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Crack In Rock - Wupatki National Monument, AZ

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Guide 6 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NE
5 of 5 by 5
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Loop 16 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,000 feet
Elevation Gain 100 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,000 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 36 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 26
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Ruins & Historic
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
10  2007-10-23 kathleenkylee
31  2007-10-20 Al_HikesAZ
30  2006-04-29 Randal_Schulhaus
Author Al_HikesAZ
author avatar Guides 11
Routes 88
Photos 2,643
Trips 241 map ( 2,306 miles )
Age 87 Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:13am - 6:24pm
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Listen to your Ranger
by Al_HikesAZ

This is a National Park Service Ranger guided backpacking trip into the Wupatki backcountry that is offered on a limited basis in April and October. Details are available online at the NPS Wupatki website. You submit an application for a drawing. If your name is drawn, you pay a fee (currently $50) to reserve your spot on the trip. Do not attempt this trip on your own. The Rangers provide context on what you are viewing and protect fragile sites that are still being archeologically excavated. The NPS has monitoring stations to protect these sites and there are criminal penalties and fines for intrusions. This is not a normal trip description for these reasons. This is an incredible trip to some of the most awesome ruins in Arizona so I am trying to describe it here without compromising it.

We met at the Visitor Center at 08:45 hours on Saturday. Our group had the maximum of 11 people. The two Rangers gave us a briefing on Leave No Trace ("LNT") ethics, then drove us to a trailhead. We were not allowed to take GPS units or hiking sticks. They do not want GPS coordinates revealed that might compromise an archeologic dig. This high desert environment is fragile and metal hiking pole tips will cause damage that can't be corrected. By limiting the number and timing of trips, they conserve the ecology of the areas such that the areas can heal between seasons.

There is no water on this trip, so we had to carry a minimum of 2 gallons of water each. We needed every ounce. This adds 16 lbs to the normal backpack load.

On Saturday we hiked a circuitous route of approximately 8 miles and visited several ruins. We stopped often for side excursions and this 8 mile hike took 6 hours. We learned the difference between prehistoric and historic sites. We learned the difference between female Hogans and male hogans. We got to our campground in late afternoon and set up camp. The Rangers then took us to Crack in Rock. We learned the legend behind Crack In Rock and it is awesome. I won't reveal the secret in this trip description. No technical climbing was involved, but if you are afraid of climbing or heights, this may not be a trip for you.

We sat around the campfire ring and talked before turning in.

We broke camp and hit the trail by 08:00hours. Sunday is a different circuitous hike. Saturday is Ruins day with some petroglyphs. Sunday is Petroglyphs day with some ruins. We hiked for about a half hour then dropped our packs and hiked to a couple of mesas to look at petroglyphs. The lead Ranger had encyclopedic knowledge of these petroglyphs and helped us explore the meanings. Subtle differences were explained. Some non-technical climbing was involved. The Rangers kept us out of sensitive areas that have not yet been fully excavated. We stopped several times for side excursions. We saw numerous interesting features created by erosion.

We arrived back at the trailhead by late afternoon. We debriefed, filled out evaluations and went back to the Visitors Center and our vehicles. You can only do this trip once every three years. I hope to be back.

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2007-10-21 Al_HikesAZ
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Crack In Rock - Wupatki National Monument
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This is a lottery draw as you know and Clyde somehow managed to get drawn again after his four year hiatus (you can only apply once every four years) so he put this up on ABC, BCH and So CA Backpackers. We had dispersed camped over by the Doney turnoff and woke to beautiful views :) of the snow-covered SF Peaks before driving over to meet up with the Ranger and a Ranger Archaeologist and Forest Service Intern with 12 other people for our backpack into the Wupatki National Monument. After short intros we loaded up in two vehicles for the back country (the road getting there off the main highway wasn't in the best of shape).

    We had all ages on this trip from about 20 with the intern to Clyde at 68. I had a 3 1/2 litre and 2 litre full of water and another bottle as this would be a dry camp. However, that was WAY too much water just as Clyde said it would be despite the explicit Forest Service instructions to bring that much water. The temperatures were perfect so we didn't drink that much water but still...

    We geared up and headed on our way walking around a rock formation area toward the Doney Monocline and then veered north. We would stop along the way for various POI including flora. The weirdest thing was dispersed hiking per the request of the ranger. It kind of goes against a hiker's grain but we found it rather fun to just pick our way across the landscape. Soon we would be heading up a mesa to check out our first ruins. Not only were there ruins on the hill, there were ruins below you. And the views were outstanding. Lucky for us we had a Forest Ranger archaeologist on board so she was able to talk about the various kinds of sherds we would see and tell us where they came from since the Wupatki seemed to be a primary trade center.

    After spending a good amount of time up there we headed on down, snacked and continued on our way thru the desert landscape toward our next stop. You could see other ruins higher up in the distance to the west. I tried to zoom when I could since we wouldn't be visiting these. After winding around, up and down, we approached the Long Lentil House. The construction was most impressive and once again, the views were really quite something. The rangers talked about the house and the area with the archaeologist saying they don't do preservation anymore UNLESS preservation had already been done. She explained about the process and how tedious it can be at times exclaiming they would love more volunteers. I didn't know there was such a need or that volunteers could do that kind of stuff.

