Ancient Cliff Dwellings
Walnut Canyon National Monument
Just outside of Flagstaff, this National Monument full of ancient cliff dwellings is truly a marvel. To see the cliff dwellings that are 800+ years old is amazing enough, but getting to go inside and explore them was exceptional.
There are two trails from the Visitor's Center - the Rim Trail & Island Trail. We took the Island Trail, which starts near 7,000 feet and descends 185 vertical feet into the canyon (and returns the same way.) The mile-long pathway takes you through 25 cliff dwellings, plus there are views of countless others throughout the canyon. These cliff homes were used by the Sinagua (a pre-Columbian native tribe) around 1100-1250AD, and built under limestone ledges along the walls of the canyon high above the creek that flows below.
There are many signs explaining the culture of the original inhabitants of the canyon. We also loved the unusual rock formations and beautiful flowering cacti. We spotted several geodes wedged in the walls of stone. Plus, seeing the work of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) throughout the park is fascinating. The CCC played a major role in the 1930s, constructing the pathways, buildings, and protective walls used for tours still today.
We'd never heard of Walnut Canyon before, but it was highly recommended to us by our camping friends @alwaysbecampin - we're so glad we made the trip to see it!