Walnut Canyon National Monument is part of the United States National Park Service. It is situated roughly 7.5 miles (12.1 km) from Flagstaff, Arizona. Covering nearly 3,600 acres (14.6 square km), it has rich archeological features and a wealth of natural resources. The main draw to Walnut Canyon National Monument is the cliff dwelling homes that were constructed nearly 700 years ago, but most visitors appreciate the scenic views from the canyon rim and the unique desert plants and animals as well.
The history of Walnut Canyon National Monument is long and interesting. The first permanent residents of the canyon, called the Sinagua people by archaeologists, lived at the canyon from 600 to 1400 A.D. In the middle of their time there, in the 1100s, they moved into limestone cliff dwellings below the rim of the canyon. They continued to live in these dwellings about 150 years.
In the 1880s, people came to the canyon in search of archaeological trinkets. They ruined many of the ancient cliff dwellings, tore down walls, and dug through burial sites. As a result, it was made mart of the protected San Francisco Mountain Reserve in 1904 and then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declared the canyon a National Monument in 1915.
There are two main trails, the Island Trail and the Rim Trail, that allow visitors to Walnut Canyon National Monument to see the cliff dwellings. The Island Trail is about one mile (1.6 km) round trip. Although it is paved, it is also quite steep and the stairs make it inaccessible to wheelchairs. It takes visitors past 25 ancient cliff-side rooms. Visitors can also expect to see views of the canyon and unique plants and animals.
The Rim Trail traverses the rim of the canyon. It meanders through a ponderosa pine forest with overlooks and views of a pueblo and pithouse set away from the rim of the canyon. The trail is approximately 0.7 miles (1.1 km) long, but only the first portion is paved and accessible to wheelchairs.
Visitors to Walnut Canyon National Monument can partake in ranger-guided walks and interpretive programs. There is a picnic area, restrooms, and a bookstore at the visitor’s center as well. Camping is not allowed at the monument, but there are campgrounds and hotels nearby. The conditions are typically dry, so fires are prohibited in the monument. In addition, all archeological items, plants, rocks, and animals are protected by law and cannot be removed or disturbed.