Partially surrounded by Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (run by the Bureau of Land Management), Hovenweep National Monument occupies a remote area on the southern Utah-Colorado border. Established in 1923, it is composed of six units, the largest of which has a National Park Service (NPS) visitor center on the rim of Little Ruin Canyon, the location of the variable architectural styles of Square Tower Group.
Square Tower Group, Holly Group, Cajon Group, Hackberry Group, Cutthroat Castle Group
At Square Tower Group a two-mile loop hike takes visitors past an impressive collection of structures that date back to the 1200s, the same period that Ancestral Puebloans inhabited nearby Mesa Verde National Park. The variety of building styles in this narrow canyon is remarkable, from Square Tower and Hovenweep Castle to Twin Towers and the unique Eroded Boulder House. There is almost no shade to be found on the sagebrush plain of Cajon Mesa, so visiting in the heat of summer may not be as enjoyable. The good news is that it makes for boundless vistas, especially to the south where Sleeping Ute Mountain looms.
The loop trail at Square Tower Group is paved and wheelchair accessible to the first overlook at Stronghold Point, but then gets much rougher over its two miles, especially at the end where it drops into Little Ruin Canyon. A four-mile one-way trail connects this area to the Holly Group of ruins.
Little Ruin Canyon has one of the highest density collections of ruins anywhere in the southwest U.S., including the cool Eroded Boulder House, a part of the Square Tower Group.
Spring and fall
Despite its remote location, roads are paved to Square Tower Group, but accessing most of the other units requires driving or hiking rough dirt roads. Further east in Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, visitors can drive well-maintained roads to the Escalante Ruins and Lowry Pueblo, as well as the two trailheads for Sand Canyon.
The NPS runs a 30-site campground (for a fee) at its visitor center near Square Tower Group. Dispersed camping is allowed in many parts of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
Yucca House National Monument (Colorado)
Canyonlands National Park (Utah)
Explore More – Hovenweep is a Ute-Paiute word that translates as what?