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Wupatki Ruins National Monument Trails, AZ

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Guide 62 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Flagstaff > Flagstaff NE
3.3 of 5 by 12
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 1 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,929 feet
Elevation Gain 472 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.96
Interest Ruins
Backpack No
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
2  2018-05-24 azbackpackr
8  2016-12-30 ddgrunning
4  2013-06-22 blueberry1222
20  2013-01-13
Sunset Crater Wupatki Loop Road
3  2012-06-15 joshvigh
36  2012-05-26 CenAZwalker
8  2012-03-26 AZLOT69
5  2011-07-11 burntlizard
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author Randal_Schulhauser
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 59 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Sep
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:13am - 6:23pm
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Geology Nearby
Culture Nearby
Sinaguan Neighborhood
by Randal_Schulhauser

Likely In-Season!
A recent edition of Arizona Highways touted itself as "A trip planning guide to some of the famous ruins across the state". I've frequently passed by Waputki Ruins National Monument on my various travels to the canyon lands of Arizona and Utah, but decided the next time we're in the area we'd visit the ruins. That "next time" came when we returned my daughter to NAU at the end of her March Break.

Some History: "All the prominent points occupied by the ruins of stone houses of considerable size. They are evidently the remains of a large town, as they occurred at intervals for an extent of eight or nine miles and the ground were thickly strewn with fragments of pottery in all directions." - Journal entry by Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves at Camp No. 14, October 8th, 1851.

So who constructed these ruins as noted in this first known written account? The archeological record indicates that these ruins are at the crossroads of the Anasazi containing elements of Sinaguan, Hohokam, Mogollon and Kayentan cultures. Most archeologists, however, consider Waputki a Sinaguan site.

Although there is evidence of prehistoric occupation in the area for more than 2000 years, events in 1064 and 1066 AD, about 15 miles to the south, seemed to create favorable conditions to support a population boom. Eruptions from Sunset Crater Volcano deposited a layer of fertile, water retaining, ash to the local soil. All the ruin sites saw many rooms added throughout the 1100's until they could house perhaps 80 to 100 people each.

In 1212 the last log was cut and placed into Waputki Pueblo and construction continued at some of the outlying sites. By 1225, a scant generation later, over-population, crop failures, and drought prompted abandonment by many families. According to Hopi oral tradition, most moved to Homolovi (near present day Winslow). Others relocated to the Verde Valley, particularly Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot.

In the 1700's and 1800's, some Navajo families resided in and about the ruins. By 1882, with the arrival of the railroad through Flagstaff, visitations to the ruins rapidly increased. Pot hunting and other souvenir hunting seemed to be the norm during this time. Looting became such a concern that it prompted the formation of Waputki Ruins National Monument in 1924.

I find it curious that Park Rangers once lived in Waputki Pueblo. During the 1930's and 40's a policy of reconstruction prevailed. This was reversed in the 1950's and led to the removal of the walls and roofs shown in these older photos.

Hiking Wukoki Pueblo Trail: (aka "Big House" in Hopi language) This set of ruins was built upon a relatively low sandstone butte. There is a well marked 0.4 mile loop trail from the parking lot "trail head". The surrounding rock formations and boulders can provide interesting foreground subjects when photographing the ruins. The Arizona Highways cover shot illustrates some of the possibilities. You can also use the Painted Desert as a dramatic backdrop. Great photo-ops, too bad I left the camera behind when we hiked this trail!

Hiking Wupatki Pueblo Trail: (aka "Tall House" or "Long-Cut House" in Hopi Language) At the Visitor Center, pay the National Monument entrance fee or show your NPS Annual Pass for free admission. As you walk through the Visitor Center, there are displays of artifacts. Most were unearthed during the many archeological excavations conducted since the ruins were declared a National Monument in 1924. Pick up a Wupatki Pueblo Trail Guide at the Ranger's desk. The guide has 20 numbered sections that correspond to 20 signed stops along the trail. Each section offers a glimpse of the Wupatki historical record. As you walk out the Visitor Center and head to the west, you'll soon reach a look-out point offering a complete view of the ruins site. The 3-story tall pueblo, the "Tall House", dominates the view. In the foreground is a large, circular, open-aired, community room. The smaller central pueblo lies in the background of the community room and remains largely unexcavated. At the extreme north end of the loop trail lies a ball court and blow hole. As you continue along the 0.5 mile loop trail, take note of the architectural details. Notice how some sandstone boulders have been incorporated into the walls.

