(originally published August 29, 2011)
If you’re driving through Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwestern Colorado, don’t miss a sweet little ruin down a mile of dirt road off Road 10. (It’s not too far outside of Hovenweep National Monument, another enchanting site for prehistoric ruins in the Four Corners area.
My husband, Ken, and I bumped down the road (it can be a little rough) until we found the Painted Hand Pueblo trail leading to a lovely 13th-century Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) tower gracefully perched over the canyon.
We parked and then took the short ¼-mile hike. The beginning is easy, leading through piñon and juniper forest. Scrambling down the banded sandstone to reach the tower’s base was more challenging (I was glad to have sturdy hiking boots!). However, the view of the stacked-brick tower beckoned. As we explored and enjoyed the tower, it was Ken who found and pointed out the faint shape of three white hands painted on rock—the reason for the ruins’ name. The lonely call of a hawk overhead got me wondering about the long-ago artist who left handprints handprint on this peaceful valley.
Painted Hand has interpretive signs and brochures at its trailhead. There’s no water or toilets—and the road is rough. (We made it in our Toyota Camry, but if the roads are muddy, you might need a four-wheel drive.)
For more information on the region, visit Mesa Verde Country visitor information bureau.
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor
Read more about my travels in national parks:
- Sea kayaking in the Channel Islands
- Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park
- The prehistoric world of Dinosaur National Monument
- 10 Reasons to celebrate America’s national parks
- Ancient ruins in Hovenweep National Monument
- Solar power at Ft. McHenry Historic Monument
- Explore a ruined pueblo: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument