Hike the Ruins of Hovenweep National Monument
Utah › Hovenweep National Monument Parking
Added by Brittany Weber
This is an amazing and simple hike that connects you to the people of the past. It's one of very few dog-friendly national parks and if you're looking for solitude, beauty, and dark desert skies, Hovenweep is the place for you!
Hovenweep National Monument consists of 5 separate units which were once Ancestral Puebloan communities. The main trail, Little Ruin Canyon, starts from the Visitor Center and is the only unit that has paved access. Don't let the dirt-clay roads keep you from the other units though, they are not to be missed and are all simple hikes as well! There is no fee to access the monument, but I highly recommend stopping in the visitor center for a park map & trail guide, to fill up your water bottles, and directions to the other units. Depending on the weather the others may not be accessible to drive into, so it's important to check with a ranger before you go tear up the roads in search of ruins! An added bonus is that the trails are all dog-friendly as long your dogs stay on their leash, so it's perfect for your furry friends too!
Each unit is highly unique, but the main unit is the Square Tower Group and consists of 12 structures that are 750-800 years old. The Square Tower Group is accessible directly from the visitor center and also from the park campground. This unit sits right at 5200 feet above sea level and the biggest elevation change on the 2 mile loop trail is roughly 80 feet. To see all 12 structures you don't have to do the entire loop, but since the trail is mainly flat (slick rock) and only dips down and up one side 80 feet I highly recommend doing the whole thing so you can get up close to each structure. What makes the structures at Hovenweep unique is that these are not your traditional cliff dwellings because they are built along the rim of the canyon, rather than in alcoves or under a canyon rim.
I recommend camping at Hovenweep if you've got the time because Hovenweep is a gold-tier International Dark Sky Park. I promise the dark skies here do not disappoint! In the summer season there are often dark sky programs led by rangers who will pull out telescopes and give constellation tours as well as ranger-led hikes into Little Ruin Canyon to a petroglyph panel that usually occur early in the morning to catch the best light.
Camping at Hove is easy as it's all self-serve and there is water and ACTUAL bathrooms in the CG. It's not often you have running water in the desert and after a long week of burying waste, packing it out, or even using vault toilets this place is a much needed reprieve. Hovenweep is still one of those places that has been kept a secret so you often are only sharing the 30-site CG with a few other campers.
As mentioned previously, there is access to Little Ruin Canyon/Square Tower Group from the campground, but there is also a 4-mile one-way trail that leads to the Holly unit. There is a shorter trail to access this unit if you don't feel up to doing the entire 8 miles round-trip (which is worth it!), but you would need to check with a ranger depending on the weather because the dirt-clay roads may be impassable due to rain.
Hovenweep is full of beauty, solitude, and simplicity that really can't be beat and if you're ever in the 4 corners area I highly recommend checking it out!
- FOOD!! (Hovenweep is 1 hour from the nearest town)
- Water bottle/Water Bladder
- Hiking shoes/boots
- Bug spray
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Headlamp w/ red light option (the red light won't affect your night vision!)
- Firewood (if you wish to build a fire)
- Hygiene essentials
- Sense of wonder :)
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Fabulous trail and campground!
We stayed over quite a busy weekend, but still had a fabulous time. The hike around the rim was really fun for our kids (10, 8, & 6) and the trail was level and easy with just the right amount of rock scrambling. Don't forget to grab your Jr. Ranger Books from the visitor center and earn a badge while you are here!
Beauty, solitude, and wonder.
Of all the places I've been, Hovenweep is one of my favorites. Nothing beats the solitude you find here along with the beauty and sense of wonder that the backdrop provides no matter if you're out hiking the trails or relaxing in the campground. This is just one of those places you have to experience for yourself.
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