Hiking Citadel Pueblo Trail: Take the 0.3 mile loop trail that circles this fortress-like ruin located on the top of a small hill. From this vantage, you'll have sweeping views of San Francisco Peaks to the south and the Painted Desert to the north. Nalakihu ruins lie at the foot of the hill close to the roadside.

Hiking Lomaki Pueblo Trail: (aka "Beautiful House" in Hopi language) This 0.4 loop trail will also take you to the Box Canyon Dwellings located slightly south of Lomaki pueblo.

Summary: I'm often asked to recommend "family-friendly" hikes. With my personal preference for the strenuous and extreme, I need to find acceptable compromise hikes for family outings. This relatively short, flat, historical excursion certainly fits the bill. If you want to incorporate more of a workout, I'd recommend bringing your bike along to make the trek between the major ruins. I saw at least half a dozen riders making the circuit, some on road bikes and some on mountain bikes. If you have a passion for Indian ruins, you may want to consider this destination for an easy stroll or an interesting bike ride. Enjoy!

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2006-04-03 Randal_Schulhauser
    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
    Wupatki Ruins National Monument Trails
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    We entered the park via the entrance at Sunset Crater. We had hoped to climb the crater but found out "after paying" that Sunset Crater is closed for hiking. :sorrry: There is a smaller, less interesting crater (Lenox Crater) that is open for hiking. Its kind of like setting up a date with the hot girl and then her ugly cousin shows up. :yuck: I've seen many great places in this state, many more that would seem need protecting than this crater. Its just not that interesting. Fortunately, it will be preserved for future generations who will also not be able to see it. :stop:

    We stopped at one of the ruins and walked around the trails, but not a lot of interest amongst our group, so we moved on along the road to Monument Valley.

    This is incredibly beautiful land. I would rate this destination a 5, if not for the hiking restrictions that diminish your desire to explore.
    Wupatki Ruins National Monument Trails
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    Sunset Crater Wupatki Loop Road
    we were supposed to be cross-country skiing today, but the weather and our internal thermometers had diffing opinions, so we decided to take a scenic drive instead. this drive included many stops to see lava, snow, and ruins, and i was okay with that. ruins are not my favorite destination on a hike, but this was okay. between scenic destinations, we were kept warm by the heater in the truck. we ended up at the lumberyard brewery where i had mac & cheese with a side of mac & cheese. so good.
    Wupatki Ruins National Monument Trails
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    Trek up to Flagstaff with a truck load of IKEA furniture and Xmas goodies to drop off at Hannah's condo. Later explored Wupatki Ruins with Hannah after lunch at the Beaver Street Brewery. Expected to see snow around the ruins but very little was spotted. Once again that annual NPS pass comes in handy..
    Wupatki Ruins National Monument Trails
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    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.
    Wupatki Ruins National Monument Trails
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    With Harry de Bruyn visiting on business from the Netherlands. We used Flagstaff as our weekend "base camp" and allowed him to fulfill a lifetime dream of visiting the Grand Canyon.

    We visited all the accessible ruins sites having them pretty much to ourselves. We did meet a couple from Glendale in the process of executing some serious shots as the "golden hour" approached.

    Also found the Kachina/Voodoo figures PageRob described in an earlier Trip Log.
    Wupatki Ruins National Monument Trails
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    A backpacking trip in Wupatki National Monument? Yes, there is one, but there's a catch. You have to make a reservation early, and the hike is only done on weekends in April and October. And it's led for you by one of the rangers. It costs $50, which does not include food or anything else, just the guide service of the ranger. It goes to an isolated ruins called Crack-in-Rock, so called because in order to ascend to the mesa top where the ruins are you must climb an ancient stone "staircase" up through a crack in the side of the mesa. I did the hike with my son in 2001, but recently I checked the website, and the details are still the same.

