Walnut Canyon National Monument

Historic Cliff Dwellings in Arizona

A mere 7 miles east of Flagstaff is a place where the Pueblo Indians carved out a home for themselves, some 700 years ago.

The canyon itself is not too big, being only about a quarter of a mile wide, and 20 miles long. The park itself is about 8 miles long, and it is studded with many cacti and conifers, such as Ponderosa Pine. The amount of plant life that dots the limestone cliffs, greatly adds to the attractiveness of the landscape.

Walnut Canyon National Monument was officially established in 1915, by President Woodrow Wilson. It had been carved into a semi-circular canyon, 400 feet deep, by Walnut Creek. Many caves were also created in the process, and these became homes for the Sinagua Indians.

The Cliff Dwellings of The Sinagua Indians

The canyon is a little off the beaten track, but it is a great place to visit, when in the Flagstaff area. It is quiet and possesses a beauty all its own. There are about 25 cliff dwellings for the visitor to discover, that decide to make the 185-foot descent down. Island trail, as it is as known, is about a one-mile trek roundtrip, and the rooms are located about halfway down the trail. The hike provides plenty of fodder for the imagination, as do the man-made dwellings.

The cliff dwellings are accessible to the visitor. Each one is fairly spacious and completely devoid of artifacts, or amenities; with the exception of the fire pits. There is also not enough ceiling height for the average person to stand up straight. But it does give someone the opportunity to step into the past and reflect upon the kind of life the inhabitants must have had. There is a sheer drop right in front of each entrance, and the rocky paths are extremely narrow.

The Hiking Trails

Today, the trails have handrails to protect against falls. However, there are some sections of the trails that do not have any, so some caution must be exercised in those cases. Also, the elevation of the canyon is about 7000 feet, so the return trek may prove a difficult climb for some.

Directions, Rates, and Hours of Operation

To get to Walnut Canyon National Monument from Flagstaff, take exit 204 off the I-40, and drive for about 3 miles. The Visitor’s Center is located at the rim of the canyon. The park is open every day except Christmas Day. Individual rates to the Walnut Canyon are a mere $5 per person and is good for 7 days.

The monument is open to visitors between 8 or 9 am, depending on the time of year, and closes at 5 pm. The trails close down at 4 pm. Climbing on the walls is forbidden, and visitors are instructed to stay on the trails.


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