Tour Pueblo Ruins at Arizona’s Wupatki National Monument

Flagstaff, Arizona Sometime between 1040 and 1100 the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano sent clouds of ash and cinders into

Flagstaff, Arizona

Sometime between 1040 and 1100 the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano sent clouds of ash and cinders into the sky, causing the local Sinagua people to flee. The ash settled over 800 square miles, and when the Sinaguas returned, they found that the ash retained moisture, improved the soil, and made their crops more productive. The area attracted Native Americans from neighboring regions and became a cultural melting pot. Wupatki grew to be a major pueblo, eventually rising to four stories in some places and containing more than 100 rooms. But less than 100 years later the residents were forced to leave again, possibly because of severe drought. By 1225 Wupatki and the surrounding villages stood vacant.

Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki National Monument. Prehistoric farmers who settled in small groups close to the San Francisco Peaks built the once-flourishing Wupatki pueblo.
At the 56-square-mile Wupatki National Monument, you may tour pueblo ruins. A scenic loop road leads to other archaeological sites, among them fortified pueblos, and continues 18 miles to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, the site of the 11th-century eruption. Mineral deposits around the crater’s rim give the upper slopes of the mountain a glowing coloration.

Although no hiking is allowed on the volcano’s cone, a one-mile loop trail leads through the lava beds. Bonito campground, maintained by the U.S. Forest Service, is near the visitors center.

–Monuments open year-round; visitors centers open daily except Christmas. Campground open late May – mid-Oct.

www.nps.gov/wupa

(928) 679-2365 Wupatki

www.nps.gov/sucr

(928) 526-0502 Sunset Crater

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest