Citadel Ruin/Nalakihu Pueblo

Round Trip Distance: 0.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5356 - 5432 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Citadel
Fee: $20/vehicle
Attractions: Ancestral Puebloan ruins

The Citadel Ruin and Nalakihu Pueblo are located in the Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff, Arizona. The Wupatki National Monument protects numerous ruins that date back to the time shortly after the eruption of the nearby Sunset Volcano in the 1100's. Four of these sites are open to the general public to visit. The road traveling through Wupatki National Monument also loops through Sunset Volcano National Monument. Both areas can be visited in one day and visitors are only required to pay once.

The trailhead for the Citadel Ruin is along the loop road near the west side of the monument. Visitors don't actually pass through an entrance station when coming from the west but they are expected to stop at the Visitor Center further to the east to pay the requisite fee.

Just a few yards from the parking area the trail passes by the Nalakihu Pueblo. Nalakihu is a modern Hopi name that means 'house outside the village'.

The pueblo was built in stages and at one time had a second story floor.

The trail leading up to the Citadel is paved but it is probably too rough and steep for a wheelchair.

As impressive as the ruin of the Citadel is the original structure must have looked mighty formidable. Parts of the hillside that the Citadel is perched upon show signs of terrace farming.

The builders made use of every inch of the little mesa by erecting the outside walls right on the edge of the cliffs. Both the inside area of the walls and the slopes of the hillside are strewn with rubble that was once part of the structure.

Looking to the south you can get a good view of the Citadel Sinkhole. The sinkhole was created when water dissolved away the limestone beneath the surface and caused the ground to collapse forming the depression. Just over the rim of the sinkhole you can see the volcanic mountains of the San Francisco Peaks.

The Citadel had a commanding view of the surrounding area. There were at least 8 other pueblos that would have been visible. It is hard to imagine how much further a person would have been able to see if they were standing on the roof.

The Citadel Ruin stands like a fortress above the surrounding country side. Any crops that were grown on terraces would have been within bow reach and easy to protect. Line of sight communication with other pueblos would have also been a benefit. Then of course maybe they just liked the view from the top of the little mesa and weren't worried at all about raiders from distant places stealing their food and women.  It is hard to imagine that the latter is the case when most every pueblo you visit displays many defensive attributes in their construction. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.