Canyon of the Ancients is a relatively newly formed entity in southwestern Colorado. It covers a large number of pueblo ruins, most of which are not easily accessible. In fact, almost none of the monument is accessible from paved roads. There are some gravel and four wheel drive roads that reach trail heads. There is however a lovely brand new visitor center near Dolores, Colorado.
Our first stop after the visitor center was Lowry Pueblo which is one of the best preserved ruins in the park. It's also a nice picnic area where we came across this short-horned lizard.
The center of the pueblo is protected inside of a shelter. Some of the outer walls (like these) extend outside that shelter. It's a short loop from the parking lot to completely circle the pueblo.
Nearby is the enormous kiva that Lowry had. There isn't a lot of information out at the site, or really anywhere else that we could find. Architecturally, Lowry is connected to Chaco Canyon.
Not far from Canyons of the Ancients is Hovenweep National Monument just across the border in Utah. Hovenweep is also quite remote and a four wheel drive vehicle would be useful, although not necessary to get to the main Hovenweep visitor center and campground. This canyon features more than a dozen distinct ruins of separate towers. Along with the obvious ruin in the foreground there are four highlighted ruins visible from this vantage. They are from left to right; Twin Towers, Rim Rock House, Eroded Boulder and Tower Point.
Twin towers is a fairly obviously name. Most of these individual buildings were three stories high originally.
The loop hike through this canyon is about 2 miles long (3.2 km) if all the spurs are followed. Hiking along the canyon rim is fairly easy, there is a brief more challenging section that crosses the canyon floor.
There are good views of the surrounding mountains from Hovenweep. During our visit the claret jug cacti were in bloom.
We also augmented our budding collection of lizard photos with this collared lizard. Incidentally, despite not being far from the visitor center, we would highly recommend bringing plenty of water on this hike.
At the head of the canyon there is a distinctive tower rising from the canyon floor. There are a couple of other hikes that can be done in Hovenweep. They are fairly long although they can be shortened if some of the dirt roads are passable.
The visitor center has minimal facilities. There is a nice campground at Hovenweep as well but definitely come prepared. It is a very long way to the nearest store.