This is a short, easy hike to an ancient pueblo and a special archaeoastronomy site in Hovenweep National Monument.
From the parking area, follow the obvious trail headed west. In a very short distance you will come to the first ruin, Tilted Tower. The name of this ruin will quickly become obvious once you see that the base of the structure is clinging to the broken boulder. The Hovenweep website says that the boulder shifted sometime after the ruin was abandoned and that the upper stories of Tilted Tower have fallen into the canyon below.
Continuing west you’ll next see Holly Tower, another multi-story building built around 1200, situated a little below the canyon rim. Located adjacent to a seep, it is also perched upon a very large boulder. The third structure is Holly House, on the other side of the canyon.
Aside from the stunning architecture, this site is known for its solstice panel (hidden beneath an overhang about 200 feet due south of Holly House). The ancestral Pueblo people used existing rock features that interacted with the sun in a special way. As the sun rises on and near the summer solstice a small, narrow band of light (a “dagger”) lands on a boulder under an overhang. At its maximum brightness, the dagger connects the centers of two petroglyphs - one a spiral and the other a pair of concentric circles. If you want to learn more about solstice panels, please stop by the Hovenweep Visitor Center for more information (which I couldn’t find on their website).
The hike is all of about a quarter-mile long, roundtrip, and is on fairly level ground. If you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle, you should probably not drive all the way to the trailhead and park further away. But that would add only about a ½-mile or so to your hike.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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