View of Pueblo Ruins within the Canyons of the Ancients.

Estimated reading time: 16 minutes

Introduction

The Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and the ancestral Pueblo peoples are spread out among four major sites. The overall area encompasses more than 170,000 acres of desert within Southwest Colorado. The Bureau of Land Management or BLM the Landscape Conservation System actively manages the site. So far thousands of archaeological sites have been documented so far, but it is believed that thousands more still remain. So as you explore the numerous sites please be aware that many have yet to be discovered. Please report anything new to the main office. The sites are well laid out and google or Apple maps worked very well. The visitor center does have a simple map and that worked when there was no mobile service.

Camping Locations

Dispersed camping is allowed but checks in with the main office first to be sure you are in the correct areas for camping. If you are on the side of the visitor’s centers side of the park there are formal campground facilities at the Mcphee Recreational Area and they have very nice campgrounds for a low cost. Please see the bottom of this article for additional information. If you drive the short distance to Hovenweep National Monument on the other far side of Canyons of the Ancients you will find another nice campground for you to use. Both of these sites allow RV’ sand and tent camping. You will need to bring your own firewood but there was some cut wood laying around the campgrounds at McPhee.

Wildlife

Deer living within the Canyons of the Ancients and the surrounding areas.
Deer living within the Canyons of the Ancients and the surrounding areas.

There are over 100 different bird species know to occupy the site and other animals such as deer that roam freely. Slow keep a close eye open for wildlife during your trip and make sure to drive slowly because deer will walk out in front of you. They do seem to be less afraid of cars and humans in general. This makes more a more dangerous encounter since they will just walk in front of your car, and don’t run off so fast.

Visitors Center And Museum

On this particular trip, I did not spend much time here. This center is well documented and others who never venture out into the wildland of the canyons of the ancients have it well documents. Here is some additional information on the center and the museum, and click the links to learn more. The grounds to make a great day-use area, and have restrooms, and picnic tables for day use only.

The Ancestrial Home OF The Pueblo Peoples

The ancestral Pueblo peoples are spread over a very large area. From south of Albuquerque New Mexico, and Bandelier National Monument to the Chaco Canyon, and up into the Canyons of the Ancients. They even spread out into the Mesa Verde area high up in elevation to occupy the cliff dwelling cities within the cliffs. This group of people traveled far and had an impact all the way into Mexico trading with other ancient peoples along the turquoise trails. From precious stone to macaw feathers trade was fart and wide, and this also meant architectural methods were also traded along the different routes. Doorway arches are a specific skill, and you do see these very far north into Southern Colorado.

Hovenweep National Monument Within The Canyons Of The Ancients

Hovenweep National Monument front sign.
Hovenweep National Monument front sign.

The area coming into the monument is somewhat flat with unusual rock formations. The road is fairly decent and does not have heavy traffic. The park rangers were standing out front answering questions and giving everyone hiking ideas.

Hovenweep National Monument visitors center front sign.
Hovenweep National Monument visitors center front sign.

Canyons Of The Ancients – The people of the Hovenweep area have a long history within the region. Back over 13,000 years ago nomadic hunter-gatherers. At some point, another possible group of people arrived from the west around 11,000 years ago. These people became known as the ancestral Pueblo people. Originally these people were very mobile and would set up temporary housing underneath cliffs, and other areas within the region. It is believed that when they began to cultivate corn life changed. These changes included a more structural setup of family or tribal life. This is when they began to build pit houses closer to their crops, and within the different valleys or plateaus for farming. Once could assume being closer to water sources was also a major concern. In this article, I’m going to lay out some of the major sites that have viable ruins.

Trail Between The Canyons

Seeing the ruins from inside the canyon can bring you a whole new perspective. For instance, it does become obvious that the site is heavily fortified and well protected. The water source would have been very valuable, and most likely came with an excess of food and grain. Several of the photos below are from inside the canyon looking upwards and do provide a unique perspective.

Ruin Sites Of Hovenweep National Monument And The Canyons Of The Ancients

Below you will find a series of pictures for each ruin. The sites and easy to get to on the top ruins trail, and if you need an easy trail to use I recommend this one.

