Utah's Enchanted Ruins

Hovenweep National Monument contains dozens of ancient sandstone structures.

Hovenweep National Monument, Utah, image

Most of the structures at Hovenweep were built between A.D. 1200 and 1300.

In canyons at the edge of Cajon Mesa, 700-year-old towers guard the ruins of six once-busy villages that make up Hovenweep National Monument. Running 20 miles along the sage-specked border connecting Utah and Colorado, the park protects dozens of weathered sandstone structures.

“For the most part they were pueblos that the ancestral Pueblo people lived in,” says lead interpretive ranger Todd Overbye. The towers are thought to have had special uses, he says—“for observation, ceremonies, and storage.”

At the Square Tower Group near the main entrance, visitors stroll a two-mile loop to view the ancient stonework, including the crisp lines of the namesake column. Nearby, the Twin Towers rise from a crack in a bedrock slab; the walls of the Eroded Boulder House curve in an alcove under a bulging cap.

On the drive between ruins, visitors inhale the scent of cliff rose and catch glimpses of Colorado’s distant Sleeping Ute Mountain. A 31-site campground, open year-round, comes complete with shy desert cottontails, gold-flowered prickly pear cacti, and multihued dawn and dusk views across the mesa. (970) 562-4282, nps.gov/hove.

Photography courtesy of Andrew Kuhn/NPS

This article was first published in May 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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