The ruins of Wupatki are sitting between the mountains filled with ponderosa pines and the Painted Desert. Its ancient buildings dot the arid landscape of rocky terrain and light green, low vegetation.
The deserts in the Southwest US have been home to many ancient people. The ruins around the state of Arizona, as well as Utah and New Mexico still stand as quiet reminders of their culture and way of life. Walking through them I realize how resilient we are as a species. Before modern amenities mankind was able to survive this harsh environment. Not only survive, but build civilizations in it.
The buildings of Wupatki National Monument
A few of the ruins of this past are part of Wupatki National Monument. To reach them, drive on the road that goes through Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
Before walking through the ruins, stop at the Wupatki Visitor Center. Here, you have an opportunity to learn about the Ancient Pueblo people who built these structures, pick up a brochure, even talk to a ranger if you have any questions.
The trail through Wupatki Pueblo starts at the visitor center and takes you through the largest of the ruins in the area. During this 1/2 mile walk, you have the opportunity to check out the largest structure, the “Tall House”, which originally had about 100 rooms.
You can walk through the remains of some of the rooms, then make your way towards the open kiva. To fully experience the place, take a few minutes and sit inside the kiva, the ancient community center.
As you walk past it towards the farthest structure, stop at the volcanic blow hole, and feel the air coming through it. Finally go through the ball court at the end of the trail.
Visit the Other Sites in the Park
Back on the road, don’t drive off the park yet. Go towards Sunset Crater and take the short road leading up to Wukoki ruins. Though visible from the parking lot, it is worth walking up to and around the structure.
Go back to the main road and stop at Citadel and Nalahiku ruins. They are both on the same short trail. You first come to Nalahiku, then the trail gets steeper going up to the Citadel ruins, though it’s worth the climb for the perfect view of the surrounding desert.
Once you pass the parking lot for Nalahiku and Citadel, stop on the other side of the road for a short visit to Lomaki and Box Canyon ruins. They are both at the end of the same short trail, overlooking a few small canyons where the ancients used to farm corn, squash and beans (crops collectively called the three sisters), as well as cotton.