Friday, October 19, 2012

Hovenweep Canyon NW of Painted Hand Pueblo

The trailhead for the 0.75 mile Painted Hand Pueblo Trail is about one mile down the marked bumpy dirt road that is about 10 miles north of the Visitor Center for Hovenweep National Monument along County Road 10.

This area is west of Pleasant View in southwest Colorado and close to the border with Utah.  The trail to the outlying Cutthroat Castle Pueblo is about 0.5 miles further along the same road.

The first segment of trail to the Painted Hand Pueblo is along the west rim of Hovenweep Canyon. On this hike, I continued much further along the rim well past the Painted Hand site. About 0:15 minutes further there is a boulder based ruins site visible below the rim.

On the Hovenweep Canyon floor there is a trail that appears on the Canyons of the Ancients map as Road 4531f and it is open for hikers, horses, and bicycles. The two side canyons on the east side in this area both have medium sized Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites.

After about 1.5 miles, there is a side canyon where I had to descend to the floor to avoid private property that is close to the canyon rim. In this area, the canyon floor has some charred trees but is otherwise grassy. Near the head of this side canyon I noticed a large white sandstone rock outcrop that looked like it had some alcoves and I climbed back up.

This rock outcrop looked like a good location and I saw some pottery shards here, but I didn't see anything that looked like a ruins structure.

Continuing on for about 1.5 more miles I arrived at a very scenic lookout point. A rock positioned on the point was directed at the LaPlata Mountains, visible faintly in the distance to the east. This is probably a rarely visited point and this rock has probably been in this position for a long time. It certainly looks like it could be a solar observation point.

From this same view point, it looks like there is an isolated tower further north on the canyon floor.

Looking to the west up a side canyon, there is an obvious large ruins site, overgrown with sagebrush about 0.5 miles away. The cottonwood trees indicate there is water in the side canyon.

As I was resting and enjoying the view, I was surprised by two other local hikers accompanied by seven friendly dogs. These hikers knew that below this point, there were some turkey track petroglyphs and other markings that resemble the rock sharpening grooves that are often seen near ruins sites.

From the lookout point it took about 0:20 minutes to reach the large rubble pile ruins site. The site is at the head of the side canyon and is divided by one of the arms at the head into two parts. The rubble piles are very large but I didn't see that much was still intact.

The hikers that I met said that this is known as the Big Spring Pueblo site. I saw a surveying cap marker that had the number 5MT 7088.

From the ruins site I followed a cow trail down the side canyon, through a sagebrush field, to the main Hovenweep Canyon. This cow trail eventually connected with the main 4531f trail before it turns east toward Negro Canyon. So it is possible to walk on trails nearly all the way to the Big Spring site. The trail junction is faint but visible if you are looking carefully for it.

My return hike took 2:00 hours. I had to find a random place to climb back to the west rim before arriving at the Painted Hand site. The other option would be to continue the easy walking on 4531f to the Cutthroat Castle Trailhead. My total hike took 5:00 hours for about 7 miles. I hiked on a 60 F degree mid October day and carried 3 liters of water.

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