The eruption of Sunset Crater (AD 1040–1100) briefly enriched the surrounding soil, luring the ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni and others to the region. By AD 1180 it was home to roughly 100 people, and 2000 more peppered the immediate area. By 1250, however, the inhabitants had moved on. About 2700 of their structures lie within Wupatki National Monument, though only a few are open to the public. Entry is also valid for nearby Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument.
A short self-guided tour of the largest dwelling, Wupatki Pueblo, begins behind the visitor center. Lomaki, Citadel and Nalakihu Pueblos sit within a half-mile of the loop road just north of the visitor center, and a 2.5-mile road veers west from the center to Wukoki Pueblo, the best preserved of the buildings.
On weekends in April and October, rangers lead visitors on a 25-mile round-trip overnight backpacking tour ($75; supply your own food and gear) of Crack-in-Rock Pueblo and nearby petroglyphs, normally off-limits to the public. Chosen by lottery, only 12 people may join each tour. Call the visitor center for applications, which can be submitted up to July 31 (for October trips) or January 31 (for April trips).