During our tour of the southwest this past September, my wife and I visited the three National Monuments that surround Flagstaff, Arizona. One of those was Walnut Canyon, just a couple miles east of town. The canyon is culturally and historically significant due to the ancient Sinagua people that once lived here, and the pueblos they etched along the canyon walls that still stand today.
The Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250, constructed several cliff dwelling rooms. The best way to get an up-close view of the ancient homes is to walk the one-mile Island Trail, which loops around a rock “island”, while hugging the cliff’s edge. From the trailhead, just outside of the visitor center, the path drops 185 feet - via 240 steps! You may want to note that you’ll have to climb those same stairs on your return. Once on the loop portion of the hike you’ll pass the remains of 25 cliff dwelling rooms, as well as several plant life zones that span the west from Mexico to Canada.
The park does a great job of interpreting the historical sites and the wide variety of plant life found along the way. Here are a few of the sights you’ll see: