Between the Painted Desert and the ponderosa highlands (approx 20 minutes from Flagstaff), lies what is believed to be the largest ancient pueblo for 50 some odd miles. North of Flagstaff up U.S. 89, Wupatki National Monument sits as the third, and final National Monument along this beautiful alternative route towards the Grand Canyon. Which eventually offers a roundabout intersection in Cameron, onto Hwy 64 westbound, towards the Grand Canyon’s east entrance (the Desert View Watchtower).
Scenery aside, this place has some serious historical sites, comprising occupation from 400 AD, all the way up to 1185 AD. After which, the sites were all mysteriously abandoned by 1225 AD. While we can only hypothesize why they left, we do know that they thrived here off of non-irrigation agriculture, and as a part of a trade hub. As artifacts originating from the Gulf, and the Pacific, have been found around these archaeological sites.
The National Monument has several sites that visitors can visit on their own, with very family friendly paths and accessibility. The namesake pueblo is also the site of the Visitor Center, with the parking lot in front, and the Wupatki Pueblo in the back. Wukoki pueblo, which is a sizable pueblo, is accessible via an offshoot road from the Visitor Center, towards the east end of the park. These two sites are “far” from U.S. 64, but would be the first sites to access if you’ve taken the Loop Road through Sunset Crater National Monument.
For those who are accessing Wupatki from 64 direct, will find Lomaki and Box Canyon pueblos shallow in the part, yet pleasing of there own. Nalakihu Pueblo follows down the road, and it would be difficult to miss the Citadel Pueblo. As it stands like a watchtower over the surrounding lands.
Wupatki is an interesting experience in history, and I hope your family enjoys pondering the mystery of the pueblos as I have. You can always find out more at the National Park Service’s website of the monument; here.
Wupatki is a must-see if you’re traveling in Flagstaff/Northern Arizona and wish to experience some of the area’s ancient Native culture and some seriously well preserved/restored ruins.