    From there it was hiking to our lunch area in this pretty cool rock formation area and then on toward Chaos Wash (not the official name) which looks like it could be a fun place to hike. You hike in and down the wash before veering to the left to get out of it. From there, it is a lot of up and down hiking as the various mesas come into view. Our goal is to hike to camp that is within view of the mesa that holds the Crack in the Rock pueblo. Of course, during this whole time the Little Colorado River and Valley are to our right (eastish). Of course, you can pretty well tell where the river is based on the trees.

    We set up our camp and then headed up Crack in the Rock. You follow the road a piece before heading toward and then straight up the north side of the mesa. You circle around to the south side and thru an opening to the other side of the mesa. Before walking this side of the mesa we look SE toward the Valley with the moon rising above; it's a beautiful site :D . There are many ruins and glyphs here as we make our way to the other side of the mesa not even realizing we are passing by the entrance to the ruins above. The rangers take us back to this narrow opening to climb up; which ain't easy. But wow, that is pretty cool once you get up there into the Plaza. The sun was setting fast so soon we would have to find our way down; fortunately there was a different exit.

    Clyde and I got back to camp before the others. I got my wine and enjoyed my piece of pizza. The ranger built a nice campfire and there was a lovely restroom facility not too far; can't beat that for camping in the wilderness... oh, we were on Babbitt land so thanks to them for letting us use it.

    The next morning we prepared our gear and hiked back the way we came to a fenced area of the Monument where we crossed and hiked north again to approach the Middle Mesa from the north side and UP we went. We got to see more glyphs and a more lighted view of the area with the morning sun. We investigated around this mesa and headed over to the formidable Horseshoe Mesa. The archaeologist was working on panels here as they are in the process of full documentation of the glyphs. They are using some fancy photography as well that helps bring out the barely able to see glyphs. This one panel she is working on you can't even see except for a few minutes during a certain part of the day. And the panel is huge. Hopefully we'll get to see what she draws out as it involves almost life-size horses.

    We headed on down to pick up our packs that we had left at the gate. We continued our way toward Chaos Wash but certainly not the same way so it was fun to see some new territory. We had cloud cover so it certainly changed the ambiance for the rest of the hike. We saw some more remnants of the ancestral pueblo people and Navajo life as well as some really 8) landscape that we slithered in and around and up and down. We did have a couple good washes to go up and down. Oh I should say, there were times during this hike that the views to the snow-covered San Francisco Peaks were pretty awesome.

    We took one last break before the last mile back to the TH. We saw another glyph wall seemingly in the middle of nowhere and we saw a big ole owl fly off a couple times and lots of rabbits (hence the owl ;) ). Sometimes I thot the breaks were too long; I prefer short breaks and maybe more of them but overall the pace was reasonable considering the amount of people we had and their capability range. Clyde says this group was quite a bit better than the one four years ago as far as hiking ability.

    The finale was truly unexpected and awesome :app: . A rock formation framed the snow-capped San Franciso Peaks. It was really quite a scene. We posed for a group shot before piling back into the vehicles for our ride back to Wupatki. We changed and then headed for dinner at Pita Jungle before our drive back to the Valley. It was a great trip and had been on my "I'd sure like to do that" for a few years so sometimes it pays to tell the right people about your wishes. Thank you Clyde! for making the arrangements.

    (Day One 7.8 miles, Day Two 8.02 miles) Videos are longer than usual because I included some of the rangers talks.
    Crack in Rock Backpack, Day One:
    Video 1 to the first ruins - ... V9Fk
    Video 2 at the first ruins and toward the geology talk - ... vpG0
    Video 3 toward the Long Lentil House - ... blyU
    Video 4 from Lentil to lunch area - ... r0_g
    Video 5 from lunch area toward Chaos Wash - ... 7RzA
    Video 6 Chaos to camp - ... PM5M
    CRACK IN ROCK: ... ZJUU ... jaGc

    Day Two - in production (and there was some cool stuff on this day as well with two additional mesas)
    Part 1 to Middle Mesa ... tccs
    Part 2 Middle Mesa ... E24g
    Part 3 Middle and Horseshoe Mesa ... c70M
    Part 4 Horseshoe Mesa ... FUL0
    Part 5 back to the TH, part 1 to the Hogan ... _pXc
    Part 6 continuing back to the TH, part 2 ... _pXc
    Part 7 back to the TH, the finale (altho as of 12-23-15, I see I haven't uploaded it yet so I will add the link later)
    Crack In Rock - Wupatki National Monument
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    See the Trip Description I wrote for most of the details. When the Babbitt family gave this land to the National Park Service, they stipulated that it was to be scientifically researched and available to the public. These backpacking trips in April and October are how the NPS complies with the stipulation. This is the only backpacking trip of its kind offered by the NPS. The Rangers seem to really enjoy this.

    I drove up Friday and did some recon and small hikes around Humphrey's and Wupatki. Lots of tourists at Wupatki during the day, but I talked with some Rangers and had fun. I slept at Hampton Inn and got up real early to catch the first light on Wupatki. Ranger Mary Blasing was the lead Ranger. She is awesome in every way. Her first question was "Who was here at 6:00?". I sheepishly confessed.

