Welcome to Exit 4 of our Great American Road Trip with Kids (and on a budget)!
Exit 4 is a short post about Hovenweep National Monument where we had a quick pit stop, filled with a two-hour hike in the heat, on our way to majestic Monument Valley.
If you’ve been following along with us, much appreciated!
We know traveling is hard to do these days (Hovenweep National Monument is currently open, though the visitor center is not), but we hope that times to travel will return soon, and that you can use these recaps of our Great American Road Trip to help plan your next stop at Hovenweep National Monument.
Want to follow along with us on this journey? Awesome! You can follow us through RSS feed, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, or just by subscribing to receive emails when posts are release. Much obliged!
As a reminder, we’re giving you our recommendations and non-recommendations (or highlights and lowlight), for a Great American Road Trip with kids (and on a budget). This will include tips and tricks, what there is to do, how kid friendly each place is, how you can do it on a family-friendly budget, and what you’ll need for that portion of the trip.
And remember, we seriously recommend this trip with a fourth grader. The National Park Services have a wonderful program called “Every Kid Outdoors” where every fourth grader, and their family, get into the parks for free.
Hovenweep National Monument doesn’t charge an entrance fee.
Great American Road Trip: Exit 4 – Hovenweep National Monument
I know what you’re thinking?! How the heck did they find Hovenweep National Monument and why did they go there?
As mentioned in prior posts, I really wanted to make sure we didn’t have a lot of time in the van, so I tried to find places to see in between Stop A and Stop B. Today’s agenda was to go from our campsite at Mesa Verde National Park to our campsite outside of Monument Valley Tribal Park (3 hours).
Hovenweep National Monument was 1 hour, 25 minutes from Morefield Campground, so rather than a 3-hour trip we had two 1-1/2 hour trips. We good?
How did I find it? I used the National Park Services website, and scoured the parks in each state. You can find that site here at Find a Park by State.
We chose Hovenweep National Monument because it looked like a neat place to visit.
Hovenweep National Monument is rich in Native American history. The habitation dates to over 10,000 years ago when nomadic Paleoindians visited the Cajon Mesa to gather and hunt food.
By about 900 A.D., people started to settle at Hovenweep year-round. By the late 1200s, the area was home to over 2,500 people.
The architecture and pottery styles are similar to the ones we saw at Mesa Verde, so historians believe the two groups were homies.
The intriguing part about Hovenweep National Monument is the variety of structures. There are square and circular towers, D-shaped dwellings, and kivas. It was interesting to see how they built these on top of the canyon, and you can see that some have since adjusted due to deterioration, though some sit awkwardly on a large boulder that hasn’t moved for centuries.
There’s also desert plants and wildlife (do they call it wildlife in the desert?) to spot, like lizards and the Desert Cottontail (aka a cute bunny).
See our photos below for pictures of the structures and desert plants.
Hovenweep National Monument (2.4 out of 5):
It was a 2-hour hike in the sun so the kids scored it low (two 2s, one 1). The one wasn’t fair to the park either as, if you read previously, our son battled sickness from the altitude change so, even though he was a trooper and did the 2-mile hike with no complaints, he did it while battling a headache, stomach illness and chugging a couple of 32-ounce Gatorades.
My wife and I scored it a 4 and 3, respectively. I loved doing the hike with the kids, the photo opportunities, and again seeing that people built this stuff centuries ago with their own hands. I can’t even build a friggin’ shelf (but as I tell my wife, I write a great blog!)
Age: 8 and up, especially if you plan on hiking. The Square Tower Loop Trail was 2 hours, the temperature wasn’t too bad, and the hike wasn’t extreme but we did need to hike down into the canyon and then back out of it which took some maneuvering.
Badges Earned: Junior Ranger Hovenweep National Monument.
Mom’s Frugal Five Tip of the Day: Not much different to report here. We stopped in Cortez, the town just outside Mesa Verde National Park for gas, and to hit up Walmart to fill up on supplies, like the aforementioned Gatorade, that we depleted during our two nights of camping. We knew that we were just two nights into our six straight nights of camping so we needed to refill the cooler, and plan dinners for next few days. Also, you don’t need to get fancy with lunch. Pop the back of the van up, open the cooler, swipe some mayo on bread, add some meat and lunch is served.
Word of the Day: Erosion (noun) – the process of eroding or being eroded by wind, water, or other natural agents; the gradual destruction or diminution of something. Hovenweep National Monument has plenty of examples of erosion.
The Johnson Five Recommends: As I’ve done in past posts, my summary basically explains what we recommend. You’ve driven nearly two hours into the middle of nowhere, so make sure you spend time at the parks. Take in the visitor center, take in the scenery, and do the longer, more scenic hikes. You likely won’t visit this place again, experience as much of it as you can.
The Johnson Five Doesn’t Recommend: Getting lost! You have ZERO coverage in a place like Hovenweep – and really any of these national parks, so you can’t rely on your phone. I had printed out all the routes via Google map, but for some reason we either took the wrong road out of Hovenweep National Monument or Google thought it had something better for us in mind. We did bring along an old road atlas. Thankfully this archaic way of traveling saved us as we drove mindlessly through canyons in southeast Utah.
What You’ll Need – Get Them Here!
We’re not big campers, so if you’re looking for more in-depth knowledge on camping and camping materials, check out my buddy at We Live A Lot. These are some of items we used and recommend while hiking Hovenweep National Monument.