Saturday, September 30, 2023


Canyons of the Ancients and Hovenweep national monuments: Historic short stops worth a visit

Today’s amazing travel stops were at Canyons of the Ancients and Hovenweep national monuments in Southwestern Colorado. While it was a lot of driving on some gravel and some long stretches of curving, twisting roads, it was memorable.

The visitor center for Canyons of the Ancients is just north of Cortez, Colorado. We took a short hike and were warned that mountain lion sightings are on the rise there. This was confirmed by a huge bone lying on the side of the path. It was a good reminder that despite the concrete path and wonderful signage, we were still in the wilderness. (Here’s what to do if you see a mountain lion in the wild.)

People have inhabited here for 13,000 years, when waves of nomadic Paleo-Indian hunters/ gatherers roamed the area. As animals moved, the hunters followed. The ancient Pueblo peoples moved into the area around the 1100s. Canyons of the Ancients encompass more than 174,000 acres. It is huge! There are several Pueblo sites that dot the landscape.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Photo credit: Nanci Dixon

Lowry Pueblo

The main attraction for us was Lowry Pueblo. Lowry Pueblo is the only developed pueblo in the Canyon of the Ancients. It has stabilized standing walls, 40 rooms, 40 kivas, and a great kiva that we could duck through the low door and go into. It was a moment that I paused and remembered the people that lived and worshipped here more than 1100 years ago.

Great Kiva, Canyons of the Ancients. Photo credit: Nanci Dixon

Lowry Pueblo is definitely off the beaten path. It is nine miles from Hwy 491 on Rd CC and another three miles on a grated gravel road.

Sage field, Canyons of the Ancients. Photo Credit Nanci Dixon

Hovenweep National Monument

Another 25 miles southwest and we reached Hovenweep National Monument. The visitor center has a great short film about the people and the area. A ranger will run it when asked.

Hovenweep National Monument

The Hovenweep towers building began in the 1200s. There is a 2.5-mile trail showcasing the villages, homes, buildings, and towers, most centered around access to water. The people began moving out in the late 1200s. Although the reason is not known for sure, it is assumed it was extended drought.

Hovenweep National Monument. Photo credit: Nanci Dixon

Another 32 miles and we’re back in Cortez. Now we’re heading to our RV park for a nap.


Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon
Nanci Dixon has been a full-time RVer living “The Dream” for the last six years and an avid RVer for decades more! She works and travels across the country in a 40’ motorhome with her husband. Having been a professional food photographer for many years, she enjoys snapping photos of food, landscapes and an occasional person. They winter in Arizona and love boondocking in the desert. They also enjoy work camping in a regional park. Most of all, she loves to travel.


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Neal Davis
3 months ago

Thanks, Nanci. Sounds like a great side-trip for our towed. 🙂

3 months ago

We have been to most of these sites. I can visit again and again. I am totally amazed that these could be built how they were and when they were. And all completed without a computer chip. And WE think WE are smart???

Bill Byerly
3 months ago

Beautiful photos and descriptions of your trip. Thankyou Nanci !

Steve H
3 months ago

After multiple visits to SW CO over the past 60 years, I highly recommend the Canyons of the Ancients museum just outside Dolores to anyone visiting any of the Ancestral Pueblo national parks and monuments. It has more artifacts to see up close (even through a microscope!) than museums at Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, Aztec, Chimney Rock, or even Chaco Canyon. And all of them were excavated during construction of McPhee Dam and reservoir. And those who think Mesa Verde is the pinnacle of that ancient culture haven’t seen Chaco Culture National Historic Park!

3 months ago

We visited this area three weeks ago and highly endorse what you say. While staying in Cortez, if Pueblos interest you, don’t forget to visit wonderful Mesa Verde National Park 14 miles east of town. If you are up for a strenuous hike, be sure to sign up IN ADVANCE for one of the ranger led hikes that allow you to actually walk in an ancient Pueblo.

3 months ago

You didn’t mention this but if you attempt the 2½ mile hike around Hovenweep there is one section which goes down into the valley and back up. It can be a strenuous hike if it’s very hot out or if you are not in shape. If you are able to do the hike, definitely do it. Amazing how they built and lived in these structures on the edges of cliffs.

3 months ago

We visited both of these last year. It seems to be one of those destinations that no one knows anything about. It was very interesting! And, we were so impressed with how it was maintained.

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