Just 10 miles from down town Flagstaff lies the remnants of the Sinaqua culture group; consisting of a few pueblos, graineries, and over 80 cliff dwellings tucked into the canyon walls like apartment complexes. The canyon in question, Walnut Canyon, a National Monument; protecting this canyon within an 80 x 10 mile NPS unit. The pleasure of this is is accessibility. Just a short ride east of Flagstaff, being small of area, and with shorter and simpler hikes; makes this a short and sweet stop for would be travelers in the Flagstaff area. Walnut Canyon is also co-managed with two other National Monuments, Wupatki, and Sunset Crater; making it an easy addition to an itinerary, as they share an entrance fee. Pay once, and enter all three; this is assuming you don’t have an America the Beautiful park pass; which is recommended if you will visit multiple parks, including the Grand Canyon.
Walnut Canyon really has only two trails, the Rim Trail, and the Island Trail. The Rim Trail follows the curve of the canyon, affording views of the far wall of the canyon, and the cliff dwellings on that wall. Often the longer you sit in a spot the more cliff dwellings you start to pick out with your eyes. Binoculars are an advantage as not all the cliff dwellings are marked on the park’s maps, and you will extend your finding ability along this gentle, .7 mile long trail.
The Island Trail takes you below the rim of the canyon, descending 185 feet, this can be more strenuous for some visitors. Those willing, and prepared will enjoy a mile round trip loop that takes you right next to cliff dwellings, where you can stick your head in for a peak, and experience the living conditions the Sinaqua would have had.
The National Monument is open from 9-5 every day. But for more information, always check the park’s website here.