Hovenweep National Monument & Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Saturday – Monday, October 21-23, 2023
It feels like it’s been quite a while since the last time I visited and spent some quality time in Hovenweep National Monument and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and I’ve been really meaning to get back down to that area for the past couple of years, but it just hadn’t seemed to happen yet as I keep putting it off for other trips. However, this year I made it a priority to get back with Diane so we could celebrate Hovenweep’s Centennial year since it was proclaimed a unit of the National Park System on March 2, 1923 by President Warren G. Harding. I also figured that this would be a great opportunity for Diane to visit the units of the park she had not been to before and I would be able to hike the few remaining trails in Hovenweep that I had not been on before and could finally cross this park off my ‘completed trails’ list. So early on Saturday morning Diane and I loaded up the Jeep and headed south along the Colorado – Utah state line to spend an extended three-day weekend exploring Hovenweep and other canyons of the Great Sage Plain!
The Towers of Hovenweep: Centennial Edition
100 years of park, thousands more of culture
After a quick stop for gas in Blanding, we arrived at the Hovenweep Campground later in the morning to grab a campsite. We got our tent set up and then spent part of the rest of the weekend visiting some of the ancient ruins preserved within the boundaries of Hovenweep National Monument. Here are some photos from our centennial celebration of Hovenweep!
The first Hovenweep Unit that we visited was Cutthroat Castle. Diane had never been here before and I haven’t been here in over a decade, so I am glad they finally got the road situation resolved.
After wandering around the ruins at Cutthroat Castle, I hiked back up to the Upper Trailhead and Diane met me there with the Jeep since it was a short trail I had not hiked before.
On Saturday evening we hiked out to the Horseshoe and Hackberry Units.
The end of the trail just beyond the ruins of Hackberry, which is the largest Puebloan village in the monument.
We arrived back to the main unit of Hovenweep just in time to catch some nice soft light on the sign.
On Sunday morning we woke up early so we could hike the Holly Trail starting at sunrise, which is the longest trail in the monument, and the only trail left that I had never hiked before.
Sunrise on our tent in the Hovenweep Campground. The last time I stayed here there was no fee, but I guess those days are long gone…
Hiking down the Holly Trail towards Little Ruin Canyon.
Diane squeezes through the narrow slot to reach the bottom of the canyon.
I liked the way the early morning light was catching this rock above the trail
Following the Holly Trail up Keeley Canyon.
As we neared the Holly Unit we had one more short slot to climb up through.
Here’s Diane climbing out of the slot.
Once we were back on top of the mesa it wasn’t long until we reached Holly House.
Following the Holly Trail back into Keeley Canyon.
This colorful little alcove in a boulder caught my eye.
Around the other side of the boulder I found the remains of a wall.
Hiking back up through the slot as we neared the campground at the end of our hike.
On Sunday evening we found ourselves walking around the head of Little Ruin Canyon at sunset, and we had the entire place to ourselves.
Although the sky was completely clear and very hazy for almost our entire trip, there were a couple of clouds out this evening as we walked along the Ruins Trail.
The Square Tower
Tower Point & Sleeping Ute Mountain
Before heading home on Monday morning we returned to Little Ruin Canyon to watch the sunrise.
Eroded Boulder House
Canyons of the Great Sage Plain
Dimmock noted that the route beyond the Dolores River passes “over a gently broken sage plain, spreading far to the right interspersed with stunted pinons.” Tired by the “monotonous Cretaceous geology” along the route, Newberry named the plateau the “Great Sage Plain,” a name that prevails on modern maps.
– Steven K. Madsen (Exploring Desert Stone)
When we weren’t within the boundaries of Hovenweep National Monument this weekend, we spent the remainder of our time hiking and exploring the backcountry of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument to see what we could find…
We started out on Saturday afternoon with a visit to the Painted Hand Pueblo.
Look closely to the right of this wall of the Painted Hand Pueblo and you might be able to spot some faint petroglyphs.
This ‘Striped Tower’ was very cool and definitely a highlight of the weekend for us.
Here’s a closer look at the stripe around the tower.
Striped Tower Interior
The remains of this large tower were right near the Striped Tower.
At the edge of a different mesa we found the remains of a pretty large village.
Mesa Top Pueblo
Although I have driven right past these petroglyphs in McElmo Canyon many times over the years, I have never actually stopped to take a closer look.
Upon closer inspection there were other petroglyphs in the shelter that were hard to see.
Boulder Top Ruin
We both thought this was a pretty cool cliff dwelling.
Wall On A Rock
Ruins & Sunstar
Boulder Top Sunstar
Tall Tower Sunstar
Tall Tower Wall