Wupatki National Monument – Flagstaff, Arizona - Atlas Obscura
Join us on an Atlas Obscura Trip in 2019 »

Flagstaff, Arizona

Wupatki National Monument

This historic national park is covered in the stunning ruins of red rock pueblos.  

Surrounded by Arizona’s scenic desert vistas, the Native American ruins at Wupatki National Monument are some of the most beautiful and well-preserved examples of pueblo architecture in the country.

Covering an area of about 40,000 acres (along with two other national monument areas), the grounds are home to a number of surprisingly preserved pueblo ruins. Dating back as far as 500 CE, the site probably saw the largest group of people living here, around 100 or so, soon after the nearby eruption of what is now Sunset Crater, around the late 11th century. Because of the volcanic ash and subsequent nutrients, agriculture boomed in the 12th century. The structures were likely abandoned by 1225.

While excavations and studies have been taking place since the 1800s, the remains of dozens of homes and buildings still stand on the site. While other examples of pueblos from the time can be found elsewhere, it is rare to find so many in one area, and so well preserved as well. Even if you aren’t into the history of the site, the sheer beauty of the old ruins is shouldn’t be missed. Especially if you are able to catch them around sunset. While they have not been inhabited for centuries, they still seem haunting.

The Wupatki National Monument provides a bit more bang for your pueblo buck than most sites in the Southwest. Whether they are just passing through or they are there to check out the hundreds of years of history, visitors will find the site worthwhile.    

Know Before You Go

Weekdays are the best.  When it may get crowded, it's hard to get good photographs.