Hovenweep National Monument is so far down in the corner of Utah that it is often overlooked. We were so excited when we were able to visit this fascinating park. It definitely did not disappoint. Hovenweep proved to be very family-friendly, and we learned a lot of Utah history, too!
Getting to Hovenweep
The road to Hovenweep National Monument is long and winding enough to be in a Paul McCartney song. And though you may see the mileage as about 40 miles from any major town (Blanding, Bluff, or Cortez), plan on an hour to get to Hovenweep. You won’t be going 60 mph, and you’d be crazy if you tried. The roads are all dirt or gravel in this national monument.
The drive is worth it, though. We drove south of Blanding on Hwy 191 to Hwy 262. From there, the signage to Hovenweep is pretty good. Make sure you have plenty of gas for around 100 miles: 40 each way, plus driving around the monument.
What to See and Do
We arrived at the Visitor Center at 8 am, and explored around this area first. Then we headed to Holly & Hackberry. On our way back to Blanding, we went out to Cajon. We spent about 1/2 a day exploring here.
Little Ruin Trail
A nice 2 mile hiking loop called Little Ruin Trail snakes through 11 different pueblo structures behind the visitor center. These buildings, dating back almost 800 years, rise as high as 30 feet. They are found on both sides of a small canyon and represent a village of 80-100 people. It is amazing to see these rare structures, and they are very well preserved.
Our boys loved the Little Ruin Trail hike partially because we saw a lot of wildlife. The boys counted over 30 lizards, 1 squirrel, 1 chipmunk, and 10 cottontail rabbits. The ranger declared this a record, so let us know if you beat it! Of course, the boys did the Junior Ranger program, which was fun and easy.
We always encourage everyone to do the Junior Ranger program. It is such a great way to learn more about the place you’re visiting as kids and adults. And you earn a badge at the end, which is a fun reward for all your hard work. We like to print the Junior Ranger program before we head to a site, and work on the pages as we travel to the park. Then we complete it as we explore that site. Here is the Junior Ranger info for Hovenweep.
Holly & Hackberry
Aside from the main hike, there are 3 other stops in Hovenweep National Monument. We didn’t make it to Cutthroat Castle. The drive to Holly & Hackberry is short, but rough. The ranger told us this road was poor, and that the road to Cutthroat Castle was much worse. That was the reason we avoided Cutthroat Castle’s road since we were in our minivan.
Once your arrive at Hackberry, there is a one mile roundtrip hike that takes you passed three nice ruins. After completing the hike, continue to the end of the road to Holly and you’ll see another nice set of structures. There is just a short walk to see these ruins.
On the way out of the park, we stopped at Cajon. This road is well-maintained gravel. The site is small, but nice. We never really tired of viewing these structures. It’s amazing to contemplate for a moment or two what life would’ve been like here nearly 10 centuries ago. That’s what made Hovenweep worth it for us.
We spent about 1/2 a day in Hovenweep National Monument and felt that we had a great taste of what it has to offer. We ate lunch and then headed on our way to other adventures in the area.
Tips for Families
- Be prepared. This park is far away from services, so make sure to have plenty of gas, water, and food.
- There is hardly any shade, so bring hats and sunscreen.
- There is no lodging in the park, so you will need to stay in a location nearby. We recommend Blanding or Bluff.
- There is camping in Hovenweep with just a few RV spots. More info here.
- While you are in the area, make sure to check out these other locations: