Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep is located approximately 20 miles north of Aneth Utah and straddles Southeast Utah and Southwest Colorado. It is accessible from either Aneth Utah or from Pleasant Valley Colorado. The road is paved from Aneth while it is a combination of a dirt and gravel road coming from Colorado. Hovenweep is not a place that you just happen to be going by... You have to want to go there and drive the extra miles out of your way to get there. The weather was very pleasant and there were no crowds when I went there the last weekend of April, 1997.

Hovenweep (a Ute Indian word meaning "deserted valley") contains six groups of prehistoric Anasazi Indian Ruins circa A.D. 400-1300. These include the remains of coursed-stone masonry pueblos, small cliff dwellings, and large quantities of scattered ruins.

The first site I visited is referred to as the Square Tower Group and is the largest of the groups of ruins that make up the Hovenweep National Monument. The picture below has many ruins shown on both sides of a canyon. The Square Tower ruins occupy 400 acres, the surrounding lands belong to the Navajo Nation, Bureau of Land Management, State of Utah, or private landowners. I also visited several of the outlying sites including Holly, Hackberry, and the Cutthroat Castle Site which have many more pictures.

The trail around the Square Tower Group is approximately 1 mile and can be entered from either the Campground (closed when I went there) or from the Ranger Station. All of the ruins that make up the Hovenweep group are original and have not had any reconstruction. This is a real pleasure after having spent a lot of time at places like the Aztec Ruins which have had so much help that they don't look authentic any more.

Although you can get very close, the actual ruins are chained off and you are not allowed to touch the ruins. This is a small price to pay for the preservation of these sites.

The most impressive feature of the Hovenweep ruins are the amazing towers - square, oval, circular, and D-shaped. Many of the ruins resemble castles (the name of the ruin above is "Castle Ruin"). These sites were constructed by the Anasazi Indians about the same time that the castles were being built in Europe. Most of the structures were built around 1200 AD.

Several of the towers I saw were constructed in the bottom of the canyon. This is something that I don't understand. Perhaps somebody could explain why they went to such elaborate work.
Five of the six Hovenweep structure groups are within a 20 mile drive of each other along the Utah-Colorado border section of Cajon Mesa. The sixth group, Goodman point, is 14 miles northwest of Cortez and is one that I didn't visit.


Failing crops and drought compelled the inhabitants to vacate their homes sometime before A.D. 1300.

The outlying ruins at Hovenweep

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E-mail: ron@neartime.com