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7 Indian Ruins Near Flagstaff Arizona

When you think of Flagstaff Arizona do you think of Indian ruins? Before I stayed in Flagstaff, I never realized how many Indian ruins there are in Northern Arizona.

With dozens of things to do near Flagstaff you may have to plan your day trips according to your top interests rather than seeing all of them during one vacation to Flagstaff.

Certainly, the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Winslow AZ show up on many bucket lists. But the pueblo ruins deserve a visit as well.

Visiting the ruins around Flagstaff ticks a lot of boxes: historic interest, hiking, scenic drives, and the perfect sunset viewing location near Flagstaff.

Here are seven ruins in and around Flagstaff you should visit on your next Arizona road trip.

 

7 Ruins near Flagstaff Arizona that you should visit, image of Tuzigoot National Monument

 

Archaeological Site Etiquette

First a word about site etiquette when visiting archaeological sites around Arizona. The Coconino National Forest has prepared a guide for the do’s and don’ts when visiting historic sites such as ruins.

You can read the guide here.

The basics rules:

  • No climbing, sitting, or standing on the ruins – they are fragile
  • No drawing, scratching, carving on the ruins
  • Do not move or remove any artifacts – take only photographs
  • Do not make offerings or leave anything at the ruins

Now let’s discover more about Flagstaff’s ancient ruins.

 

Wupatki Native American ruins AZ

 

1.      Elden Pueblo Archaeological Site

The first of the Indian ruins on the list is easy to get to because it’s in Flagstaff. The Elden Pueblo is on US-89 about 6 miles north of downtown Flagstaff.

Elden Pueblo Archaeological Site features an interpretive trail (you can download it with a QR code at the trail) so you can do a self-guided tour.

You may not have cell phone service at the site so here is a pdf of the Elden Pueblo Trail Guide you can download before you visit.

Construction of the Elden Pueblo took place between 1100 – 1275 CE by the Sinagua people. The site contained 60 – 70 rooms built from stones and clay mortar.

The Hopi Indians consider Eldon Pueblo site a special ancestral place called pasiovi or pavasioki.

The Sinagua people migrated away from the Northern Arizona area around 1300 to 1400 CE.

Trade items found on the site indicate it was a busy trade route with items from Mexico, and sea shells made into jewelry, from the California coast.

Fee: FREE

Hours: Open year round with no set hours

 

Flagstaff Elden ruins with stone walls

Eldon Pueblo Flagstaff Arizona

 

2.      Homolovi State Park

You can combine a visit to Homolovi Ruins with a trip to Winslow Arizona, famous because of a certain song. Homolovi State Park is located on US-87 in Winslow AZ, about 1 hour drive east from Flagstaff.

Before you leave for the park, download a pdf map of Homolovi. There is a visitor center, campground, and several hiking trails at the park.

At the Homolovi visitor center there is an exhibit about the Hopi code talkers, World War II heroes.

Ancestors of the Hopi people lived in the pueblos at Homolovi during the 1300s and then migrated to other areas.

At the Homolovi I and Homolovi II sites you will see lots of pottery shards on the ground. Please remember to only take photos, do not take any artifacts.

If you are lucky will get to attend one of the Star Parties at Homolovi (cancelled in 2020) for a unique experience.

Check the state park website for updates. Star Parties usually happen on the 4th Saturday each month except for December.

Fee: $7 per vehicle/$3 per bicycle/individual

Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily (Thanksgiving/Christmas Eve 8 am – 2 pm/Christmas Day – closed)

 

Hopi Code Talkers Remembrance exhibit with photos of Hopi veterans

 

Petroglyphs at Homolovi National Monument AZ

 

3.      Honanki Heritage Site

Honanki Heritage Site is a wonderful day trip from Sedona or Flagstaff. The drive to the site includes an unpaved road so plan ahead and make sure the road conditions are favorable before you leave.

Another option available is a Pink Jeep Tour from Sedona if you want to leave the driving to someone else.

The Sinagua lived in this area of the red rocks from 1050 to 1350 CE. Honanki ruins includes some two-story structures along with a larger space for gatherings.

There were at least 70 rooms at Honanki pueblo. The construction method used a mortar made from mud and water to hold the stones in place.

Fee: Daily Red Rock Pass $5

Weekly Red Rock Pass $15

Daily and weekly Red Rock passes available for purchase from vending machine

America the Beautiful (US National Parks pass) is also valid for entry

Hours: 9:30 am to 3:00 pm

Permitted entry via Pink Jeep Tours are offered before 9:30 am and after 3:00 pm

Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas

 

Honanki Heritage Site Indian ruins near Sedona Arizona

 

4.      Montezuma Castle and Lake Montezuma

Montezuma Castle National Monument combines two historic sites in one national monument. Note that the two sites are located about 10 miles apart, in Camp Verde Arizona.

