National Park Getaway: Hovenweep National Monument

By Sierra Coon, Chief of Interpretation, Hovenweep National Monument
Stone wall leading to Pueblo ruins

NPS Photo

Walk in ancient footsteps. Soak in the silence. Marvel at a night sky overflowing with stars. Hear a lone coyote’s howl. Experience the past at Hovenweep National Monument.

Hovenweep preserves six villages once inhabited by the ancestors of today’s Pueblo people. These structures evoke an ancient time—one filled with the sights and sounds of a vibrant and dynamic culture. Family groups built their homes at the heads of canyons, surrounding life-giving seep springs that provided water, cooler temperatures, and shade from the cottonwood and hackberry trees that grew there. Perched on the canyon rims, these villages have weathered the centuries, owing to their solid foundations and careful construction. The towers and rooms of Hovenweep are unique in the style and quality of their masonry. Stones are carefully shaped and small rocks and mortar fill the gaps between, keeping out sun, cold, wind, and any small creatures.

Collared lizard on a rock
The park is home to more than 150 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Walk the trails to collared lizards and other desert life.

NPS Photo

Standing among these ancient structures, you can easily imagine the scene 800 years ago. Families are busy tending to the business of the day. There are crops to be tended, turkeys to feed, and water to gather. Women are chatting and singing as they grind corn. Men weave or prepare for their upcoming hunt. Children wrestle with dogs and chase each other around the village playing tag, shouting and laughing. As evening settles in, families retreat into the warmth of their homes, to sit around the fire and tell stories. Outside, darkness descends and thousands of stars twinkle to life.

Modern visitors to Hovenweep can walk an easy trail from the visitor center to the largest of these preserved villages. The two-mile trail loops around the head of the canyon and past the park’s most well-known structures, Square Tower and Hovenweep Castle  as well as other buildings, homes, and community spaces. The park’s other villages are accessed via unimproved dirt roads or longer trails. 

Milky Way above Pueblo ruins
With limited light pollution in the park, the sky appears similar to the way the ancestral Puebloans would have seen it 800 years ago. In some areas, it's possible to see up to 15,000 stars throughout the night.

NPS Photo

Speak with a ranger for recommendations and current conditions before embarking on a trip to these lesser-visited areas. In the summer, ranger programs offer an opportunity to become better acquainted with the people of Hovenweep or to learn more about the night sky preserved in this International Dark Sky Park.

Many visitors find that Hovenweep speaks to them in a way they can’t quite explain. The silence wraps around them and pulls them into it, into the past. What connection will you find here? What will the silence say to you?

Last updated: April 5, 2017