Hiking is the easiest and only way to see Hovenweep’s impressive ancestral Puebloan structures. All of Hovenweep’s trails are designed around the structures, although most also offer sweeping views of the surrounding area and closer looks at Hovenweep’s geology and variety of plants.
Respect and Protect
Square Tower Group Trails
(read more about Square Tower Group)
Paved Path to Canyon Overlook
Distance (round-trip): 0.32 miles / 600 yards / 0.5 kilometers
The sidewalk path to the Canyon Overlook starts at the visitor center and winds to the rim of Little Ruin Canyon. The Overlook provides scenic views of Little Ruin Canyon and several of the Square Tower Group structures as well as the surrounding landscape, including Sleeping Ute Mountain. Metal placards identify native plants along the way and signs at the Overlook discuss the structures. A trail guide (free) is available in the visitor center. From the Overlook, you can continue on the unpaved Square Tower Loop Trail.
Square Tower Loop Trail
Distance (round-trip): 2 miles / 3.2 kilometers
This trail begins at the Canyon Overlook and loops around Little Ruin Canyon. The loop trail is primitive, passing over slickrock and packed dirt, and is lined with rock. As you wind around the canyon, you pass within 5-10 feet of most of the Square Tower Group structures, allowing an uninterrupted and natural view of these architectural wonders. Part of the trail enters and exits the canyon to loop back to the Canyon Overlook, with steep elevation changes. A trail guide (free) is available in the visitor center. Tower Point section can be added to this trail. This trail can is also be broken into sections to allow for time or mobility constraints.
From the campground: A trail leads from the campground (across from the fee station) to the Square Tower Loop Trail. The trails meet on the north side of the canyon, between the canyon crossing and the Canyon Overlook. The campground connector trail adds 0.5 mile / 0.8 kilometer, round-trip.
Hovenweep Castle Hike (Out-and-Back)
Distance (round-trip): 0.82 miles / 1.32 kilometers
Adding Tower Point to Your Hike
Distance Added: 0.32 mile / 0.5 kilometer
Tower Point is a small section of trail on the north side of the canyon, between the Overlook and Hovenweep Castle. You can add this section to the Square Tower Loop Trail or the Hovenweep Castle Hike. Tower Point is named for the remains of a tower at the point where a side canyon branches off of Little Ruin Canyon. Adding this section gives you a different perspective of Little Ruin Canyon and views of structures with Sleeping Ute Mountain in the background.
Cutthroat Castle Trails
(read more about Cutthroat Castle)
Upper Trailhead to Cutthroat Castle (Out-and-Back)
Distance (round-trip): 1.34 miles / 2.16 kilometers
From the upper trailhead, the trail to Cutthroat Castle winds through a hip-height slot in boulders, then opens up to regular primitive trail. The trail descends through open country, down part of a sandy wash, and along a slickrock edge, where it ends among the structures at Cutthroat Castle. Most of the trail provides sweeping views of neighboring Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. At the site, the trail winds around and through a cluster of structures (but not into them), giving you the chance to see Cutthroat Castle from many angles. Cutthroat Castle is also accessible from a Lower Trailhead.
Lower Trailhead to Cutthroat Castle (Out-and-Back)
Distance (round-trip): 0.14 mile / 0.23 kilometer
The road to reach Cutthroat Castle’s lower trailhead is very rough and requires high clearance and 4-wheel drive. Stop by the visitor center for more information. The trail to the structures is much shorter, but relatively steep and primitive. The trail connects to the main trail at Cutthroat Castle and winds among the structures (but not into them). The trail dead-ends in the cluster of structures, giving you the chance to see them from many angles. Return to your vehicle on the same path.
Horseshoe and Hackberry Trail
(read more about Horseshoe and Hackberry)
Horseshoe and Hackberry Trail (Out-and-Back)
Distance (round-trip): 1.44 miles / 2.32 kilometers
This trail is primitive and crosses packed dirt, sandy wash, and slickrock. Past the trail register, the trail climbs up a few steep steps to reach the mesa top. From there, the trail is relatively level and follows the rim of the canyon to the couple of structures at Horseshoe. The trail provides ample opportunity for photographs of structures with sweeping views of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in the background. Past Horseshoe House, the trail continues further to Hackberry, which is now mostly rubble. In its prime, Hackberry was the largest complex at Hovenweep National Monument. The trail dead-ends at Hackberry – retrace your steps to return to your vehicle.
Looking for a shorter hike? The trail just to Horseshoe and back is 0.64 miles (1 kilometer) round-trip.
(read more about Holly)
Hiking at Holly (Out-and-Back hike from Holly parking area)
Distance (round-trip): 0.44 mile / 0.71 kilometer
From the parking area at Holly, a small trail leads around the structures and dead-ends at the Holly Petroglyph Panel. The trail is primitive and crosses slickrock and packed dirt as it winds around the head of the canyon. The trail provides views from several angles of Holly Tower in the canyon and Holly House on the canyon rim. Take a few extra moments along the trail and see if you can spot the remains of other structures in and around the canyon. At the trail’s end, look out and slightly down to see the petroglyph panel underneath an overhang. We believe the panel marks the summer solstice. A diagram in the trail register box shows where the petroglyphs are located.
Hiking to Holly (Out-and-Back hike from campground)
Distance (round-trip): 7 miles / 11 kilometers
This trail leads from Hovenweep’s campground to the Holly site through Keely Canyon. From the campground, follow the primitive trail through a slot canyon* to the canyon floor. The trail then follows along a wash, winding across it occasionally. About 2.5 miles in, the trail passes the rubble remains of a structure. The trail ascends through a second slot canyon* and crosses part of the mesa top to meet the trail at Holly. Hike on the trail at Holly (0.44 mile, round-trip), then return back on the campground trail. Parts of this trail cross into Bureau of Land Management land. Follow all applicable rules and regulations.
*This trail passes into two slot canyons. Both slots are about 18 inches wide and 35 – 58 feet long.
(read more about Cajon)
Hiking at Cajon (Out-and-Back)
Distance (round-trip): 0.2 mile / 0.32 kilometer
Cajon is the least-visited area of Hovenweep and typically quiet. The trail from the parking area is primitive but flat, mostly crossing slickrock. The trail curves around the head of the canyon and around the structures clustered there, dead-ending just past the last structure. Looking out past Cajon, the canyon opens up into a large valley below, with sweeping views of canyon country. On a clear day, you can see Sleeping Ute Mountain in Colorado, Shiprock in New Mexico, the Carrizo Mountains and Monument Valley in Arizona, and Bears Ears and the Abajo Mountains in Utah. Return to your vehicle on the same trail.
Last updated: May 25, 2023