Wupatki National Monument is where the past meets the present. Just about 800 years ago, a large agricultural community sprawled across the base of the San Francisco Peak Mountains. It was the home for the Sinagua people, who farmed the land and traded with other cultures. Sinagua means “without water” in Spanish, which refers to their farming methods. It is believed that the today’s Hopi Indians are descendants from the original people that lived at Wupatki. At one time, this region must have been one of the most populated parts of northern Arizona.
Today, their masonry pueblos emerge from the rocks standing several stories high. The pueblos are so well preserved it is hard to believe that they have stood for so many years. One of the most impressive ruins is Wupatki or “Tall House”. It contains more than 100 rooms and towered three stories high. A ball court is at one end of Wupatki. The court is similar to those found in Mexico. An open-air amphitheater is also located in Wupatki. The circular amphitheater might have been used for meetings or ceremonies.
If you look to the north of Wupatki, you will see a mesa about a mile away. On top of this mesa is another ancient ruin. There are hundreds of ruins all within the 35,253-acre National Monument. The Citadel, Nalakihu, Lomaki and the Wukoki are just some of the ruins that can be reached by short, self-guided hiking trails. Remember to please do not pick up any pottery shards. Each shard is an important piece to the past. Take nothing and leave only your footprints.
The Visitor Center has a room that has been built to recreate the interior of a room in Wupatki. There are exhibits describing the Navajo and Hopi people living nearby today. A collection of plant life and insects is also on display. A 15-minute talk about the culture from the past is offered at the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center has books, maps and posters for purchase. Visitors will find a picnic area available outside the Center.
The monument is open every day from 8:00 to 5:00 September through May and 8:00 to 6:00 June through August, except on Christmas. The admission charge is $3.00 a person and children under 17 are free. You will want to plan for a stay of at least an hour to take in the whole monument. Please call to find out exact times. If you would like more information on the monument, you may call 520-679-2365.
Wupatki National Monument is located 39 miles north of Flagstaff, just off of Highway 89. You can get there from Flagstaff by taking U.S. Highway 89 north out of town, until you come to the turn off for Wupatki or Forest Road 545. Turn left and head east following the signs to the monument. If you are coming from Tucson or Phoenix take Interstate 17 north out of town to Flagstaff. Once you are in Flagstaff continue north on U.S. Highway 180, until you come to the junction with U.S. 89. Then take U.S. Highway 89 northeast to the turn off for Wupatki or Forest Road 545. Turn left and head east following the signs to the monument.
Both Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and Wupatki National Monument are located close together. A 36 mile paved loop road connects the two monuments crossing a lava flow and rejoins U.S. Highway 89. It is a terrific experience, if you have time to take in both of these monuments.
While attending Northern Arizona University, I would head out to Wupatki to study. I found great focus in the winds of a great past.