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Destinations

Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument is in Southeastern Utah, along the Utah-Colorado border. It is a great place to get an up-close experience with some very well-preserved ancient ruins.

Several villages (or ruin "groups") are available for viewing along maintained trails. These ruins were the homes of Pueblo farming societies over 700 years ago.

The ruins were discovered by a Mormon expedition in 1854. Then in 1917 and 1918, The Smithsonian Institute made an archaeological survey of these ruins and it was decided the artifacts needed to be protected. On March 2, 1923, 784 acres were set aside and declared the Hovenweep National Monument.

The name Hovenweep is a Ute word meaning "deserted valley".

Getting There:
Access to the monument includes paved road, as well as some areas of graded dirt and gravel, and some clay. The dirt and clay roads are likely to be impassable during and after storms. Inquire at the Visitor's Center for current conditions. Air service is available in Cortez, Colorado.

  • From Cortez, CO: Travel southwest on U.S. Highway 160, 4 miles south and west on County Road G (airport roadway) 41 miles.
  • From Blanding or Bluff, UT: Turn east off of U.S. Highway 191 on Utah Route 262 to the Hatch Trading Post. Follow the Hovenweep signs, 16 additional miles.
  • Maps:

Accommodations:

  • There is a small campground inside the park boundaries which operates on a first-come first-served basis. A few of the spots will accomodate a small RV, and there are flush toilets and water nearby. Check the official website for current fees.
  • The nearest motels are in Cortez, CO (43 milesaway), and Bluff, UT (40 miles away).
  • There are places within about 15 miles to purchase gas and supplies.

When to Go:
Every season offers its own unique experience for the visitor to Hovenweep National Monument.

  • Winter is the least crowded time, and you might get to see the ruins with a dusting of snow.
  • In the springtime the temperatures will still be cool, and the wildflowers will be starting to peek their faces up from the winter-dormant soil.
  • Summer is the warmest and most popular time to visit.
  • Fall temps get colder again and the few deciduous trees give their annual color show.

More Facts:

  • Weather:
    The climate in this high desert environment is dry, with an average of 12 inches of precipitation per year. The winters are just a bit warmer than in Salt Lake (with highs from 30-50 and lows from 0-20), and summers are a bit cooler (with highs only going to the 80's).
  • Current Conditions
  • Park History

What to Do and See:

  • Hiking
    There are several groups of ruins that can be viewed from the trail. The trailhead for the main group, (The Square Tower Group), starts right at the Visitor's Center. Several others require a short drive, some of those drives require a high-clearance vehicle. Check out the descriptions of hikes in the Hiking Guide.
  • Learn about the Ancient People
    The park offers interpretive programs and guided walks (with a Ranger), to help you learn about the history of the place and the people who used to live there.

More Info:
Suggested Reading
Photo Gallery
Elsewhere on the Web
Official Website
Explanations of some of the structures

Backroads of Utah
by Theresa A. Husarik

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