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Crack in the Rock (Wutpatki National Monument)

One of the many Ancestral Puebloan sites in Wutpatki National Monument
Views in Wutpatki National Monument
Crawling through the Crack
Crack in the rock in the evening
Doorway at Crack in the Rock
Petroglyphs in Wutpatki National Monument
Ancestral Puebloan pottery shard
Ancestral Puebloan pottery shards


How to Get There
This hike is near Flagstaff, AZ.

The hike starts from the Wupatki visitor center. From Flagstaff, take HWY-89 North East out of town. Turn right at the signed entrance for the Wupatki National Monument (Loop Road). From the center of Flagstaff it’s about 35 miles to the turn off. Once you’re on Loop road, drive 13.6 miles to the Wupatki visitor center.
Northern Arizona

Hike details

16.00 [Miles] Total
Hike Distance- Details
16 miles of off trail hiking
24.00 [Hours]
This trip is a 2 day backpack
Elevation Change
0 Total gain/loss [Feet]
Elevation Details
Not much elevation change
Hike Trail Type
Out and Back


Best Season
  • April
  • October
Date Hike completed
April 09, 2017


Solitude Details
Groups are limited to less than 12 people, so the solitude is excellent


Difficulty Rating
difficulty detail
Backpacking off trail with two days worth of water is not something to be underestimated. This is a difficult hike.


Be Aware of
As of April, 2017, the hike is $75 per person and you'll need to get drawn in the lottery go to. Off trail hiking, dry camping, brushy hiking.

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.


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