Hovenweep National Monument and the Canyons Of The Ancients National Monument do share some common ground. Most of Hovenweep is located in Utah, but four of the ancient pueblo groups are actually located across the Colorado border inside the the boundaries of the Canyons Of The Ancients. The reason why these remote satellite pueblos are part of Hovenweep amounts to the origins of the structures. These satellite pueblos are thought to have been built by the same people that occupied the structures along the Square Tower Trail in the heart of Hovenweep, so they are protected by the same park management system.
A tourist interested in visiting the Hovenweep satellite pueblo groups will find very few accurate maps on the internet and this entire region is not detailed by many modern GPS mapping systems. The roadside signage for these monuments is minimal as well and even the county roads in this area are not always marked with signage. Many of the dirt side roads are not mapped because they lead to stinky gas fracking wells, so this furthers the navigational confusion.
A good reckoning point that can easily be found on the map is the Hovenweep Visitor Center. The visitor center is the starting point for all Hovenweep adventures, because this is where detailed site location maps can be found. A hiking trail to the outlying Horseshoe, Hackberry and Holly Pueblos begins at the visitor center too. The park rangers can also be of great help, because they know which sections of the park are temporarily closed and which dirt roads have been recently maintained. The rangers can also point out which of the dirt roads are too rough for ordinary passenger cars.
The Horseshoe-Hackberry Hiking Trail is well marked and this path is fairly easy going. The distance to Horseshoe is only one third of a mile and Hackberry is only a little bit further, so if both pueblos are visited, the hike will be a one mile round trip. The Holly Pueblo Group is located almost one mile further down the road and it will take about a half day to experience all three of these pueblos.
The Horseshoe-Hackberry foot trail is well marked, however, the trail does run over some rough terrain that includes bare sandstone rock outcrops. Hard sole boots will slip all over the place on this kind of sandstone surface, especially on a wet day, so it is best to just wear gumshoe sneakers. The native people refer to this surface as “Slick Rock”for good reason, so it pays to walk with care. Even though this is a short hike, packing a snack and water is necessary for preventing altitude sickness and dehydration. Other than these minor details, all that a visitor needs to do is carry a good camera and be aware of the wildlife in the surroundings!
The Horseshoe Pueblo Group is in a very remote location at the head of a long canyon. This ancient pueblo stands tall on a cliff that overlooks the canyon floor below, where agricultural practices once took place long ago. The remnants of granaries, dwellings, lookout posts and a central tower can be seen in this archaeological area, but many of the smaller structures have been reduced to piles of rubble by looters and natural events in the past. There are even a few ancient structures that are hidden along the canyon walls below the Horseshoe Pueblo that are not easy to see, so it pays to take some sweet time when looking around.
The main Horseshoe Pueblo structure at the top of the cliff is a round tower style building that is only partially restored, yet enough remains for an onlooker to easily visualize just how magnificent this place must have been many centuries ago. The Horseshoe Pueblo is just one part of a vast network of hidden canyon pueblo complexes in this region. This ancient societal network had a communication system that stretched out to other regional pueblo societies, like the ones at Ute Mountain, Bears Ears, Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon. Distant ancient landmarks like Shiprock and Ute Mountain can be seen from the high ground in this place.
Hovenweep National Monument and the Canyons Of The Ancients may not be easiest places to navigate, but once a visitor gets the feet wet, everything will fall into place. It will take well more than one week to experience all that there is to see in these two neighboring National Monuments, so it is best to explore a little at a time. The outdoor temperatures can be hot during the summer months, but during fall or spring the cool fresh mountain air is perfect for hiking. Hovenweep truly is an amazing place to experience, so be sure to chalk this native heritage site high on the outdoor adventure list!
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