Visiting in Winter

snowman decorated as a park ranger in front of the visitor center sign
Large snowfalls are possible, but not likely.  Be prepared for all kinds of conditions.

NPS photo

 

Winter is a quiet time at Hovenweep. Snow, ice, freezing rain, and high winds are common this time of year. Yet, if the day is clear and snow has just fallen, winter among the towers of Hovenweep is not an experience to miss.

 
tower point ruin covered in snow with canyon and Sleeping Ute mountain in the background
When the visitor center is closed, trails are still open sunrise to sunset unless otherwise posted.

NPS Photo by Austin Tumas

What You Need to Know

You can avoid crowds and the heat of summer by visiting in winter, but visitor services are reduced. You will need to be more self-reliant and prepared for several different kinds of weather.

Visitor Center

The park visitor center may be closed certain days during the winter months. Check our hours page for updated information. When the visitor center is closed, park maps and trail guides are available in the white box at the trailhead outside the visitor center. Restrooms at the visitor center are open unless otherwise posted.

Water

Water is available from a spigot in the visitor center parking lot. Water is not available at trailheads or in the campground.

Weather

Winters are cold, with highs averaging 30-50°F (-1-10°C), and lows averaging 0-20°F (-17- -6°C). Though large snowfalls are uncommon (except in nearby mountains), even small amounts of snow or ice can make local trails and roads impassable. Learn more about weather at Hovenweep and check the National Weather Service forecast for Hovenweep.

Trail Conditions

Sandstone is treacherous when covered with snow and ice. Snow can quickly cover cairns, making trails difficult to follow. Snow and ice may remain in shady spots after it has cleared elsewhere. We recommend instep crampons or other traction aids and hiking poles. Even when the ground is clear, trails may be icy and wet.

Road Conditions

Paved roads may close temporarily after snow while crews plow. Unpaved roads to outlier sites are not plowed and become impassable when wet. Check on park alerts and conditions.

 
Snow-covered sidewalk to canyon overlook
Early risers are rewarded with an untouched snowy wonderland. Remember to bring your traction devices!

NPS photo by Austin Tumas

Things to Do

Hiking

Trails are open sunrise to sunset unless otherwise posted, but may be icy. The most popular trail is the Square Tower Loop, which leaves from the visitor center or from the campground. Please be advised the loop hike includes portions on slickrock, which as the name suggests can be slick. The trail also has steep sections entering and exiting the canyon, which will also be treacherous when wet, snowy, or icy.

For a short walk, take the sidewalk to the Canyon Overlook from the visitor center.

Camping

The campground is open year-round and is first-come, first-served. Camping fees apply in winter and are payable by cash or check at the campground fee station. Check the fees page for updated information.

Stargazing

Temperatures usually reach below freezing at night, but hardy campers and determined astronomers can bundle up and enjoy winter constellations. We recommend either stargazing from your campsite or from the visitor center parking lot. Make sure you have lots of warm extra clothing and/or blankets and to check the weather for clear skies. Popular winter constellations include Ursa Major (Great Bear/ Big Dipper), Ursa Minor (Little Bear/ Little Dipper), Orion, and Taurus. Check our stargazing page for more information.

Other Activities

Kids (and adults!) can earn a Junior Ranger badge by completing activities in the Hovenweep Junior Ranger Booklet [1.5 MB PDF file]. Booklets are available in the visitor center when open.

The 18-minute park film, Silence of the Centuries, is available upon request when the visitor center is open.

Ranger talks and walks are NOT offered in the winter months.
 

Suggested Trips and Activities

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    Last updated: February 15, 2018

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    McElmo Route
    Cortez, CO 81321

    Phone:

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