    11 people in our group. Some drove up from Phoenix that morning. They were tired by the time we started. Todd, who owns Zoomers Bike Shop in Cottonwood was a lot of fun on our trip. If you need a Trek bike, see Todd (shameless plug). Mike, a hobbyist photographer from Ahwatukee, had never done a backpack trip like this and had some issues. For the sake of everyone on the trip, make sure you can backpack before trying this hike. Backpacking is not hiking, especially when you have to carry 2 gallons of water (an extra 16lbs) in a rented pack that doesn't fit. A backpack that fits is almost as important as boots that fit.

    We had constant winds. I carried my Kestrel weather unit and clocked steady winds in the 30's with gusts into the mid-40mph range. I took some grief for being Mr. Gadget. I was carrying extra weight and using this as a training hike for Nankoweap. Setting up my MSR Hubba in 40mph gusts was a challenge but I succeeded. Several people gave up and did not pitch their tents. I had some flapping but I was very glad that I had a wind screen during the night. The Rangers had never seen winds like this in the 31 years of this hike. Made for some anxiety on the mesas during our excursions.

    As I mention in the Trip description, we dropped our packs often to explore ruins and petroglyphs. Crack In Rock is absolutely AWESOME. Hopefully no photos of my butt climbing up the chimney will ever surface on the internet.
    Crack In Rock - Wupatki National Monument
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    A two day, 16 mile, back-packing adventure to Crack-In-Rock Ruins led by Ranger Mary and Volunteer Ranger Linda.

    Felt privileged being selected to go on this restricted, twice-a-year, lottery trek. Also got to spend the weekend with a great group;
    from left to right
    1. Linda
    2. Clark N.
    3. Ambika (aka desertgirl)
    4. Todd K.
    5. Eric C. (aka abfan1127)
    6. Matt B. (aka mcbond)
    7. Todd G. (aka GTG)
    8. Mike M.
    9. Riley K.
    10. Volunteer Ranger Linda
    11. Ranger Mary
    12. Mike R. (aka AZHikr4444)
    13. Aida from Tucson
    14. Glen from Tucson
    15. Randal (behind the lens)

    Started the weekend Friday around lunch time, gathering our group of 8 into a convoy of 4 vehicles. Made good time up the I-17 and arrived at the Hampton Inn in the east end of Flagstaff by mid-afternoon. Todd K and Mike M were feeling a little under-the-weather, but a hit of medicinal beverage and they were ready for dinner at the Beaver Street Brewery.

    We headed back to our rooms early for a restful sleep - NOT! I should point out that 120+ trains pass through Flagstaff daily and can report that most of them pass through the evening and blast their horns at each and every level crossing. I should also point out that a level crossing is located just outside our hotel room window!

    We planned to leave the hotel by 7am at the latest, but due to check-out snafus we were on the road at 7:25am! With some stellar driving, got to the Ranger Station/Visitor Center at 7:59am for an 8am departure...

    We left for the 4WD track to the trail head where Ranger Mary checked that everyone had packed the required minimum of 2 gallons of water and also reviewed "leave no trace" principles. Mary also requested that anyone carrying a GPS should leave them behind and we were soon on our way!

    The first day featured multiple ruins. Unfortunately the "unstablized" ruins are off-limits, but there are many stabilized ruins to compensate. The second day features multiple rock art sites. Manyartifacts were stumbled upon both days. There are also multiple historic Navajo sites to investigate along the way. Some desert wildlife was also encountered!

    We were fortunate that the weather was perfect until near the end of the second day as the winds began to pick up speed to the point that wearing a hat was impossible. Many of the washes had deep, black volcanic sand making the hike that much extra of a work out!

    We were back at the Visitor's Center by 3-ish giving us an opportunity to explore Waputki Pueblo.

    Thanks again to Mary and Linda for taking us to this special place. Would very much like to do it again and will make sure Riley doesn't forget the canned beverages...

    Permit $$
    information is in description

    Wupatki National Monument
    $20.00 per passenger vehicle
    $15.00 per motorcycle
    $10.00 per cyclist or pedestrian

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix, take I-17 north to Flagstaff (approximately 125 miles). Take I-40 east to Highway 89 (Exit 201). Take Highway 89 north. You have two options. I am using Randal Schulhauser's description of the Wupatki Ruins National Monument Trails hikes for this information.

    Approximately 17 miles north on Highway 89 you will reach the Sunset Crater turnoff at FR 545. You can turn right here and take a 22 mile backcountry loop to the Wupatki Visitors Center. Continue 15 miles north on Highway 89 to the well-marked turn-off to the Wupatki Ruins Road (GPS coordinates 35o 34.450'N, 111o 32.000'W). Drive about 15 miles until you reach the Wupatki National Monument Visitor Center (GPS coordinates 35o 31.222'N, 111o 22.270'W). The Visitor Center is also the entrance to the Wupatki Pueblo Trail. Travel time from Phoenix is a little over 3 hours.
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