Arizona’s history of Native American culture dates back over 10,000 years and is the primary contributor to one of the most historically rich places in the country. From the Ancestral Puebloans to the Patayan people, there’s an infinite amount of traditions and stories to learn about these once-thriving ancient societies. Which is why we gathered this list of the most incredible Native American ruins in Arizona to help you dive deeper into the rich indigenous culture of the American Southwest.
7 of the Most incredible Native American Ruins in Arizona
First up we have the famous Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Inhabited for some 5,000 years, Canyon de Chelly is unquestionably one of the longest populated Native American regions in all of North America. Located within the Navajo Nation and not far from neighbouring New Mexico, it’s famous for its rock art and ruins belonging to the Ancestral Puebloans. Today it is inhabited by about 40 Navajo families who continue to preserve the area. It is also recognisable by its towering, copper-coloured rock formations. Namely, Spider Rock.
Thought the US didn’t have castles? Think again. Belonging to the Sinagua people over 600 years ago, the Montezuma Castle Monument is not only one of the best Native American ruins in terms of preservation, but also the most beautiful. The large cave-dwelling is carved into the massive sandstone cliff and boasts priceless ancient petroglyphs in addition to five distinct stories.
Comprised of three ancient cliff dwelling villages belonging to the Ancestral Puebloan people, Keet Seel, Betatakin and Inscription House, the Navajo National Monument is one of Arizona’s most iconic ruins. Even though it has been empty since 1300 AD, the site is still famous for its spiritual significance.
Not far from Flagstaff, you’ll find the Wupatki National Monument. Wupatki means tall house in the Hopi tongue, and it speaks to the thriving village that used to be here. Built by the Ancient Pueblos, more specifically the Cohonina, Kayenta Anasazi and Sinagua people, Wupatki was first inhabited around 500 AD.
As one of Arizona’s most important prehistoric sites, you can prepare to be impressed at Agua Fria. Sprawled across the dessert between the Sonoran cactus lands and the grass-chaparral belt, Agua Fria contains countless ruins of the Pueblo communities that once thrived in the area. From ancient drawings to priceless clay artefacts, in addition to over 750 prehistoric habitation structures, you’ll have lots to explore.
Just two hours from Phoenix you’ll find one of the most picturesque spots in the state, Sierra Ancha National Wilderness. More than that though, it boasts an incredibly deep history of the Salado Indians who inhabited the area. In its heyday, the area stood as a boundary between the Mogollons, Hohokams and Sinagua societies. The remaining ruins are also in extremely inaccessible areas which still amaze archaeologists today.
Lastly, we have the Pueblo Grande Museum. These ruins belong to the Hohokam culture who created some of the most advanced irrigation systems in ancient North America. The Huhugam people of the Hohokam culture are undoubtedly one of Arizona’s most successful societies. And fortunately, thanks to the Pueblo Grande Museum, you can get a glimpse into what life was like for them.