Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Holly Ruins Trail at Hovenweep

The Holly Trail is a 4 mile route from the Hovenweep National Monument campground to the Holly Ruins Group. There is a north access about 5 miles north of the Visitor Center on County Road 10, then about 1 mile along a rough road. The Horseshoe and Hackberry Trail is along the same side road.

At the north trail head, the main trail travels along the west rim of the canyon, but there is an unmarked trail on the east side that provides some different views.

Starting at the north end of the trail one of the most impressive ruins is Boulder House, perched on a large sandstone boulder in the bottom of Keeley Canyon. It was apparently built from the inside, rather than using scaffolding on the exterior.
Just past Boulder House is another large structure sitting on the rim rather than on a boulder. The trail guide doesn't mention a name for this large building. Sleeping Ute Mountain is visible in the distance.
Several of the other ruins here seem to also be perched on boulders in the canyon rather than use the canyon rim. Extensive rubble piles spill down into the canyon.

Just past the Holly Ruins Group there is a short side trail leading to what is thought to be a Solstice Panel. There is a natural rock portal that allows a beam of morning sunlight to strike a series of petroglyphs.

Past the Holly Group of ruins the trail continues along the rim of the canyon and then descends to the bottom, cutting through a narrow gap in the rim rock. The trail in the creek bed below didn't seem very interesting to me. The terrain changed from Pinon Pine and Juniper forest to a sagebrush area and there are signs that cows graze in the area.

There was one collapsed ruin along the banks of the dry wash. This seemed to be an unusual location as most of the other ruins were located on the rim or on big boulders.

At the south end of the trail there is another narrow crack to squeeze through climbing back to the rim. The trail arrives in the park campground, then connects to the Little Ruin Canyon Trail at park headquarters.

Hackberry Ruins Trail at Hovenweep

The Hackberry Trail in Hovenweep National Monument along the southern Utah and Colorado border is a the second part of 1.0 mile round trip to two ruins groups, the Horseshoe Group and the Hackberry Group.

The Hackberry and Horseshoe Trail Head is about five miles north of the Park Headquarters at Hovenweep along paved Road 10, then down a primitive dirt road. The turn off is marked with a small bird symbol rather than a sign.

The Holly Ruins Group is another 0.8 mile down the same dirt road. The first view of the standing structures of the Hackberry Group is from a short spur trail that views across the canyon. There are rubble remains on both sides of the canyon.

The Hackberry site is a large site with many collapsed rubble pile structures. It is thought to have been one of the largest populations in the Hovenweep area due to the reliable water supply in the canyon.

The stone work in this area uses small pieces inserted between the larger bricks. Some places where this style is used are referred to as being Chaco Canyon culture influenced, though the interpretive information at this site doesn't say that. All of there sites were abandoned by about 1300 AD.

Moving around to the east side of the site, an alcove is visible below the rim with a small structure inside. The way down into the canyon is closed, so it can only be observed from the rim.

From this angle, the Hackberry trees growing in the relatively moist canyon bottom can be viewed. The rim environment is Pinon Pine and Utah Juniper with patches of Sage Brush, Mormon Tea and Prickly Pear Cactus.

Cajon Ruins Trail at Hovenweep

The Cajon Ruins Trail is an outlying site in Hovenweep National Monument. It's the trickiest of the outlying sites to find, as there isn't a sign to help you, only some cryptic symbols.

The Cajon Ruins site is a few miles south of the main park site. It is inside 40 acre fenced area just inside the boundary of the Navajo Indian Reservation deep in the southeast corner of Utah. The trail is very short, leading to a small group of pueblo ruins perched on the edge of the small Cajon canyon.

The terrain is dry and nearly treeless sagebrush country. There is a seep of water at the bottom of the canyon that made this site livable. To the southwest the spires of Monument Valley are vaguely visible.

The Hovenweep sites are known for their diversity of masonry designs, using squares, rectangles, ovals and D shapes. The people that lived here grew corn, beans, and squash. They are thought to have abandoned the area in the late 1200s and moved further south.

There isn't much of a hike here, more of a stroll to observe the ruins. Within the 40 acre fenced area there is room to wander around and view the surrounding mountains. There aren't any trees here to obscure the views.