Wupatki National Monument
Location: Flagstaff, AZ
Price: $25/car – But if you paid at Sunset Crater Volcano you don’t have to pay here
Smashed Penny Machine: No
Wupatki is one of three parks that sit just outside of Flagstaff. If you are visiting all three park (Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki) this would be your final stop. Coming from Flagstaff you will drive through Sunset Crater Volcano to come to Wupatki.
The park is home to ancient pueblo ruins. As you come down off the mesa where Sunset Crater sits you’ll enter a whole new world. The Ponderosa pines give way to harsh desert scrubland. The rocks go from the black volcanic lava flows to bright red. Despite having only drove about 20 minutes you feel like you’ve changed states.
The park is very large but most of the park is back country and not easily accessible. There are a number of shorter hikes for the more casual visitor. Most the hikes involve visiting one of the pueblo ruins the park is home to. The biggest of these is Wupatki Pueblo. The trail for this Pueblo starts at the back of the Visitor’s Center but since the Pueblo is very large you can see it from the Visitor’s Center. The trail around the Pueblo is only a half mile but it’s not a very easy walk. The trail is very sandy (you will be covered in red dust after this hike). The path descends a little to the pueblo and going down it didn’t seem to bad but it was a fairly steep hike back to the Visitor’s Center.
The trail loops around the main Pueblo. It is a very large ruin with several multistoried walls still standing. The trail also has a side trail continues down to the ball court and large community room not far from the main pueblo. The trail has no shade. In the afternoon sun in July it was HOT walking around this trail. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and a hat.
After exploring the ruin, we spent some time at the Visitor’s Center. They have several displays explaining how people managed to survive in this hard environment. The kids also completed their Jr Ranger books and there was a small bookstore/gift shop.
Overall: Wupatki is a unique stop. To look out across the barren landscape and realize that the area once supported several thousand people is amazing. This is a short drive from Flagstaff and completely worth the trip. Plus if you are already planning on visiting Sunset Crater your fee grants you admission to both parks. I would highly suggest adding this to any trip.