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.

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