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Walnut Canyon

Walnut Canyon is home to a number of Sinagua Cliff dwellings. It is located along the banks of Walnut Creek approximately nine miles southeast of Flagstaff. The primary ruins sit along the top of a cliff face along a bend in the river. Other ruins are located throughout the Canyon in alcoves on the cliffs and atop the rim of the Canyon. Visitors mainly come to Walnut Canyon to see the pueblo dwellings. Although these are not spectacular ruins like those of Mesa Verde, the location makes this worth the trip. Visitors can get a glimpse of these dwellings via the Island Trail and the Rim Trail.

The Island Trail is quite a nice hike on a paved path, with a great view of the canyon and the ruins. The trailhead is located behind the visitors center, and starts by descending 185 ft. down 240 steps. The hike itself is relatively short – just 0.9 mile roundtrip. The loop part of the trail is fairly flat and leads to 25 cliff dwellings around the sides of a horseshoe bend in the canyon. Additional ruins are visible across the canyon on both sides of the Island Trail.

The Rim Trail goes east along the Rim for 0.7 miles. Visitors will be treated to views of the canyon and a handful of structures (pithouse and pueblo) along the top of the rim.

If you wish to hike other trails in the monument, you must be accompanied by a Park Ranger.

It is believed that the Sinagua inhabited these dwellings from A.D. 1125 to AD 1250. Walnut Canyon was heavily vandalized in the late 1800s. Some people even used dynamite to blast walls, looking for pots or other artifacts. It was not until 1904 that the area became protected. Later, in 1915, Walnut Canyon was declared a national monument. The Civilian Conservation Corps gave the area a big boost in the 1930s by stabilizing walls and constructing buildings and trails. For a time, the CCC also conducted guided tours in an effort to help protect the monument.

This is high country, with an elevation that varies between 6,690 ft. and 6,340 ft. During the summer monsoon, and at other times, afternoon thunderstorms can be frequent. Winter weather can be severe. Hikers should be prepared for conditions. There is some exposure to cliffs, so hang on to your small children.

Location: 1-40 Exit 209, approximately nine miles east of Flagstaff. Follow the signs three miles south to the monument.


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