Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings National Monument is located just outside of Flagstaff, Arizona and we had plenty of time to check it out and make it back to camp to unwind for the evening. Walnut Canyon would also be our 3rd National Monument visit on the day, but the kids were excited for another Jr. Ranger Badge. We stopped into the visitor center to pick up the Jr. Ranger workbooks and spent some time learning about the cliff dwellings and history of Walnut Canyon, before making the hike down into the canyon.
Going Into Walnut Canyon
There are 2 hikes at Walnut Canyon National Monument. 1 hike is up on the rim and the other goes down into the canyon by some of the cliff dwellings. Although more strenuous, the kids were up for the hike down into the canyon as they also wanted a closer look. The path down into the canyon follows right along the edge of the canyon walls with steep drop offs protected only by a hand railing, so we kept the kids close.
Walnut Canyon Walls Scattered With Cliff Dwellings
As we dropped into the canyon, we could immediately start seeing cliff dwellings scattered along the canyon walls across the canyon. I was baffled at how you could even get to these dwellings, let alone carry materials to and from them for construction. It would have been a lot of work carrying food and water back and forth and it seems like climbing and ladders would have been a requirement. I could see why you would build there from a security standpoint, but that would have been tough getting to and from, especially with kids.
Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings Up Close
The hike goes down into Walnut Canyon and then circles around an island type structure in the canyon, lined with cliff dwellings that you walk right along side of. It is fascinating to see the old smoke stains on the overhanging rock that would have been the ceilings of these cliff dwelling homes. My kids were cracking me up as they discussed with one another which rooms they would have taken for themselves.
Destroyed Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings
It is really great that many of these have been preserved or closed off to entry for us to still walk by and enjoy. We were reminded of this privilege as we walked by the rubble remains of dwellings that were scavenged by settlers and explorers in the late 1800s looking for artifacts. It is nice that they were able to find some artifacts, but that history is gone and all that remains is the rubble. I am all about looking ahead to the future, but I don’t think you can look ahead to the future without reflecting on the past so that you can appreciate the present. I am happy that many of these have been preserved for us view today.
Climing Out of The Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings Hike
What goes down into the canyon, must come back out and we had to climb the stairs back out of the canyon. It really was not a bad hike at all, to be honest. It was fairly short and the kids didn’t have much of an issue with it either. I highly recommend doing the hike into the canyon if you visit. It lets you get a little more up close and personal, versus having to see all the dwellings from a distance up on the canyon rim.
Jr. Ranger Badges From Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings
We stopped back into the visitor center for the kids to finish up their Jr. Ranger packets and pick up their Jr. Ranger Badges. They were a bit excited as these were their 3rd Jr. Ranger Badges on the day. The program really helps keep them more engaged in the park. I tend to linger around some of this stuff, trying to learn more about it and the kids could get quite bored following me around if they didn’t have these packets to fill out in an effort to earn their badges.
It was a quick trip, but well worth it. I would highly recommend stopping by Walnut Canyon National Monument if you are coming through Flagstaff. Flagstaff is a great basecamp with all the National Parks in close proximity. This was our last National Park for the trip, but stay tuned for a short report on our day spent in Tucumcari, New Mexico on our way home.