Wupatki National Monument houses the remains of one of the largest, ancient Native American settlements in the US. The Wupatki Pueblo Trail, a half-mile, self-guided tour of the largest pueblo in the Flagstaff area, starts at the visitor center.
We approached Wupatki by first coming through Sunset Crater, and then heading North. This road encompasses a 34 mile scenic loop that takes you from the Ponderosa forests of Sunset Crater, through juniper grasslands with views of the Painted Desert, and into the vast red rock landscape of the Wupatki Basin. Drive time along this loop road is about 1 hour.
The two parks together provide a day packed full of ancient American history with several hikes through a variety of volcanic structures as well as multiple Native American pueblos.
There are six prehistoric pueblos (or villages) at Wupatki National Monument that are open to the public year round.
We checked out the Visitor Center first, and then proceeded to the Wukoki ruins, which was an area easily accessible by vehicle and then a short walking trail less than a quarter mile each way.
The kids could run and explore to their hearts' content; up and down the desert trails, and through the nooks and crannies of the ruins themselves. Everything was very hands on and we all easily absorbed a great deal of Native American history.
If you are in the area, allow yourself an extra day to be able to take in Sunset Crater and Wupatki. They are on the way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Most people are so anxious to get to the actual Grand Canyon, that they miss a lot of the other parks along the way.
In my opinion, these parks are far more interactive and incredibly more kid-friendly than the Grand Canyon itself. If you give them a chance, I think you might agree!
A short and very easy hike to the Wupatki Pueblo is worth your efforts. The kids were interested in seeing how people had lived so many years ago (my 6-year-old was quite amazed that people lived here BEFORE I was born!! :))
It was quite windy while we visited, so we didn't stay very long, but the architecutre and size of this structure were truly amazing.
The visitor center has nice clean restrooms, plenty of hands on gadgets and information about the original inhabitants and even some information on the sad take over of this property from the Indians by the US government.