on April 15, 2010
The Walnut Canyon National Monument is named after the Arizona walnut tree which used to be predominantly common in the bottom of the canyon. About 7.5 miles southeast of Flagstaff, this monument contains well preserved evidence of how the Sinagua lived more than 700 years ago. After seeing Montezuma Castle and viewing the cliff dwelling from afar, this visit gave us the chance to be up close with the dwellings built within the canyon walls and imagine the day-to-day activities of its inhabitants.Walnut Canyon was formed those thousands of years ago from Walnut Creek flowing and carving its way through the limestone and forming gorges and ridges and ledges on its walls which became a natural shelter from the elements. It became an ideal spot for the ancient peoples to create their cliff houses by taking advantage of the natural limestone roof and just constructing walls. This was an ideal place for a settlement for the Sinagua because there was proximity to a water source and great farming land at the canyon’s rim. This community prospered for more than 200 years and then, just like in Montezuma Castle, the Sinagua left for unknown reasons.Each visit should start at the visitor center, which sits atop a cliff and offers panoramic views of the canyon. There is also a mini museum in the center offering explanations of geology and history of the canyon. The visitor center and the views are, in themselves, almost worth the visit. After the trip to the visitor center, it’s time to hit the trails. The trails close one hour before the visitor center, so remember that when planning a visit. This allows for enough time to go through the trail before the site closes. There are two trails to choose from – the easy Rim Trail and the famous Island Trail.The Rim Trail is a leisurely 0.7 mile round trip tour of the canyon rim. It’s partly accessible and offers great views of the canyon. There are two overlooks and even a small ruin along the way.The Island Trail, which starts at the visitor center, is the most spectacular, but also the most strenuous. Its only about 1 mile round trip, but it starts with going down 185 feet through a series of 240 steps and ends with climbing those same steps. The descent requires no effort at all, but the climb back up? That’s another story. And the 7000 feet elevation location of the site does not help. Let’s just say that I was grateful they broke down the 240 steps in various groups of about 10 to 20 steps with an occasional outlook or bench so I could stop and pretend to let the view sink in when I was actually catching my breath :)Walnut Canyon is open 9am to 5pm from November to April and 8am to 5pm from May to October. And the entrance fee is $7 per person, good for 7 days. Kids 16 years old and below could get in for free. Also, the annual America the Beautiful Interagency Pass could be applied here so you do not have to worry about fees.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009