Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Road to Cutthroat Castle Pueblo

The normal route to the Cutthroat Castle Ruins group at Hovenweep National Monument is along the same road that leads to the Painted Hand Pueblo Trail of the Canyons of the Ancients. The upper trailhead is about 0.5 miles past Painted Hand on the bumpy road. From the upper trailhead it is 0.8 miles to the site.

This area is about 10 miles north of the Hovenweep Headquarters on County Road 10 in southwest Colorado near the Utah border.

For hikers, there is an alternate route with less driving. About 1 mile south of the turnoff for the Painted Hand Pueblo is a dirt road marked 4531. This road leads east through a Pinon Pine and Juniper forest and crosses two small washes. Climbing above the second small wash there is a small sign that says Cutthroat pointing south.
Following this route you arrive at the lower trailhead for the Cutthroat Castle site. It is only 0.1 mile to the pueblo which is located on a curve of Cutthroat Gulch. There are cottonwood trees growing here and perhaps permanent water in the sandy wash below.

The structures are arrayed on both sides of the small wash and a short trail leads around through the forest giving views from all angles.

The tall walls seem to make parallel curves. I didn't notice any rock art or pottery shards at this site.
The trail to the upper trail head has a good view angle into the parallel walls on the north side of the main structures.
Walking south along the canyon rim there are good views of the overall site looking north. Looking south from the same area, I didn't see any other structures.

This site is thought to have four towers, three round and one square and the towers seem to be paired with kivas. These towers don’t appear to have a line of sight to other towers.

If you arrived on foot along the rough road you can continue on the trail to the Upper Trailhead. The upper trail head trail follows a small wash and climbs to the north back toward road 4531, crossing it and going to a parking area that gives good views of the surrounding countryside.

The road from the upper trail head continues over to the Painted Hand pueblo. It would be possible to continue to hike to Painted Hand or to hike from there to Cutthroat Castle. I enjoyed the views from the upper trailhead then returned back to the main road, for a total hike of 1:40.

The second time that I hiked to Cutthroat Castle I made more effort scanning the nearby canyon rims but didn't notice any other ruins sites along the way. The second hike was in late December on a 45 F degree day. This hike is feasible in winter if there isn't much snow. The start point I used is next to the paved road. I spent 2:30 hours on the second hike.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Road to Painted Hand Pueblo

The Painted Hand Pueblo is one of the few publicized Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites in the Canyons of the Ancients in southwest Colorado. The dirt road leading to the trailhead is about 10 miles north of the Hovenweep National Monument headquarters along County Road 10.

In the fall of 2011 the turnoff is marked with a new sign that provides a map of the Canyons of the Ancients and the backcountry guidelines. The small bird symbol to the right is the marker that Hovenweep Monument uses to mark the outlying sites. In this case the Cutthroat Castle Pueblo trail is along this same road.

The dirt road is bumpy in places but is normally drivable by most vehicles for the 1 mile to the Painted Hand trailhead. The Cutthroat Castle trail is about 0.5 miles further. On a mild late December day, I chose to hike along the road. As I hiked I kept an eye out for rubble pile ruins sites in the mostly sagebrush fields along the way.

After about 0.7 miles there is a closed side road on the left. In this area there is a short trail that leads to a small rubble pile ruins site. Not counting this short stop it, took about 0:25 minutes to arrive at the Painted Hand trailhead.

From the trailhead area there is a good overall view of the Painted Hand site. The large round tower on the south side stands out and is the symbol of the Canyons of the Ancients. It is about 0.25 miles to the point where the trail descends down through the cliffs to visit the other structures and rock art. The total hike from the trailhead is 0.75 miles.

Staying along the rim, there are views of some wall sections on a very tall boulder. Building on top of boulders seems to be a common style in the Canyons of the Ancients area.

On this hike I continued north along the rim to an overlook of another boulder site that I had noticed while hiking in the canyon bottom below the Painted Hand site. The access for the trail to the canyon bottom is near the Cutthroat Castle trailhead. This trail appears on the park map as Road 4531f. This site is about 0:15 minutes of hiking past the Painted Hand site.

There appears to be a clear outline of a circular structure with other rubble on the boulder and some on the ground. It looks like a number of the desert plants have taken root among the rubble even though it is on top of a boulder.

I don’t think his boulder site has a line of sight to Painted Hand, but there is a line of sight to a medium sized pueblo that is about 1 mile further north up the canyon. My total hike took 2:00 hours on a 46 F degree late December day. I was the only visitor during my hike.