The Wupatki National Monument is literally located next door to the Grand Canyon South Rim, yet this destination is rarely crowded. For those who survive the congested human zoo atmosphere of Grand Canyon Village, going to a place that offers plenty of elbow room will sound like nothing less than a dream come true!
Wupatki National Monument is located about 45 minutes beyond the Grand Canyon National Park east entrance gate on U.S. 89 near Cameron. There are two ways to get to Wupatki and both entrance points are located along Highway 89. One access road begins at the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument near Flagstaff and the second entrance point is near Cameron. Either way, the long two lane road goes through both the Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, so those who plan to visit these two sites will end up doing the grand tour for one ballpark price!
If visiting every ancient pueblo in Wupatki National Monument and exploring the Sunset Crater Volcano is in the travel itinerary, then it is best to plan on spending the entire day at these two National Monuments. If touring at a leisurely pace is preferred and doing some hiking is in the plan, then allotting two or more days is best. The Sunset Crater National Monument offers campsites and RV slips, so visitors can stay on location in the great outdoors. Modern lodging accommodations can also be found nearby in Cameron and Flagstaff.
Currently there is a strong public interest in visiting the ancient pueblos of the Southwest and there are many reasons why this has always been more than just a trend. The ancient archeological sites in the west are sacred native places. Seeing the ancient pueblos in person allows more room to ponder over the intriguing cultural mysteries that have been locked in the past. Intangibly, it is the spiritual experience that most visitors seek at the ancient native sacred places of the west. There is something about visiting an ancient pueblo that has a way of making the modern world disappear and it becomes easier to find a better path through troubled times.
In recent years, a new tourism sector has developed that can be described as activism. Tourists that are genuinely concerned about public lands protection and preserving native heritage sites actually will go out of their way to visit the remote places that are threatened the most. Any public lands visit does help to support the cause and the fees do fund the protected sites, so the satisfaction of doing a good deed becomes part of the charm. Sharing the photos is also part of modern tourism activism, because this spreads awareness and more people will be concerned.
The best place to start a Wupatki National Monument venture is at the visitor center, but this is nearly impossible to do. Depending on the the entrance road chosen, a visitor will have to either drive through the entire Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument or the entire Wupatki National Monument just to get to the visitor center. Basically what this means is the visitor center will be the first stop when coming from the volcano park or it will be the last stop when starting from Cameron. This location does add an interesting aspect to the tour, because it can be the place where all questions will be answered first or last, which can set the tone for the venture.
The Wupatki National Monument Visitor Center is a cultural museum and gift shop that is staffed by park rangers who provide plenty of good information. Junior Ranger programs for children and adults are available for those who want to earn another badge. Guided group tours can be booked too, which are quite educational. A self guided tour through the museum will provide insight into the culture that built this majestic pueblo complex long ago and the information will show how the Sunset Crater Volcano eruption played an integral part in the history of this ancient place.
The visitor center is where park entrance fees are paid and where the trail maps can be found. This spot is also the entrance to the Wupatki Pueblo, which happens to be the largest ancient structure in this National Monument. The walking paths to Wupatki Pueblo are paved, so those who have mobility challenges can do the trek. This ancient site is easy to navigate by foot, but the distances can be deceptive in the crystal clear high desert air. For this reason it is important to remember to stay hydrated, so be sure to bring some water along for the hike!
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