Hovenweep is noted for its mysterious and impressive 20-foot-tall sandstone towers, some of them square, others oval, circular, or D-shaped. Built by the Ancestral Puebloans (also known as Anasazi), the solid towers have small windows up and down the masonry sides. Archaeologists have suggested myriad possible uses for these structures -- their guesses range from guard towers to celestial observatories, ceremonial structures to water towers or granaries. In addition to the towers, the monument contains the remains of cliff dwellings and a kiva, petroglyphs, stone rooms, walls, and a reconstructed dam.

Your walk among the 700-year-old buildings will take you through yucca, cactus, saltbush, juniper, and even some cottonwood trees. Watch for lizards, snakes, rabbits, hawks, ravens, and an occasional deer or fox.

The Square Tower Site, where the visitor center is located, should be your first stop. The other five sites are difficult to find, and you'll need to get detailed driving directions and check on current road conditions before setting out.

At the Square Tower Site, the 2-mile Square Tower self-guided trail is a loop, the first part of which is paved and suitable for wheelchairs with assistance. The trail winds past the remains of ancient Puebloan buildings, including the impressive Hovenweep Castle, probably built around A.D. 1200. Once home to several families, this site contains two D-shaped towers plus additional rooms. A trail guide, based at the visitor center, discusses the ruins and identifies desert plants used for food, clothing, and medicine. Allow about 2 hours.

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