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Over the summer we spent a lot of time in Flagstaff and drove past Wupatki National Monument every time. Of course, we had to go so sometime in the middle of summer we finally decided to stop. It’s the perfect hidden gem that deserves to be on more bucket lists and road trip itineraries.
We actually went to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument first and drove through the park to get here. That trip we only went to the Wukoki Pueblo because it was so hot but I already knew I loved it!
The visitor center was closed all summer so we never got to stop there. The first visit was pretty quick but later in the summer when it wasn’t quite as hot we went back to see the Citadel and Lomaki pueblos.
It was a little bit cooler that time which made the short hikes much more enjoyable. We saw a ranger at the Citadel Pueblo and he was there to pick up poop from the pueblo.
Human poop. This should go without saying, but obviously somebody thought it was OK, but DON’T POOP IN THE PUEBLO!
There isn’t really any hiking in the park other than the short trails to the pueblos so we didn’t have much else to do there (except still go back to see the Wupatki Pueblo) but it’s still an amazing place to visit.
Things to keep in mind when visiting rock art & ruins:
- Do not touch the rock art (pictographs or petroglyphs) because the oils on our fingers can degrade them.
- If you find artifacts, do not take them. Leave them where they are and just take pictures.
- If there are structures (rooms, kivas, anything like that) don’t enter them unless it is stated that you can. Most places you can’t but national and state parks will have restored structures you can enter. Mesa Verde, Edge of the Cedars, and Anasazi Museum all have ruins you can enter.
- And finally, don’t carve in or write or paint or draw on the rocks! I don’t want to have to say this, but I need to for real.
What is Wupatki National Monument?
Wupatki was possibly the tallest, largest, and most influential pueblo around less than 800 years ago. 85-100 people called this pueblo home but several thousand more lived within a day’s walk. While humans have been in this are for at least 10,000 years, only the 1100s were as densely populated.
Part of that may have had to do with the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano nearby a century earlier which pushed families out since their homes and land were lost to lava and ash but left the ground covered in cinders that held moisture needed for crops.
Large pueblos soon replaced small scattered houses as the agricultural community spread. Trade networks expanded and Wupatki flourished as a meeting place for different cultures before the people moved on around 1250.
This is the biggest and most impressive site in the park. It’s a 0.5 mile trail to the 104 room pueblo behind the visitor center. It’s also the only one I haven’t seen yet. It used to be a regional center for trade and features a ball court and a unique geologic blowhole.
This was my favorite site that we saw and has a short 0.2 mile trail to get to it. This was the most intact ruin with rooms you could go into (you could enter all of the ruins, not just this one) and they were pretty built up with a trail that loops around the base.
This is a 0.5 mile trail taking you through the ruins right on the edge of Box Canyon. This is a nice little walk, not my favorite of the short trails, but still really nice.
Citadel Pueblo and Nalakihu Pueblo
This is a short 0.2 mile walk up a small hill. You’ll pass Nalakihu Pueblo on your way up to Citadel Pueblo where you’ll get to enjoy a 360 degree view of the area. I really liked this one but it’s more ruin than structure at this point.
Where is Wupatki National Monument in Arizona?
Wupatki National Monument is about an hour from Flagstaff (to the visitor center) and about two hours from Page. It’s right next to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and they’re actually connected by their in-park roads.
What to bring to Wupatki National Monument
Best time to visit Wupatki National Monument in Arizona
Definitely fall, winter, and spring. We went mid-summer and it was probably 100 degrees. There is no shade, some in the dwellings, but not enough to rely on so if you do go in the summer, I’d go first thing in the morning. And if you go in the summer make sure you drink tons of water.
Is Wupatki National Monument worth it?
Yes! I loved it and would definitely go back even though we’ve pretty much seen everything. We did miss the Wupatki Pueblo so I’d like to see that but this is definitely worth it.
It’s a great road trip stop between Page and Flagstaff and you really don’t need to set aside tons of time for it. Maybe 1.5 hours for just this and I’d say maybe 3 if you go to Sunset Crater, too.
Have you been to Wupatki National Monument in Arizona? What did you think of it? What are your favorite ruins in Arizona?