Stronghold House

Stronghold House Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients
Stronghold House Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients
Stronghold House Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients
Stronghold House Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients
Stronghold House Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients
Stronghold House Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients

Unit Type House

Unit Type House Hovenweep National Park in Canyons of the Ancients.
Unit Type House Hovenweep National Park in Canyons of the Ancients.
Unit Type House Hovenweep National Park in Canyons of the Ancients.

Tower Point

Tower Point Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients
Tower Point Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients
Tower Point Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients
Tower Point Hovenweep National Monument in Canyons of the Ancients

Hovenweep Castle

Hovenweep Castle - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep Castle – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.

Square Tower

Square Tower - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Square Tower – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Square Tower - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Square Tower – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Square Tower - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Square Tower – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.

Hovenweep House

Hovenweep House - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Hovenweep House – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.

Rim Rock House

Rim Rock House - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Rim Rock House – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Rim Rock House - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Rim Rock House – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.

Twin Towers

Twin Towers canyon view in Hovenweep National Monument of Canyons of the Ancients.
Twin Towers canyon view in Hovenweep National Monument of Canyons of the Ancients.

Eroded Boulder House

Eroded Boulder House of Hovenweep National Monument of Canyons of the Ancients.
Eroded Boulder House of Hovenweep National Monument of Canyons of the Ancients.
Eroded Boulder House of Hovenweep National Monument of Canyons of the Ancients.
Eroded Boulder House of Hovenweep National Monument of Canyons of the Ancients.
Lowry Pueblo Enterance sign - Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo Enterance sign – Hovenweep National Monument Canyons of the ancients national monuments.

Lowry Pueblo Peoples

The Lowery Pueblo site within the Canyons of the Ancients is about a 30-minute drive once you leave the highway. It is a dirt road, and the grounds are well kept and neat. There are areas for day use only, but they are very nice. There is a picnic table, and toilets present and the trails are short and easy to walk. The ruins are well maintained, and the BLM has done a great job keeping this site intact, and well preserves.

Lowry Pueblo  - Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo – Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo  - Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo – Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo  - Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo – Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo  - Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo – Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo  - Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo – Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo  - Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo – Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo  - Canyons of the ancients national monuments.
Lowry Pueblo – Canyons of the ancients national monuments.

Sand Canyon Pueblo

This particular site has been excavated and was large in nature. The site has been backfilled to protect the remains, and junipers and grass now grow on top after the excavation in the 1980s.

Sand Canyon Trail Head

This trailhead within the overall Canyons of the Ancients does provide a great view of the cliffside on the Sand Pueblo Canyon. Another great hike and well worth the time and effort to look along the trail, and to envision yourself back in time.

Evening Sky of the Canyons of the ancients

Close up of the Milky Way within the Hovenweep National Monument of the Canyons of the Ancients.
Close up of the Milky Way within the Hovenweep National Monument of the Canyons of the Ancients.
Evening sky withing the Hovenweep National Monument
Evening sky withing the Hovenweep National Monument
Evening skyline of the Canyon of the Ancients.
Evening skyline of the Canyon of the Ancients.

Plants and trees of the pueblo sites within the Canyons of the Ancients

Baby Juniper Growing within a crack in the cliffside rock.
Baby Juniper Growing within a crack in the cliffside rock.
Wild yellow flowers of the desert
Wild yellow flowers of the desert
Juniper bush growing in the rocks.
Juniper bush growing in the rocks.

The flowers and trees within the different areas are unique and help show us how people lived within these sites. Juniper is a common tree and one that was used to help make roofing, ladders, and other objects for everyday life.

Camping Within the Canyons Of The Ancients

Camping at Hovenweep canyons of the ancients
Camping at Hovenweep

The campground within the Hovenweep National Monument area is a great location and has several really good tent sites. The tent sites have pads that are filled with sand so it’s very soft and comfortable sleeping conditions. You cannot go wrong by stargazing from your camping site or while resting looking up at the stars.

Camping Close by to the Canyons of the Ancients

Mcphee Reservoir and campgrounds