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A trail leads around the hill with some dwellings along the left hand side, some have been restored or stabilized.
Photo Credit: guyonthego

Walnut Canyon National Monument

3 Walnut Canyon Road Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Open November-May 22 9:00am-5:00pm & May 23-October 8:00am-5:00pm
928-526-3367 3 hours
August 2014 Summer, Fall, Spring
$0-9 Flagstaff Arizona
Website Nature National Monuments
First review
Walnut Canyon National Monument is a 3,500 acre park which contains ancient Indian cliff dwellings constructed in a narrow but deep canyon from around 1100 to 1250 AD. These dwellings were the homes at different times of about 100 Sinagua Indians. Sinagua is a Spanish term for without water. Park facilities include a dated visitor center/museum, a couple hiking trails, and an excavated dwelling on top of the canyon.

The Sinagua people lived in this region for a thousand years. They developed large vibrant communities based mainly on agriculture. They also traded extensively with other tribes as far away as the Gulf of Mexico and Central America. The exact reasons for building dwellings in the cliff ledges are not known but may have been for protection. Also, why the Sinagua left is unclear. Left undisturbed for 600 years, the dwellings were then pillaged in the late 1800s by rapacious souvenir seekers who carted off many artifacts. Meaningful protection did not come till 1915 when the area became a national monument.

Walnut Canyon is one of several national monuments with Indian dwellings in the greater Flagstaff area. Others include Wupatki, Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle. Walnut is the closest to Flagstaff, just 20 minutes by car. The park was very quiet on a Friday in August. The museum was like a time capsule from the 1960s. Displays were skimpy and dated. The park brochure and outdoor interpretive signage were more informative. The main attraction here is the Island Trail which descends 185 feet into the canyon and then loops around the primary cliff dwellings. While the trail is described as strenuous, it was easy for a person in reasonable shape. Room interiors were viewable but not accessible, and some walls have been reconstructed. If you choose to skip the Island Trail and look at the ruins from the Rim Trail which runs along the side of the canyon, you won’t miss much. More interesting than the dwellings, was the canyon itself which is diverse in habitats and animal life. While the cliff dwellings are conceptually novel due to their age and rarity, those in Mesa Verde National Park were much more impressive. Summer is the best time of year to visit Walnut as the weather is most favorable. Also, there are two ranger led walks offered which venture to park areas normally off limits. If you are interested in either outing, make reservations in advance because the walks often sell out.
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