While boondocking in Coconino National Forest, Alex and I decided to check out Walnut Canyon National Monument, just a couple miles away from our campsite.
We arrived near 9am on a Wednesday and the visitor center was already busy. We didn’t pay the $8 per adult admission since we have a National Parks pass and that covers National Monuments as well. We hadn’t done any prior research before our visit and didn’t even know what exactly we were going to be exploring. What we found was a beautiful 1 mile loop hike through Walnut Canyon where ancient cliff dwellings are still intact and you can actually walk through them while taking in amazing views of the canyon below.
Walnut Canyon was home to the Sinagua people approximately 800 years ago but shows evidence of human use dating back thousands of years. The Sinagua built their homes in the natural recesses of the cliff and the area remained largely undisturbed until the 1800s when the area was rediscovered. The Island Trail takes you down into the canyon and through 25 of the cliff dwelling rooms. The trail is marked as strenuous but it’s actually very easy until you start the 240 step climb back to the top of the canyon. Even then, the stairs have many landings and benches to stop and take a break on your way back up.
The visitor center has a gift shop, restrooms, and a gallery with a movie about the Sinagua people and displays of artifacts.
Overall, we spent about two hours exploring the canyon and cliff dwellings and we are so glad we decided to check it out. We may go back tomorrow and check out the shorter 0.7 mile Rim Trail tomorrow.
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