Take a step back in time and visit the ancient dwellings of the Puebloan people in Northern Arizona. If you can only make it to one of the Indian ruins near Flagstaff it should be Wupatki pueblos.
A half day visit to Wupatki National Monument is an excellent day trip from Flagstaff.
A few miles north of Flagstaff, off Hwy 89, take the scenic Loop Road through Sunset Crater National Monument on your way to Wupatki. There are several easy hiking trails at Sunset Crater.
Continuing along the Loop Road you leave the ponderosa pine forests for the high desert and the extraordinary sandstone dwellings within Wupatki national park.
Keep scrolling to learn all about visiting Wupatki National Monument Arizona and the people who once lived in the pueblos.
Wupatki National Monument Map
You can get a map of Wupatki National Monument from the National Park website. There are information panels which include the map at the entrance to the park.
The map of Wupatki along with Sunset Crater shows the full route of the Loop Road and gives you an overview of the layout.
Wupatki National Monument Fees
The entrance fee covers both Wupatki and Sunset Crater National Monument and is valid for 7 days.
- $25 per vehicle
- $20 motorcycle
- $15 pedestrian/cyclist
Wupatki National Monument Hours
The Wupatki Visitor Center is open from 9 am – 4:30 pm daily (except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)
Trails are open from sunrise to sunset daily.
Note that there are no gas stations, restaurants, camping, or hotels at Wupatki. Plan accordingly, bring water, snacks or a picnic lunch, and make sure you have enough gas in your vehicle.
Pets must be on leash at all times. No pets allowed on the trails. But service animals (on leash) are allowed on trails and in buildings.
It you only have time to visit one of the pueblos go see Wupatki Pueblo (by the visitor center) because it is the biggest.
For wheelchair users and people with limited mobility the best ruins to see are Wupatki (to the overlook) and Wukoki.
The five pueblos at Wupatki are each unique dwellings. The names of the pueblos are Wukoki, Wupatki, Citadel, Nalakihu, and Lomaki. These are not the names given by the original inhabitants.
Archaeologists chose to borrow names from the Hopi language. The Hopi people are descendants of the Sinagua people that built and lived in the pueblos of Wupatki.
The pueblos were constructed around 1100 CE and inhabited for about 150 years. We don’t know why the people chose to go elsewhere. Perhaps they originally planned to return to Wupatki at some point.
I visited the Wupatki pueblos a half dozen times during my last visit to Arizona. I am fascinated with the place. People speak of the vortexes around Sedona, but I feel the strongest energy vortex around Wupatki.
The Hopi believe that the people who lived and died at Wupatki remain as spiritual guardians.
Please respect these ancient and historic structures, they are fragile. Do not climb on the buildings and do not take anything from the sites. Take only photographs.
Wupatki and the surrounding lands continue to be sacred to the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo people.
The Wukoki Pueblo is the first of the ruins you will encounter at Wupatki National Monument.
Wukoki means “big house” in the Hopi language.
When you drive the Loop Road from Sunset Crater watch for the sign to Wukoki Pueblo and turn right. A short drive leads to a small parking lot.
Follow the path to Wukoki Pueblo.
The location of Wukoki offers spectacular views of the Colorado Plateau and it’s an excellent vista to watch the sunset.
Or sunrise if you are a morning person.
Wukoki structure consists of a three-story tower along with seven rooms and a plaza area with a short semicircular wall enclosing it.
A pathway leads around the building and up the stairs where you can walk into a couple of the rooms and onto the plaza to enjoy the amazing views.
Over the years the structure was reinforced with wood braces along with cement and mud mortar to stabilize the walls.
In 1896 a partial excavation by archeologist Jess Walter Fewkes found pottery, a shell bracelet, ear pendants with turquoise mosaic inlays at Wukoki.
The largest and most impressive of the ruins at Wupatki National Monument is the called Wupatki. It is directly behind the Wupatki Visitor Center building.
At the visitor center ask for the trail guide to Wupatki so you can look up information corresponding to the numbered markers on the trail.
