Pueblos and cliff dwellings so well preserved it's hard to believe their builders moved on 700 years ago...Amid lava and cinder one can imagine a landscape still hot to the touch. Welcome to the Flagstaff Area National Monuments!
There is something for everyone: prehistoric cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon, the mountain scenery and geology of Sunset Crater Volcano, and the painted desert landscape and masonry pueblos of Wupatki National Monument.
Arizona does not observe daylight savings. You are on Mountain Standard Time. Leave Flagstaff with a full tank of gas and food as there are no services at the monuments.
A hike down into Walnut Canyon National Monument will take you back in time. The canyon walls hold the ancient cliff dwellings of nearly a thousand years ago. Walnut Canyon National Monument is one of the most well preserved cliff dwellings of the Sinagua people. Sinagua means “without water” in Spanish, which refers to their method of farming.
From 1120 to 1250, the Sinagua people chose this ideal spot to build their home, with the cool stream at the bottom of 400-foot gorge. Their dwellings are located under the natural overhangs of limestone and sandstone along the canyon walls. The Sinagua’s used stones and mortar to close in the exposed sides of their dwellings. If you look carefully, you might find the handprints in the mud left behind by the builder. At one time, there were 300 rooms at Walnut Canyon. Today, visitors can see 24 rooms.
The Visitor Center has lots of information about the Sinagua people. There are displays and artifacts recounting their existence. A showcase holds a variety of flora found at the canyon. Many of the single-family dwellings are visible from the Visitor Center. There are picnic facilities outside the Visitor Center.
At the Visitor Center, the Island Trail down to the dwellings begins. The hour long Island Trail hike into the canyon is a must. The hike includes a 250-step downward path with handrails and several resting spots along the way. It is a hike offering wonderful natural views and glimpses of cliff dwellings. There is another easier hiking trail around the canyon rim. The Rim Trail takes you to two viewpoints and two dwellings. Along the trail, there are signs describing the plants and wildlife. Please allow 30 minutes for the half-mile loop Rim Trail. Both trails can be closed, if snow and ice are present.
The monument is open everyday from 8:00 to 6:00 June through August, 8:00 to 5:00 September through November, 9:00 to 5:00 March through April and the rest of the year, except Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Island Trail does close one hour before the Visitor Center closes. The admission is $3.00 per person and children under 17 are free. If you would like more information, you may call 520-526-3367.
Walnut Canyon National Monument is located seven miles east of Flagstaff, just off of Interstate 40. If you are coming from Phoenix or Tucson take Interstate 17 north to Flagstaff. Once you are in Flagstaff, take Interstate 40 east out of town. You will travel for approximately seven miles, until you come exit 204 and the signs for Walnut Canyon National Monument.