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Old 01-29-2012, 10:36 PM
Location: Sun City West, Arizona
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Anyone been there?

How did you tour it?

What were the roads like?

Depending on your answers, I'll probably have followup questions.

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Old 01-30-2012, 02:22 PM
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Wink Hovenweep

Hovenweep National Monument, or 'Canyon of the Ancients,' as I suppose Colorado likes to have it, is similar to the more famous homes of the ancient Anasazi: Chaco Canyon National Park in New Mexico, and Mesa Verde National Park, in Colorado.

Of these three fully separate sites in very rough general proximity to one another, Hovenweep is distinctly the smallest and least visited. Chaco might be in contention for least visited as well, but aside from probably having more visitors, is better well known. Its stone ruins were also distinctly larger in size and importance than Hovenweep's ever were, or remain now. Mesa Verde eclipses either of these other two in not only renown and number of visitors, but also in the sheer grandeur and setting of its fabulous ruins. Someone with an interest in the Anasazi would be well advised to visit all three areas, as well as other sites in the greater Four Corners region.

Hovenweep may not have the size or scope in relics of the other two, but is certainly special in its own way. The remains of the stone buildings may be smaller, but they are no less intricately and finely crafted. As with these two other sites, some of the ruins are close and easily accessible from the road and one's vehicle. But the greater number are outlying, and will require hiking to them. Which if inconvenient, also affords this area the most informal and spiritual aspect. It can be hard to appreciate what these ancients were about when down in one of their small kivas at Mesa Verde, but having one's soliloquy interrupted by a constant conga line of tourists. Whereas Hovenweep is off the radar of most to begin with, little visited, and beyond the few roads fairly empty. So a good place to get up close and personal with these ruins, and feeling of the life once built, and mysticism retained.

Most of Hovenweep lies within the far southwestern corner of Colorado, but the main entrance and park headquarters are in Utah. There is access via dirt road in from the Colorado side, which may be fairly passable. But preferable if wishing some pavement to venture in from Utah. Services are limited, but adequate. There is a visitor's center, but unsure if only seasonally open or not, so check in advance. Just beyond that there is a circle of simple camping spots, with fee attached. As I recall, there might have been picnic tables and a fire pit at each spot, but with communal toilet facilities. I do not recall if showers were included or not. Save perhaps at the very height of the season there, it should prove a quiet, uncrowded, and reflective time. This entrance area is irregularly on top and at the edge of a plateau of sorts, with many of the campsites near the edge, and looking out over the canyons and places you may wish to visit.

You can tell your friends later that you visited Mesa Verde or Chaco and perhaps have them know what you are talking about, and impressed, and no less yourself in being glad to have visited. But if taking the time to at least spend the night and immerse yourself in the spirit of Hovenweep, never forgotten.
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Old 01-30-2012, 03:28 PM
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I'm not sure if Canyon of the Ancients is the same area as Hovenweep - I think Canyon of the Ancients was opened 10-15 years ago and is farther into Colorado (from the maps I saw at the time) than Hovenweep which straddles the UT/CO border. Hovenweep is fairly spread out with several small ruin sites scattered about the general area (IIRC CotA is similar in scope and layout).

I visited Hovenweep about 25 years ago and it is beautiful but much smaller scale than Mesa Verde or Chaco Canyon. I did camp there overnight as it is fairly remote to any towns - the campsites are just gravel pads near the toilets. I was there in late Spring and the gnats were voracious - I actually had to put on a jeans and a jacket while trying to take sunset pictures even though it was quite warm!
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Old 01-30-2012, 04:47 PM
Location: CO
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Originally Posted by lucky-13 View Post
I'm not sure if Canyon of the Ancients is the same area as Hovenweep - I think Canyon of the Ancients was opened 10-15 years ago and is farther into Colorado (from the maps I saw at the time) than Hovenweep which straddles the UT/CO border. Hovenweep is fairly spread out with several small ruin sites scattered about the general area (IIRC CotA is similar in scope and layout).
. . .
The official government BLM site is a good place for information about the Monument, and includes the history of its creation.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

One of the bits of info there is:

There are four units of the Hovenweep National Monument (approximately 400 acres) scattered within the monumentís boundary. These sites are not included in the monument and will continue to be managed by the National Park Service.
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Old 01-30-2012, 06:22 PM
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We were there last year and the boundaries of this large area are rather confusing. As I understood it at the time, the COTA area basically comprises a number of different sites scattered between SW Colorado and Utah.

Other than the well known Parks & Monuments, the majority of the area is comprised of backcountry sites that take some hiking and/or multi-day camping to gain access to.

We really liked Hovenweep. It's a reasonable drive from Cortez and the area gets remote pretty quickly. It's interesting to look eastward from Cortez into the mountains, then look westward to the desert area. The transition between these two zones occurs right around that part of the state.

HW is pretty remote and has a really nice visitor's center. The part of the park adjacent to the visitor's center is pretty accessible with a small loop trail that is a comfortable hike so long as it's not the middle of the summer. There is no gas available that I'm aware of in between Cortez and HW, so fill up in Cortez. Cell phone service is really spotty in that part of the country too. We drove pretty much west from Cortez to get access to HW, but you can also drive north from Cortez and enter from the northeast part of the Park. Check the maps in advance to see how spread out HW is. I personally like where we visited because it contained the visitor's center with educational displays.

There's another part of the COTA that you pass on the way to HW from Cortez (Sand Canyone), but that's more backcountry oriented and most of the sites are located quite a distance from the trailhead.

I personally find Mesa Verde to be too much touristy oriented, but it's certainly worth a stop once you are in the area.

There is a visitor's center/museum somewhere north of Cortez that I wasn't aware of. Again, this area is extremely spread out and the vistitor's center is many miles from most of the attractions.
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Old 01-31-2012, 03:46 PM
Location: Colorado Plateau
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I am planning on visiting Hovenweep sometime in Feb-March. We got a Moab local National Parks Pass ($25) when we went to Arches recently that is good for Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges and Hovenweep. HW is the only one we haven't been to yet.

Glad to hear it's very remote around there. It's exactly what we like. We will camp out on BLM land somewhere and do some hiking around.
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Old 01-31-2012, 05:13 PM
Location: CO/UT/AZ/NM Catch me if you can!
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People get confused about Hovenweep because 4 sites that are part of Hovenweep National Momument are located inside Canyon of the Ancients boundaries, as Suzco noted. However, the two areas are under two different administrative agencies. Hovenweep is National Park Service and Canyon of the ancients is on BLM land.

I have visited Canyon of the Ancients, I would suggest a GPS, detailed USGS quads such as are found in the Colorado Gazetteer and a 4wd vehicle. In my experience, you are pretty much on your own in COA. I camped where ever I felt like it, explored some pretty rough country, and enjoyed the experience.

On the other hand, I am surprised that people consider Hovenweep "least visited." Hovenweep feels over run to me and, as usual the NPS has 8 million rules about what you can and cannot do there. I guess I'm spoiled because I first discovered Hovenweep 30 years ago. No one went there and you could camp where you pleased and explore any of the ruins you wanted. Since Hovenweep now gets (to me) such heavy usage, I suppose the NPS has no choice but to put all those rules into effect.

I always camp on BLM whenever possible. You can usually find a terrific spot that you have all to yourself and you don't have to hear someone's generator running or put up with their music. But then I'm a lover of solitude by nature. And you can find lots of solitude in Canyon of the Ancients.
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Old 02-01-2012, 04:18 AM
Location: Everywhere and Nowhere
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Here's a map:

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