Cajon Group

Round Trip Distance: 0.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5157 - 5170 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 3 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Cajon Group
Fee: none
Attractions: Ancestral Puebloan Ruins

The Cajon Group (pronounced ka-hone) is located in the Hovenweep National Monument in southeastern Utah on the Navajo Reservation. Hovenweep National Monument is comprised of 6 discontiguous acreages that protect groups of ancestral Puebloan ruins. Each group of ruins are ensconced near canyon rims where remarkable masonry skills were used to contour the structures to the irregular shapes of boulders, slickrock surfaces and recesses in the rocks. Hovenweep is a Ute word that means 'deserted valley' which aptly describes the surrounding area with all the villages of ghostly ruins.

There aren't really any signs that say 'Cajon Group' to direct you to the trailhead. What you have instead are a few hints that will get you there if you have some initial information to begin with. First off, if you stop at the Hovenweep Visitor Center at Square Tower they will give you directions. You can also pay the entrance fee while you are there for there isn't a way that you can pay it at the trailhead. A good map to take along can be printed from their website before hand. The turnoff to the trailhead is 4 tenths of a mile west of the intersection of County Road 401 and County Road 143 which leads to the Hovenweep Visitor Center. This puts you on a dirt Reservation Road that has several names including Route 5056 and CO Rd 405. Follow the dirt road south for about 2.7 miles (their map says 2.8) and watch for the sign in the picture for a road on the right hand side.

Some passenger cars may prefer to park at this point and walk the remaining 2 tenths of a mile to the trailhead. Whether you walk or drive take the left fork as somewhat indicated in the picture.

Now that you have found the trailhead (ugh!) you are set to visit the site. There is a trail register where you can sign in that may also have some trail guides.

The trail leading to the ruins is easy to follow and basically flat.

The ruins were built around the spring coming from the alcove that was the lifeblood of the small village.

The Cajon Group ruins are somewhat extensive. The ancestral Puebloans appear to have been true masters of adhering their buildings to the underlying sandstone whether perched atop a boulder or on the slickrock around the rim of a canyon. With at least some of the structures it has been found that the builders actually carved a trough or flat spot into the sandstone before beginning the wall.

If you look carefully at the alcoves and recesses beneath the rim you will see that there were rooms built within almost every useful crack and cranny. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any trails that allow for a closer inspection of that region. A trail beneath the rim would be a tremendous enhancement to the Cajon Group and probably add significantly to any visit.

Here is one thing that you will need to get down on you belly for. Tucked away in an area beneath an overhang on the east side of the ruins a pictograph has been painted on the rock. This particular location is protected very well from the weather and elements and seems to have played a major part in the preservation of the rock art.

If you lay on your stomach with a telephoto lens you can get a good snapshot of the drawings. We actually held the camera below the rim and used the LCD panel to line up the shot. It seems that protected places like this contain some of the most significant drawings that may also have had a deeper meaning to the people that made them. Other sites with seemingly special art include the White Hands and Sun Dagger sites in Canyon Pintado and the drawings in McDonald Creek Canyon.

Take careful note of the penalties for various infractions. Moving or collecting pottery shards, collecting rocks, fossils or plants and defacing, destroying or leaving your mark - $250.00. Walking on walls is a bargain at $50.00. Even though they bring it to your attention here the laws and penalties are much the same on all public lands other than the rock collecting which is usually only restricted in national parks and monuments and some state parks.

The Cajon Group is one of those sites that you may as well visit if you are in the area. Visiting ruins, historical sites and exploring the trails of the southwest have a lot in common with any other learning experience. You never know whether the next thing you see or learn will be the most beautiful or significant yet until you find out for yourself. The Cajon Group does add to a persons overall perspective of the ancient inhabitants of the area. So, if you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.