Citadel and Nalakihu Pueblos

An accessible path leading past one small stone pueblo on the right with a larger pueblo at the top of a small hill in the background.
Citadel Pueblo

Location 4 mile drive from the north entrance of Wupatki off Hwy 89, 10 mile drive from the Wupatki visitor center.
Distance 0.2 mile (0.3 km) round-trip
Time average 15 minutes
Difficulty Easy to Moderate
Accessibility Accessible to just past the Nalakihu Pueblo at the bottom of the hill.

  • Two 900 year old ancestral Puebloan dwellings with over 50 rooms combined
  • A large limestone sinkhole visible from the top of the trail.
  • Scenic views of the San Francisco Peaks and surrounding cinder hills of the San Francisco Volcanic Field.
Thank you for helping us protect this important heritage site by not climbing on walls, leaving all natural and cultural items in their place, and staying on designated trails.
Small partial pueblo structures on a small mesa.
Smaller pueblo structures that were part of a larger community can be seen from Citadel.
Cultural and Historical Importance

The pueblo settlements in Wupatki appear to follow a particular pattern of development. Small family structures with few rooms surround larger community pueblos with many rooms such as Wupatki and Citadel. It is because of this pattern that archeologists refer to different communities within the Wupatki basin which may have been settled by different clans or family groups and may have had somewhat different cultural and religious habits. There is evidence that people have lived in the Citadel area as far back as the Archaic period (8,000 - 500 BCE) using smaller sites as seasonal hunting camps.

By the time Citadel and Nalakihu were constructed in the early 1100s, the community was a thriving agricultural society with trade reaching in all directions for hundreds of miles. Evidence of the mixture of cultural influences can be seen in the ceramic wares found in the area as well as the exisence of different types of human burials, including one cremation which is a tradition from the Hohokam people to the south.

Nalakihu is a Hopi word meaning "house standing outside the village" and is the smaller sandstone structure at the beginning of the trail. Based on tree ring dating construction likely occurred in the late 1190s CE. It had ten rooms on the ground floor and three or four rooms forming a second story. It is difficult to tell how many people would have lived here though it could have been one family with multiple generations and aunts and uncles living together at the same time.

Citadel Pubelo sits atop a small cinder hill and can be seen by any of the surrounding smaller pueblos such as Lomaki and Box Canyon. The walls were built to follow the outline of the hill and constructed with both sandstone and basalt (volcanic rocks).There are hundreds of smaller pueblo structures (1 - 20 rooms) surrounding Citadel as well as traces of agricultural fields, terraces, rock alignments, water catchments, and check dams. Soil samples from around these sites revealed pollen and seeds from domesticated plants such as corn, squash, beans, tobacco, and even cotton.

Although it is no longer physically occupied, Hopi believe the people who lived and died here remain as spiritual guardians. Stories of Wupatki are passed on among Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, and perhaps other tribes. Members of the Hopi Bear, Sand, Lizard, Rattlesnake, Water, Snow, and Katsina Clans return periodically to enrich their personal understanding of their clan history. These places are remembered and cared for, not abandoned.
Nalakihu and Citadel with CCC camp in the 1930s
Nalakihu and Citadel pueblos with WPA camp in 1934

Courtesy of MNA, Cat. # NA358.P.8.

Between 1933 and 1953 Nalahkihu was used as the monument headquarters and contact station. A WPA (Works Progress Administration) camp was also constructed at this location to house workers in the 1930s.

Thank you for helping us protect this important heritage site by not climbing on walls, leaving all natural and cultural items in their place, and staying on designated trails.
Nalakihu Pueblo with full reconstruction in 1934.
Nalakihu Pueblo as seen in 1934 with reconstructed rooms.

NPS Catalog #WUPA29153

Citadel Pueblo has never been excavated, though many of the existing walls have been stabilized over the years. Current preservation involves annual stabilization of walls, condition monitoring of both the pueblo structure and the surrounding hillsides, invasive plant removal, and trail maintenance.

In 1933 archeologists excavated, recorded, and reconstructed Nalakihu. Although common in the 1930s, reconstruction involved a lot of guesswork and often destroyed details of the original construction. In 1953, the roof was removed and the reconstructed walls were taken down leaving the remaining original walls at the level to which they existed when they were uncovered by excavation.

Last updated: August 28, 2020

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