Sunset Crater, Wupatki and Walnut Canyon National Monuments

While visiting Montezuma Well a volunteer told us about Wupatki north of Flagstaff.  We immediately added it to our itinerary.  Turns out, Wupatki, Sunset Crater and Walnut Canyon are 3 national monuments managed together in the Flagstaff AZ area.  All 3 are worth a visit for different reasons.

We found great free dry camping (boondocking) on Coconino National Forest land off the road directly west from the road to Sunset Crater.  We originally planned to camp in the Bonito NFS campground but they didn’t open until May 3rd even though the weather was gorgeous.

Sunset Crater Volcano erupted in 1085  spewing red hot lava and ash over people who had lived here hundreds of years.  Most fled but returned later to farm the changed landscape.  Today the volcano, cinder cones and solidified lava flows are stark reminders of earth’s violent potential.  Slowly flora and fauna have returned too.

Cinder cone

Craggy rugged lava

Sunset Crater Volcano is closed to hikers

Wupatki National Monument was created to protect the abandoned structures of Sinagua people who had farmed this area for hundreds of years.  In the year 1180 thousands of people lived here.  By 1250 they had moved on.  Their descendants are the Hopi, Zuni and Navajo people.  They were great builders.  The Wupatki ruin is the largest and tallest in the region and even includes a ball court the northern most example of such a structure. 

Short walk to Wukoki Pueblo

Wupatki Pueblo was home to over 100 people

Box Canyon Pueblo

Walnut Canyon National Monument preserves dwellings sheltered by overhanging cliffs in a canyon inhabited over 800 years ago.  It was named a National Monument in 1915.  Artifacts indicate Archaic people had visited the canyon for thousands of years.  The plantlife zones of the canyon range from Sonoran Desert to cooler, moister Pacific Northwestern forests.  The varied landscape was probably a great benefit to native people.


Island Trail passes 25 rooms

Leaving the Flagstaff area on our way to the Grand Canyon we stopped to see the canyon of the Little Colorado River.  Very impressive on its own.  Note the flat-as-a-table land right up to the canyon.

Canyon of the Little Colorado River

Sunsets in this part of the world can be spectacular.  This one was OK.

Goldie in her forest hang-out


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2 Responses to Sunset Crater, Wupatki and Walnut Canyon National Monuments

  1. Leroy and pat yuma says:

    Great area to visit. Loved the ball court.


  2. Ken says:

    The deserts really are a special place. Need more pics of Goldie. By the way, today was my last day at work…I have joined the growing list of baby boomer retirees. See you on down the road!


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