Hike to remote and secret native american sites in Wutpatki National Monument in Arizona.
Crack in the Rock is located in a secret, secluded location within the Wupatki National Monument. Ordinarily, this well preserved native American site is off limits to visitors. However, several times a year (typically April and October), the national park holds a lottery to join a ranger led backpack trip out to enjoy the site. Link here for the details on how to submit a lottery application. As of April, 2017, the cost was $75 per person.
The park service will give you all of the details once you’ve secured your spot in the group by being selected in the lottery, but here are a few key highlights:
· In order to keep the location pristine and prevent unauthorized visitation, GPS units are not allowed on the hike
· The campsite has no water, so each backpacker will be required to carry their own water for the weekend (2 gallons)
· The hike is off trail and includes walking through brushy plants, so long pants are recommended.
· The park service is currently telling people that this hike is 25 miles round trip, but this is unlikely. Our experience is that the distance is about eight miles one way with the backpack and some additional hiking without a backpack at the sites themselves.
Don’t underestimate the difficulty of walking eight miles with no trail, a full backpack and two gallons (16 pounds) of water. This is more strenuous than trail hiking, so you’ll need to be physically prepared.
To start the hike, you’ll depart with the rangers and your small group in vehicles to the trailhead. After about a 10 minute drive, you’ll reach the trailhead and the hike begins. As mentioned above, the hike is almost completely off trail. However, the footing is generally very good, mostly in soft volcanic soil. We found the hiking pace to be quite reasonable and there were a number of stops along the way to the campground, in order to explore smaller sites along the way. Wupatki has cataloged about 2000 sites within the park boundaries, so opportunities to see this history are everywhere. We saw numerous structures put up by both the ancestral puebloan culture as well as the Navajo. Some of the structures date from 1100 AD. Many pottery shards are scattered near the sites, so watch your footing. You are allowed to pick up pottery shards and arrowheads as long as you put them back exactly as you found them.
We arrived at the primitive camping area in the early evening and set up camp. Afterwards, we took a short walk out to Crack in the Rock. The multi-roomed site is on top of a mesa, with good views of the surrounding area, including the Little Colorado river. There are some fine petroglyphs to enjoy at this location as well. The rangers will instruct you not to touch the site walls or the petroglyphs in order to keep them pristine. They are quite fragile.
After dinner and a good night sleep under the stars, we broke camp and hiked to two other sites nearby to Crack in the Rock. These sites had rooms, but significantly more rock art to enjoy. Most of the morning was spent here. In the late morning, we started the long walk back to the trailhead start.
Seeing ancient puebloan sites in an undisturbed form with a small group and a knowledgeable park ranger is an exhilarating experience. This hike is a great way to experience this feeling and truly appreciate how these native americans lived in such a rugged land.