Hovenweep means "deserted valley" in the Ute language, but it wasn't always that way. Between 1200 AD and 1300 AD this isolated area was a community of around 2,500 ancestors of the modern Pueblo people. The stone structures built during that time were abandoned around 1350 AD. Skillfully built, they still stand after centuries of neglect and exposure to the elements.
Once home to over 2,500 people, Hovenweep includes six prehistoric villages built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. The native Ute and Navaho people have always known of these ruins. European settlers first encountered them in 1854. Hovenweep became part of the National Park System in 1923.
High desert of the Colorado Plateau.
Flora and fauna
Cryptobiotic soil is found throughout the region. It is made up of air, moisture, sand, and a number of biologicals, some of which are cyanobacteria, lichens, mosses and fungi. It is important because it retains moisture and can trap seeds, which results in new growth of vegetation. Cryptobiotic soil is extremely fragile and should be avoided by hikers. Damage to its delicate structure can take many decades to regenerate.
Hovenweep is part of the Colorado Plateau, a "high desert" region that experiences wide temperature fluctuations, sometimes over 40 degrees in a single day. The temperate (and most popular) seasons are spring (April-May) and fall (mid-September-October), when daytime highs average 60 to 80 F and lows average 30 to 50 F. Summer temperatures often exceed 100 F, making strenuous exercise difficult. Winters are cold, with highs averaging 30 to 50 F, and lows averaging 0 to 20 F.
|Hovenweep National Monument|
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Do not use GPS to find your way. There are numerous paved and dirt roads intersecting each other in this remote corner of Utah. The Hovenweep Visitor Center is located 40-45 miles from Cortez, Colorado, and Blanding and Bluff, Utah.
Fees and permits
There are no entrance fees charged in the park.
- 1 Hovenweep Visitor Center. The visitor center should be your starting place for any visit to Hovenweep. Rangers are available to answer questions and provide guidance on the best way to visit the monument. Restrooms, bookstore sales, and exhibits are available.
Hike the 2-mile Square Tower loop trail near the visitor center.
Along the far canyon wall there is a hidden access point to a number of petroglyphs. Visitors to this site must be accompanied by a park ranger. Along the way, the ranger can point out granaries carved into the canyon wall on the opposite side. Tours are scheduled sporadically, depending on personnel availability, so visitors should inquire about the schedule when checking in at the visitor center. Space at the destination is tight, so parties are generally limited to 6 or 8 people.
Visit outlying sites by car. A high clearance four wheel drive vehicle may be required and trails are primitive. Park rangers at the visitor center have maps and information about current road conditions.
Take advantage of being in the middle of nowhere. The dark skies at Hovenweep make it a great place for stargazing.
The visitor center has books and souvenirs. Gas and other supplies must be purchased in nearby communities.
Closest lodging is in Cortez.
- 1 Hovenweep Campground. 31 sites. All sites are first-come, first-served. The campground near the visitor center is open year-round. The campground is designed for tent camping, though a few sites will accommodate RVs up to 36 feet long. Groups are limited to eight people and two vehicles. Sites include tent pads, fire rings and picnic tables with shade structures; there are no hookups available. One campsite is wheelchair-accessible but is not designed for tent camping. Camping fees must be paid by cash or check. $15 Standard Camping Fee (2020 rates).