Nalakihu and Citadel Pueblos

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

Trip Date: Thursday, July 25th, 2019
Last Updated: Wednesday, February 26th, 2020
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 0.2 miles roundtrip
Time 30 minutes
Terrain Hilly
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly No
Accessible No

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

A quick stop along the main road through Wupatki National Monument brings you to another amazing example of the architectural prowess of the Ancestral Puebloans. Strategically built on top of a hill, Citadel Pueblo was a marvel of stonework and a defensive stronghold. As you climb to the top, you'll appreciate the impressive views and astoundingly flat and sheer walls of the pueblo.

To the right of the trail, you'll see Nalakihu Pueblo as pictured below, ruins named for the Hopi word translating to "house outside the village". Pottery shards found in both Nalakihu and Citadel Pueblos date to the same era, so it is likely these dwellings were inhabited simultaneously. The ruins don't look like much now, but evidence suggests that the building had two stories back in the day.

Citadel Pueblo on top of the hill with Nalakihu Pueblo in the foreground

Citadel Pueblo on top of the hill with Nalakihu Pueblo in the foreground

After learning about Nalakihu Pueblo, you'll start a short ascent to Citadel Pueblo. Signs punctuate the climb, allowing you to rest and learn more about the people who lived here. Around the backside, you'll see a massive sinkhole, as pictured below. Over a long period of time, water dissolved the limestone beneath the surface, causing the ground to eventually collapse and reveal the sandstone cliffs you see here. Beyond the sinkhole, the closer high peak you can see is O'Leary Peak, an extinct volcano in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. In the distance are the San Francisco Peaks, which are the highest mountains in Arizona.
A limestone sinkhole with the San Francisco Peaks in the background as seen from Citadel Pueblo

A limestone sinkhole with the San Francisco Peaks in the background as seen from Citadel Pueblo

Once on top of Citadel Pueblo, you can inspect the remnants of walls and enjoy the amazing view of the desert, as pictured below. Now, imagine how much better this view would be from the roof of the pueblo! This hilltop location helped residents defend from attack since they could easily see invaders long before the invaders could attack.
This view across the flat desert plateau helped residents spot invaders

This view across the flat desert plateau helped residents spot invaders

Whether you're just starting your journey through Wupatki National Monument or you're on your way home, Nalakihu and Citadel Pueblos are two cool examples showcasing the construction skills of the Ancestral Puebloans. Enjoy your visit! Let me know what you think in the comments section below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram!



Important Information

Dogs are not allowed on any trails in the park; it's best to leave your dog at home since desert temperatures can kill dogs waiting in cars. This is an excellent hike for the whole family since it is short and educational, just make sure to keep kids away from the fragile ruins and the edges at the top of Citadel Pueblo. You can visit during any season, but be prepared for wind. In the summer, temperatures can exceed 100 degrees and afternoon thunderstorms are common. Winter and early spring may bring snow, but not nearly as much as in nearby Flagstaff. You will likely see other people here, but turnaround time is quick since the trail is so short.

Directions

From Flagstaff, take Interstate 40 east. Take the exit for U.S. Highway 89, then turn left. Turn right onto U.S. Highway 89. Continue straight on U.S. Highway 89 for about 26 miles, turning right near mile marker 444, as indicated by a brown sign for Wupatki National Monument. Watch for a turnout on the right side of the road signed for Citadel Pueblo and park in one of the few spaces.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Entrance fees cost $25 per vehicle, which permits access for 7 days to both Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Interagency passes are also honored here. Visit the park's fees page for more information.

There are no facilities here. Continue to Wupatki National Monument's staffed visitor center for flush toilets and water in addition to educational exhibits and a gift shop.

External Links

Nearby Hikes

Lomaki and Box Canyon Pueblos

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
★★★★☆(4/5)

Doney Mountain

Coconino National Forest, Arizona
★★★★☆(4/5)

Wupatki Pueblo

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
★★★★☆(4/5)

Wukoki Pueblo

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
★★★★☆(4/5)

Comments