Grand Canyon sunset looking west from Desert View Grand Canyon sunset looking west from Desert View

We had a great finish to our largely improvised day yesterday, visiting the Wupatki National Monument and east end of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Julie had an extremely busy and challenging work week, and only seemed to be escalating as Thursday turned into Friday. We penciled in a soft-stop to work at around noon on Friday so that we could leave Flagstaff and explore points north, hopefully with an overnight near the Grand Canyon. Julie’s work didn’t exactly stop, but she was able to jump in and provide quick tactical support as needed and we were on our merry way.

We started with a visit to Sunset Crater, then moved on to the connected Wupatki National Monument.

Wupatki main ruin complex Wupatki main ruin complex

Wupatki has a collection of Hopi ancestral ruins ca. 1200 CE. We appreciated the size of the complexes, definitely larger than the Cedar Mesa ruins we’ve explored. The main complex is mostly composed of restored ruins, which is OK in that it gives a better sense of what they might looked like. Fun to learn that back in the 1930s the husband-wife park ranger team lived in the main complex, climbing a ladder up to their cozy home.

Box Canyon ruins Box Canyon ruins

There are other ruin complexes that we enjoyed even more, especially the Box Canyon ruins which were closer to their discovered state. These are positioned on the edge of tiny canyons (earth cracks) that presumably had water running through periodically.

Wupatki blow hole Wupatki blow hole

The main complex has a blow hole, an opening to an underground cave of unknown size.

Desert View tower Desert View tower

We drove the hour or so from Wupatki to the Desert View entrance to Grand Canyon for some dinner in our van in the parking lot and hopefully some nice sunset views. 5pm is a great time to arrive at the park - no lines and we even beat the sunset parking lot rush. After a quick walk out to to the canyon edge, we returned to the van to heat up some leftover curry and make grilled cheese sandwiches.

Grand Canyon sunset looking east Grand Canyon sunset looking east

Sunset was windy but majestic. The photo at the top of this post was taken about an hour before sunset, and captures the layers of north rim ridges and canyons (we hiked up through one of those a few years ago!). This photo is looking back to the east and north. One of these years we want to raft the Colorado through the canyon; it must be an amazing site to turn the corner and see the Desert View Tower on the south rim.