walnut canyon
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
September 16, 2020 ·  4 min read

Explore Ruins and Hike Through the Walnut Canyon National Monument

As lockdowns are let up, people are itching to get out of the house and see the world. Of course, it’s imperative to stay safe — the coronavirus pandemic isn’t over. For people setting out on day trips, be aware that, when it comes to crowded spaces, it’s safer to stay outdoors than indoors as it’s been shown to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Through precautions still need to be taken [1]  

With that being said, there’s no better time to take an easy and relaxing hike through the Walnut Canyon National Monument in Arizona.  

A Stunning Hike Through the Walnut Canyon National Monument 

Walnut Canyon is consisted of two trails: Island and Rim. 

The Island Trail is brief but intense. It descends 185 feet into the canyon before returning to the same route. It’s a one-mile round-trip, a perfect detour on a Flagstaff day trip. The spiraling pathways pass through archaeological wonders created by ancient people with early knowledge of construction and primitive tools, an ancient cliff dwelling that has been dated back over 700 years.  

Even more so, the view is absolutely gorgeous. [2] 

Read: The Montezuma Castle – The Incredible Stone Dwelling Built Almost a Millennium Ago Is Still Intact

About the Sinagua 

The Sinagua are a group of ancestral Puebloans named after the Spanish term that translates “without water”. The Spaniards gave this name to the San Francisco Peaks that surround this place, Sierra Sin Agua. The Sinagua have also constructed Montezuma Castle, Tuzigoot, and other cliff dwellings but the Walnut Canyon’s have been the most well-preserved.  

The intricate dwellings the Sinagua built in the Walnut Canyon that may seem like they are about to fall in. However, upon a closer look, the lodgings are strong and sturdy in no danger of caving. After all, all 25 of them stood for hundreds of years now. They used limestone rocks as bricks and clay as mortar with wooden beams to reinforce the doorways.  

And yes, visitors can enter the dwellings and see it up close themselves. It makes anyone wonder what life was like back then. Plaque containing information about the historical era are all around the site, including how the rooms were used and how life was. The walls and ceilings are blackened from fires lit hundreds of years ago, probably to cook or warm up the place.  

The visitor center contains more information about the canyon and about the ancient people. It also displays artifacts like a clay pitcher and cloth fragments. 

Read: Arizona Is Home To Ancient, 200 Million-Year-Old Trees, Some Of The World’s Oldest!

The View and Vegetation 

However, the best is yet to come. At the summit, you are surrounded by incredible forest and mountainous landscapes that stretch across the horizon. It’s no wonder the Sinagua people wanted to live up there. Imagine the serene and awe-inspiring world just outside their homes! 

Along the Rim Trail, you can stop along the hike to take in the view of the canyon’s depth of 400 feet and its quarter-mile width. You’ll also be able to see the cliff dwellings on its limestone ledges.  

There’s also a lot of vegetation there since Walnut Canyon is one of the greenest in the Southwest. You’ll see ponderosa pines, pinyon and juniper forests. At the bottom of the canyon, you’ll spot the riparian area where the Walnut Creek used to be. Depending on the trail, you may find yucca and prickly pear cacti or Douglas firs and conifers. At the bottom of the canyon, you’ll see riverbank vegetation thriving without the river, including aspens, black walnuts, and cottonwoods. 

The Rim Trail offers a more pleasant and less strenuous walk than the Island Trail. It’s short, paved, and allows pets to join. It reaches the first viewpoint and contains viewfinder telescopes to scope out the cliff dwellings.  

The Wildlife 

The wildlife at Walnut Canyon includes plenty of lizards, squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, pinyon jays, canyon wrens, mule deer, cottontail rabbits, and jackrabbits. It’s a wide variety of fauna for such a relatively small area. It also includes less safe creatures like coyotes, elk, mountain lions, and pronghorn antelopes, which have been spotted on numerous visits. However, if you’re lucky, you might spot a golden eagle, a prairie falcon, and a horned owl, depending on the time of the visit. [3] 

Keep in mind that health and safety always comes before any trip. If you are restricted because of the pandemic, this canyon is a great addition to the traveling bucket list. 

Keep Reading: 21 Unbelievable Places That Look Like They’re From Another Planet


[1] “‘I am angry.’ CMS says air is safe but aging systems fall short of COVID-19 advice from CDC.” Annie Ma. The Charlotte Observer. September 15, 2020 

[2] “Take An Easy 1-Mile Hike Through 25 Ancient Cliff Dwellings At Walnut Canyon National Monument In Arizona.” Katie Lawrence. Only in Your State. September 1, 2019 

[3] “7 Incredible Things To Explore At Walnut Canyon National Monument.” Emese Fromm. Travel Awaits. September 7, 2020