    The hike goes onto the Babbit Ranch most of the way. The ranger will point out a number of other mesa-top ancient villages along the route, which is pretty much cross country--there isn't much of a trail. However, it is not a difficult hike for people who do a lot of hiking. There will undoubtedly be people in the group, however, who are non-backpackers, or even, non-hikers. They tend to slow the whole group down a lot, so you have to be patient, which was a bit hard for me. It's about 8 miles to the campsite, which is waterless. You will carry in a gallon or two of water to last you the weekend.

    There are a lot of really remarkable petroglyphs near the ruins. These were just as interesting to me as the ruins themselves. Although the area appears very dry and rocky, the ancient ones were able to make do there because the Little Colorado River runs very nearby, and its bottomlands were used for farming corn, beans and squash, the three main staples of the diet of Southwest Puebloan peoples.

    I don't recall the exact age of the pueblo, but the ranger will explain all that. I highly recommend this hike, especially if you like ancient cultures. As for scenery, it's a fairly bleak area on the Colorado Plateau. Wide vistas, big sky, with lots of mesas poking up everywhere.
    Wupatki Ruins National Monument Trails
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    Dropped off our Crack-In-Rock registration fees at the Visitor's Center for our upcoming Ranger-guided back pack on 4/29 and 4/30.

    Took the loop drive to Sunset Crater Volcano. Followed up by exploring the ruins and then dropped Hannah off at NAU. Short easy hike that was some how better than expected.

    Discovered there is also a Doney Trail along the route that has a couple of additional ruins. See seperate hike description on

    Looking forward to Crack-In-Rock backpack adventure and side trek to Grand Falls!

    Permit $$
    National Monument Fee $10-25 per 7 Days

    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 Interstate 17 about 125 miles north until you reach Flagstaff. From Flagstaff junction of I-17, I-40, and Hwy 89, take Hwy 89 north about 17 miles until you reach FR545 (Sunset Crater Road). Turn east onto Sunset Crater Road (GPS coordinates 35o 21.786'N, 111o 34.309'W) and drive about 21 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 was just under 3 hours.

    Wukoki Pueblo Trail: (aka "Big House") Travel 0.4 miles east from the Visitor Center until you reach the signed paved road indicating Wukoki Pueblo (GPS coordinates 35o 31.020'N, 111o 21.981'W) and continue north about 2.5 miles until you reach the trail head at the ruins (GPS coordinates 35o 31.809'N, 111o 19.711'W). Take the 0.3 mile loop trail around the ruins.

    Wupatki Pueblo Trail: (aka "Tall House") From Visitor's Center, take 0.5 mile loop trail around the ruins (GPS coordinates 35o 31.222'N, 111o 22.270'W). Loop trail features two pueblos plus a circular community room, ball court, and blowhole.

    Citadel Pueblo Trail: Travel 9.5 miles west from the Visitor Center until you reach the ruins near the south side of the road. Take the 0.3 mile loop trail around two separate sets of ruins (GPS coordinates 35o 33.973'N, 111o 28.232'W). Citadel ruins are located prominently at the top of a small hill, whereas Nalakihu ruins lie at the foot of the hill close to the roadside.

    Box Canyon Dwellings & Lomaki Pueblo Trail: (aka "Beautiful House") Travel 2 miles west from the Citadel ruins until you reach the signed paved road indicating Lomaki Pueblo (GPS coordinates 35o 34.253'N, 111o 28.263'W). Travel 0.6 miles north until you reach the trail head at the ruins (GPS coordinates 35o 34.778'N, 111o 28.111'W). Take the 0.4 mile loop trail around Lomaki ruins and the Box Canyon Dwellings located to the south.

    Crack-In-Rock Ruins Trail: This is a lottery only, Ranger-guided, 2 day backpack offered only twice a year.

    Alternate Route from Phoenix: Take Interstate 17 about 125 miles north until you reach Flagstaff. From Flagstaff junction of I-17, I-40, and Hwy 89, take Hwy 89 north about 17 miles until you reach FR545 (Sunset Crater Road). Continue another 15 miles north on Hwy 89 until you reach Waputki Ruins Road (County Road 395). Turn east onto Waputki Ruins Road (GPS coordinates 35o 34.450'N, 111o 32.000'W) and 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 was just under 3 hours.
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