"Ancestral Lands of Puebloan People" Hovenweep National Monument by KiKitC

"Hovenweep" is a Ute/Paiute word meaning "deserted valley." It was given this name by William Henry Jackson, a photographer who visited here in 1874...aptly describing the very site.

Hovenweep National Monument consists the ruins of six prehistoric "villages" spread out over 20 miles in the southwest corner of Colorado and the southeast of Utah.

The most accessible of these "villages" is the Little Ruin Canyon, which sits behind the Visitors Center, and allows visitors to walk a 1.5 - 2.00 mile path around a a collection of a dozen or so ruins. Here, visitors can imagine life in the little "metropolis" of dwellings.

The people that built these structures had inhabited this area for centuries, farming and hunting these mesas. Most of the remarklable ruins in the Little Ruin Canyon were built from AD 1230 to 1275, aout the same time as the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Like those at Mesa Verde...these dwellings were uninhabited as soon as the early 1300s.

Other ruins are spread out down dirt and unmaintained roads. That means you ned a 4WD with high clearance and knowledge of driving in these conditions. The trails to some of the ruins can be slippery, rocky and steep. Not far past the Painted Hand Pueblo, the trails turned to difficult, slickrock terrains with sections of heavy sand. Very fun, very beautiful.

Of course, you can always hike through the canyonlands. The area is harsh and dry. Watch your step, bring plenty of water, and watch for rattlesnakes.

We visited these hard to reach collections of ruins. You can start to imagine the massive population that was thrived in this area. Until, everyone just left.

Canyons of the Ancients

The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is in southwest Colorado, but the Hovenweep Monument comprises many structures that are scattered throughout this canyon. There are thousands of sites offering archeological clues to past civilizations...the monuments in Hovenweep are under the National Park Services' care, whereas the ruins and archeological sites designated to the Canyons of the Ancients is maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. See my Dolores, CO pages for our journey through the Canyons of the Ancients.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Many sites to explore
  • Cons:Most accessible only by 4WD (not a con for us normally)
  • In a nutshell:Hovenweep is a journey back through indigenous American history.
  • Last visit to Hovenweep National Monument: Aug 2007
  • Intro Updated Nov 16, 2009
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Reviews (11)

Comments (11)

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Mar 27, 2012 at 2:57 PM

    Nice page

  • KimberlyAnn's Profile Photo
    Dec 7, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    WOW! What an interesting place! We have been to Utah a number of times, but have never been to this area of the state. I really enjoyed reading your tips, as I love this sort of thing.

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Jan 31, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Christine, thanks for your interesting story... Great adventure!

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Nov 26, 2009 at 4:01 PM

    I wanted to get here-but after Moab and Natural Bridges area close by, no time left. Great place and the canyon is wonderful. Take a look at my trip to Utah/Arizona parks. An adventure-got stuck 3 times-2WD SUV

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Oct 26, 2009 at 4:54 AM

    Fascinating info on Hovenweep National Monument. Finding an explanation for abandoning this area will be difficult, but I tend to think as you say, probably drought. They sure were masterful builders though.

  • goodfish's Profile Photo
    Nov 18, 2008 at 12:59 PM

    Great tips about a place I still need to see - thanks, Christine! What's not to love (other than graffiti and broken glass) about Utah, eh?

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Nov 18, 2008 at 5:00 AM

    What an unique place with history, nature, and adventure all in one spot. So sad about the graffiti [an activity that makes me so angry].

  • nickandchris's Profile Photo
    Apr 21, 2008 at 7:14 AM

    An intrigueing place. Such a shame graffiti gets everywhere....

  • DSwede's Profile Photo
    Nov 16, 2007 at 2:02 AM

    Happy early birthday! I'm actually flying home for Thanksgiving and hoping to get some quality time in with my Jeep... but probably wont have time.

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo
    Sep 26, 2007 at 5:41 AM

    Excellent tips and photos of a place I would dearly love to see - even with the rattlesnakes.


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