how people once lived here generations before us.
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Visiting Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument is a United States National Monument located on the border between southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado.
Here’s some basic information about the park:
Entrance Fees: A $20 per vehicle entrance fee or $10 per individual with no vehicle is valid for seven days. Alternatively, you can use your America the Beautiful Pass to enter.
Operating Hours: The park is open year-round, but hours vary depending on the season. The park is open from sunrise to sunset. Check the park’s official website for the latest information.
Visitor Center: The visitor center is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, but hours may vary by season. The center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
You’ll find limited snacks like granola bars and jerky for sale at the Visitor Center; as well as a few items like sunscreen and bug spray.
Disposable water bottles are not sold at the park. There are faucets available year-round to refill reusable water bottles.
Tours and Programs: The park offers ranger-led tours and programs throughout the year. Check out the park’s website or visit the visitor center for more information.
Weather: The weather at Hovenweep can vary greatly depending on the season. Summers can be hot, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Winters can be cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing at night. Snow or ice can make trails and roads impassable.
Goods and Services: Food, gas, and lodging are not found at Hovenweep. Cell phone coverage is sporadic in the park (Verizon wireless offers the most reliable service).
Pets: Your pets are allowed on trails and in the campground, but not in the Visitor Center. Pets must be on a leash at all times on trails and in the campground, 6 feet long maximum.
Pick up after your pet – there are pet waste stations with disposal bags at the Visitor Center and campground.
In the summer, check the slickrock with your palm – if it’s too hot for your hand then it may scorch your pet’s paws!
Is Hovenweep Worth Visiting?
If you are interested in history, culture, or natural beauty of the American Southwest, this Utah National Monument is worth a visit!
Hovenweep is home to six different Puebloan ruins, each with its unique architecture and history, providing visitors with a glimpse into the lives and traditions of the ancient people who once lived there.
The surrounding desert landscape is also breathtaking, with stunning views of red rock canyons, mesas, and the night sky.
How Long Does it Take to Visit Hovenweep?
You can spend as much time as you like at Hovenweep National Monument, depending on your interests. However, most visitors can see the park’s main attractions in a half-day to a full day.
Visiting the ruins and exploring the park will take you at least four to six hours. With enough time, you can visit each ruin, take a guided tour, hike some of the trails, and watch some ranger-led programs.
How to Get To Hovenweep
DO NOT use GPS to find your way to Hovenweep!! You’ll find many intersecting roads in this remote area of Utah. It’s best to follow the driving directions to Hovenweep found on the NPS website.
Here are some ways to get to Hovenweep National Monument:
By Car: The most convenient way to get to Hovenweep is by car. The monument is about 42 miles (1 hour) south of Cortez, Colorado, about 44 miles (1 hour) north of Bluff, Utah, and about 42 miles (1 hours) south of Blanding, Utah.
There are no gas stations or stores within the monument, so fill up your gas tank and bring any necessary supplies before entering the park.
By Bus: There are no public transportation options to Hovenweep National Monument. However, some tour companies offer guided tours to the monument from nearby towns like Durango or Cortez.
Hovenweep National Park Units
There are six units of the park spread over 20 miles along the Utah-Colorado border. Each unit is not connected to the other. The area is a mix of Bureau of Land Management land, Navajo Nation land, and private land.
The main part of the park is called Square Tower Group. The roads to this unit are paved from surrounding towns. Most visitors spend their entire time here.
To reach the other outlying units, you’ll need to drive along dirt roads. Rangers recommend high-clearance vehicles for accessing the other areas of the park. Talk to the ranger at the Square Tower Group Visitor Center for tips and directions to access the other five units.
There are no restrooms or water available at the outlying units.
The Home Base at Hovenweep is called the Square Tower Group. You’ll find the Visitor Center, a campground, and trail to explore Little Ruin Canyon.
This unit of the park contains the largest collection of ancestral Puebloan structures found at Hovenweep. It’s amazing to see the kivas, rooms, towers, and complexes along the canyon rim built on boulders and tucked under ledges!
Here’s a list of the structures you’ll see as you explore the hiking trail:
- Eroded Boulder House
- Hovenweep Castle
- Hovenweep House
- Rimrock House
- Square Tower
- Stronghold House
- Tower Point
- Twin Towers
- Unit Type House
You can drive to this site along an unimproved BLM access road – high clearance vehicles are strongly recommended. From the dirt parking area it’s about 0.44 miles RT to see the ruins at Holly.
This unit can also be reached by hiking 7 miles RT along the trail from the campground at Square Tower Group.
About 4 miles north of the Visitor Center you’ll find the Horseshoe & Hackberry unit. High clearance vehicles are strongly recommended!
You’ll need to hike to reach both ruins: 0.64 miles RT to Horseshoe and 1.44 miles RT to also include Hackberry.
Hackberry is mostly ruble now, but it’s believed to have been the largest community in the park during occupation.
Found in the northernmost park of the monument, Cutthroat Castle is the most difficult unit to access. The first mile of the road is gravel. You can park in the gravel parking area and walk to the upper trailhead. If you have a high clearance 4WD vehicle, you can drive to the lower trailhead.
From the upper trailhead the hike is 1.32 RT, and from the lower trailhead the hike is 0.14 miles RT to the site.
The Cajon unit is found about 9 miles south of the Visitor Center. Most of the drive is along a paved road with 2.9 miles on a maintained dirt road, and the last .25 mile is an unmaintained two-track – high clearance vehicles are recommended!
There is an unpaved trail around the area about 0.2 miles RT to see dramatic views and well-preserved structures.
Things To Do at Hovenweep National Monument
There are a variety of activities to enjoy at Hovenweep National Monument:
Hiking: The Hovenweep hiking trails at all six units in the park offer stunning views of the surrounding canyons and desert landscape. The 2.5-mile Little Ruin Canyon Trail is a popular option, as it takes visitors past several ruins and through a scenic canyon.
Night Sky Viewing: Hovenweep National Monument is a designated Dark Sky Park, meaning that the night skies are free from light pollution, making it an ideal location for stargazing.
Ranger Programs: The park offers a variety of ranger-led programs, including guided hikes and night sky programs, and talks about the history and culture of the Puebloan people who once lived in the area.
Photography: Hovenweep National Monument offers stunning photography opportunities, with ancient ruins set against a backdrop of red rock canyons and desert landscapes.
Camping at Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep campground: located near the visitor center you’ll find 31 campsites open year-round and available on a first-come, first-served basis. The sites are designed primarily for tent camping, but a few can accommodate up to 36 feet long RVs.
Groups are limited to eight people and two vehicles per site. Each campsite has tent pads, fire rings, and picnic tables with shade structures. Please note that there are no hookups available at this campground.
Holly Campground: a primitive camping area that offers three campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. These campsites are designed for visitors who seek a more rugged and remote camping experience.
Please note that the Holly Campground has no amenities or facilities, so visitors must be self-sufficient and bring their water, food, and supplies.
This campground is accessible only by hiking or biking. Visitors must hike or bike approximately two miles from the nearest parking area to reach the campground. The trail to the campground is moderately difficult, so visitors should be prepared for a challenging hike or bike ride.
Things To Do Near Hovenweep National Monument
Utah Bucket List
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