Located at McElmo Route in Cortez, Colorado, Hovenweep National Monument protects prehistoric villages established during the Puebloan era, which are spread over a 20-mi area of canyons and mesa tops along the border of Utah-Colorado. Renowned for its undeveloped and solitude natural character, Hovenweep is home to multi-storied towers balanced on boulders and perched on canyon rims.
Human habitation at the area dates back to more than 10,000 years ago when Paleoindians reached Cajon Mesa to hunt game and collect food. By around A.D. 900, people began to settle at Hovenweep and harvest and plant crops. It was home to more than 2,500 people by the late 1200s.
Hovenweep’s towers were constructed by Puebloans, a sedentary farming culture occupying the Four Corners area between A.D. 500 and A.D. 1300. Many structures at the area were constructed from A.D 1200 to 1300. Structures are in various sizes and shapes, including circular and square towers, kivas, and D-shaped dwellings.
By the later part of the 13th century, Hovenweep inhabitants were forced to leave due to a prolonged drought. They migrated south to the Little Colorado River Basin in Arizona and Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico.
The Square Tower Group serves as the main contact facility with a campground, interpretative trail and a visitor center. Other places where visitors can visit are villages or groups including Cutthroat Castle, Cajon, Hackberry, Goodman Point, Horseshoe and Holly. These areas have half-mile trails, which are lightly maintained and primitive.
Visitors will be inspired by the clear skies and distinct architecture of Hovenweep. A small campground located near the visitor center is open throughout the year. This 30 site campground is intended for tent camping, with a few sites willing to accommodate recreational vehicles (RVs) up to 36 ft long. Sites include picnic tables, fire grills and tent pads, yet no hookups are provided.
Hovenweep’s trail system offers visitors wonderful views of each archeological site. Featuring a two-mi loop, the Square Tower Group starts at the visitor center – an ideal starting point for all visits. The trail is paved from the visitor center to the first overlook and is wheelchair accessible. Many visitors spend at least an hour exploring the place, while the complete two-mi loop takes 1.5 hours.
Rangers also perform regular talks from spring to fall. From May to September, the campground amphitheater hosts evening programs on varying subjects. Interpretative programs and guided walks can also be arranged for bigger groups.