Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Exploring Arizona: Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater

Writing and Photos by Kathryn.
Arizona is full of history and places to explore.  Today I want to introduce you to Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater.  These are places that I remember going to as a little girl and now I get to take my little girls there as well.  If you are headed to Flagstaff, these national parks are just a short distance away and worth the 30 mile drive.  Entrance to the two parks is available for one fee.  Individuals 15 years and younger are FREE.  Those 16 years and older are $5.

Sunset Crater is a volcano that erupted between the fall of 1064 and summer of 1065, spewing ash and cinders over an 800 square mile area.  While at Sunset Crater you can "hike the trail through the lava flow and cinders" but make sure you don't take any rocks home (which is a difficult rule to follow for rock loving little girls).  This is also where we had our family picnic after spending the morning in Flagstaff.  

One fun fact about this area is that in the 1960's, astronauts practiced for landing on the moon in the cinder fields.

From Sunset Crater take a short drive to Wupatki.  Your view will change from Ponderosa pines and Aspen trees to cinders and scrub brush.

And then you will get to walk around this history!  These dwellings were built during the 12th and 13th centuries by the Sinagua Indians who needed to move farther away from the ash of Sunset Crater.  Here they enjoyed the thinner layers of ash that actually helped to retain moisture as they farmed.  Improved farming allowed for an increase in population and hence the large pueblos.  The Sinagua Indians were also very skilled artisans and traded with other ancient peoples. 

While at Wupatki you can enjoy an interactive visitors center before walking down to the ruins.

At the ruins, my favorite part has always been this natural AC unit.  Seriously, do you see their hair blowing?  That is cold air naturally being forced from the ground.  I wish I had one of those in my house. 

We hope the next time you travel around the state, you take full advantage of everything the area has to offer.  Make sure to read our other posts about Flagstaff and The Grand Canyon while planning your adventures.  Enjoy!  

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