Montezuma Castle is one of the best preserved Indian ruins in North America, partly because they stopped letting people climb up to the ruins. The cliff dwellings are in remarkable condition, the structure was built sometime around 1100 – 1200 CE.

You can view the cliffside pueblo from below and there is a detailed diorama to give you an idea of daily life for the Sinagua people who lived here until the early 1400s.

The limestone and mud mortar construction of the cliff dwellings overlook a creek. The 5-story Montezuma Castle used wooden beams for the rooftops. Ladders provided stairways and access to rooftops.

Montezuma Well brings over 1 million gallons of water per day. The springs feeding the lake provided the Sinagua with a water supply and irrigation for farming.

Today you can still see some of the canals created for irrigating the crops.

Fee: $10 and it’s good for 7 days at Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monument

Children under 16 – FREE admittance

Montezuma Well – FREE admittance to everyone

Hours

8 am – 5 pm daily (closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and closes at 2 pm on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve)

 

Montezuma Castle adobe structure built into a cliff.

 

5.      Tuzigoot Ruins

Tuzigoot National Monument is an excellent choice for a one day trip combined with Cottonwood and the Dead Horse Ranch State Park – don’t let the name turn you off, it’s a beautiful place!

All these destinations are a short drive from Sedona on Route 89 heading southwest.

Tuzigoot is the Apache word for “crooked water” and it was home to around 150 people. This is another of the Southern Sinagua pueblos built from stone and mortar starting around 1000 CE.

When you visit the ruins at Tuzigoot you will see why they chose this location. The views of the Verde Valley are beautiful, and the land is rich for farming.

Birdwatching is popular around this area and there is a short walkway to the marsh where you can look for birds so bring your binoculars.

Fee: $10 and it’s good for 7 days at Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monument

Children under 16 – FREE admittance

Montezuma Well – FREE admittance to everyone

Hours: 8 am – 5 pm daily (closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)

 

Tuzigoot National Monument Arizona Indian ruins and views of the Verde Valley

 

6.      Walnut Canyon National Monument

To the east of Flagstaff, the Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings offer one of the best opportunities to view cliffside Indian ruins. Walking the Island Trail, you follow a path right next to the rooms with a wonderful view of the canyon.

Listen for birdsong and look for cliff dwellings on the other side of the canyon. You can imagine that Walnut Canyon was an amazing place to live.

Shallow caves formed in the canyon walls created the perfect building foundation for the Sinagua. Adding walls made from stones and clay mortar, the families could have their own private rooms.

The walls were covered with clay plaster for a smooth finish. Vessels made from clay could store water or food items. The Sinagua farmed the areas along the canyon rim, growing beans, corn, and squash.

Walking the Rim Trail will lead you to an overlook of the canyon, picnic area, and pithouses. Remember to watch for snakes during warmer weather.

Fee: $15 per person/children 15 and under FREE admission

Hours: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm daily

 

Walnut Canyon cave dwellings in Arizona

 

Walnut Canyon National Monument image of limestone canyon wall

 

7.      Wupatki Pueblos

I’ve saved the best for the last. Wupatki National Monument is my favorite of all the ruins around Flagstaff. It consists of five pueblos of varying sizes. Read my guide to Wupatki.

Driving from the south entrance (through Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument) you will find:

  • Wukoki Pueblo
  • Wupatki Pueblo
  • Citadel Pueblo
  • Box Canyon Dwellings
  • Lomaki Pueblo

The houses were built from limestone and sandstone and held together with clay mortar. Wupatki Pueblo is the largest, with about 100 rooms in total, plus the handball court and community room.

Watch the sunset at Wupatki Pueblo (Citadel Pueblo is an excellent sunset viewing spot) for an experience to remember. And do watch out for wildlife at dusk and dawn hours. Cottontail rabbits are common and you may also see pronghorn, take it slow on the roads.

You might see lizards and gopher snakes around Wupatki, don’t freak out! Gopher snakes are harmless to people, not so for rodents though. I saw a gopher snake on my most recent visit to Wupatki ruins.

Fee: Includes Wupatki and Sunset Crater $25 per vehicle, $20 motorcycle, $15 pedestrian

Hours: Trails are open sunrise to sunset

 

Wupatki Pueblo image at sunset

 

Red sandstone structure at Wokoki pueblo Arizona

 

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7 Ruins you should visit near Flagstaff Arizona

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