Heat and Sun
During the summer, expect high temperatures, intense sunlight, and low humidity. Eat plenty of food and drink at least one gallon (4 liters) of water each day. While hiking, carry and drink water and eat salty snacks. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and more often if you are sweating. Consider saving strenuous activity for early mornings or evenings.
Hydration is essential in the desert, even in winter. Drink 1 gallon (4 liters) of water per day. Water is available at the visitor center.
Hovenweep is an isolated and rugged environment. You may have to drive more than 40 miles to find food, gas, lodging, or medical facilities. Make sure you have plenty of fuel, food, and water (some water is available) before entering the park. Do not rely on cellular telephones; there are many areas where they will not work. Don’t rely on car GPS; they may not work in some areas. Instead, carry an up-to-date paper map with you.
Wear sturdy shoes with enough tread to give you good traction. Do not hike in smooth-soled shoes or boots. Some trails cover uneven terrain and follow rock ledges. Plan to bring most or all of the "ten essentials" with you.
Lightning and Flash Foods
Storms and flash floods can be powerful and sudden. When lightning is present, there is no safe place outside. Return to your vehicle or get indoors. Never try to cross a wash that is flooding.
Be careful near cliff edges, especially when conditions are wet or icy. None of the trails have guard rails or walls between the trail and the cliff edge.
Winter temperatures can drop well below freezing. Hypothermia is a hazard in late fall, winter, and early spring. When hiking during these times, carry extra layers of clothing, foul-weather gear, and a flashlight. Shoe spikes or other traction devices and an emergency blanket are highly recommended. Avoid wearing cotton - wear wool or synthetic clothing to stay warm and dry. Even a few inches of snow can hide cairns and trails, or make slickrock areas impassable.
Stay with companions while hiking, as separation can mean getting lost. Do not count on a cellular phone to get help - service will not reach into many areas. If you become lost, stay where you are and wait for rescue. Wandering will endanger your life and make finding you difficult. When traveling alone, always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Do not rely on GPS units to guide you, because GPS signal can easily be lost in canyon country. Familiarize yourself with your map and compass before beginning your hike. At Hovenweep, you must stay on park trails at all times.
Late spring and early summer is biting gnat season.
Wild animals often carry deadly diseases. They may become aggressive without warning. Always view wildlife from the safety of your car or from a distance. Do not approach animals to take photographs, and teach children not to chase or pick up animals. Never feed wildlife.
A few venomous animals live in Colorado Plateau parks, including midget-faded rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders. It's unlikely that you'll see these animals. If you do, they will generally flee when approached. While a scorpion sting is likely to be mild (like a bee sting), anyone bitten by a black widow spider or rattlesnake should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Black bears are known to wander into Colorado Plateau parks from nearby mountains. Although rare, the chance is always possible to come across a black bear at Hovenweep.
Last updated: July 24, 2023