Wupatki derives from the Hopi language and means “tall house.”
The Wupatki Pueblo included up to 100 rooms in total, with some used for storage of food and water. It is an extraordinary site, the largest pueblo in the area.
The trail to the overlook at Wupatki Pueblo is wheelchair accessible. But then the trail loops down to stairs or around to the back of the pueblo but it’s steep and not rated accessible.
There is a comprehensive trail guide to Wupatki available from the American Southwest Virtual Museum, created by Northern Arizona University, National Park Service, and Museum of Northern Arizona.
Construction of Wupatki
At its peak, the Wupatki pueblos housed hundreds of people. Besides the main pueblos featured at Wupatki National Monument there are dozens of small ruins throughout the park.
Constructed around 1100 CE the buildings are made from sandstone, limestone, and basalt rock, with clay-based mortar holding the stone brickwork together.
On the ground level rooms there are no doorways, wooden ladders provided entrance via rooftops. The roofs constructed of timbers, reeds, grass, and mud.
Terraced rooms on the south and east facing sides have more sun exposure. The highest portion is up to three stories tall on the west facing side.
Due to erosion the original mortar began to deteriorate so fresh mortar is used to stabilize the walls, along with beams and other stabilizing features.
Wupatki blow hole
A fun and fascinating feature at Wupatki, the blow hole is connected to an underground cavern or passage. The blow hole reacts to barometric pressure.
When the outside air pressure is lower the air blow out from the hole. But when outside air pressure is higher the air flows into the hole.
It’s quite amazing to experience. It felt like air-conditioning when I placed my face over the blow hole.
Wupatki ball court
Ball courts originated in the Mesoamerican cultures such as the Aztec, Maya, and Olmec and date back around 3,500 years.
The ball court at Wupatki is 78 ft wide and 102 ft long with 6 ft high wall. Archaeologists have found over 200 ball courts around Arizona, although they are more common in southern Arizona.
Wupatki community room
The community room is a large circular space similar to a kiva, but there is no evidence that a roof covered the room.
It is speculated that this open-air community space was a gathering place for rituals and ceremonies.
Continue on the Loop Road for 9.5 miles and the Citadel Pueblo is on the left side of the road.
This is another outstanding place to watch the sunset in Arizona. Citadel has excellent views of the small canyon and the San Francisco Peaks mountains.
Situated atop a small hill the Citadel walls follow the outline of the hill. You can see other ruins from the Citadel. Bring your binoculars for better viewing and perhaps some bird watching too.
You may see a lot of lizards atop the Citadel ruins while watching the setting sun in summer months.
Nalakihu is the Hopi word meaning “house standing outside the village” and it’s the smaller structure at the beginning of the trail to Citadel Pueblo.
It’s interesting to see the variety of structures at Wupatki national park. What is consistent throughout all the pueblos is the craftsmanship of the structures.
Box Canyon Dwellings
About a quarter mile from Citadel parking lot turn right and continue a half mile to the parking lot for the Box Canyon dwellings and Lomaki Pueblo.
You can walk to both structures on either side of the small canyon then continue walking the short trail to Lomaki Pueblo.
There is work in progress to make this trail wheelchair accessible.
At the end of the trail from the box canyon dwellings the Lomaki Pueblo sits along the edge of a small canyon.
Lomaki means “beautiful house” in the Hopi language.
The Lomaki structure included nine rooms and the location offers beautiful views of the San Francisco Peaks.
Over the years some stabilization work helped protect the dwellings from further damage, including the use of cement.
Nowadays there is an effort to keep archaeological sites as natural as possible. Rather than cement a mortar is made from cinders and local soils, more like the original mortar used centuries ago.
I think you’ll find Wupatki is one of the most interesting things to do around Flagstaff. Read about more things to do in Flagstaff. And if you plan to road trip around Arizona be sure to check out Prescott, Sedona, and Tucson too!
Have fun exploring Arizona and the beauty of the Southwestern United States.
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