Flagstaff’s Best Family Hike
Walnut Canyon National Monument is a hidden gem to the Flagstaff visitor, but it’s certainly worth the stop.
Walnut Canyon is a steep layering of sandstone and granite carved out by water over 60 million years. The National Monument has stark views of the canyon and the preserved dwellings of the pueblo community present from 1100-1250.
There are two short hikes in the Park but we recommend the Island Trail, a simple 1 mile paved trail, descending 185 feet down stairs. You can walk alongside recently preserved dwellings and gaze across the canyon in all directions to see the other ancient homes.
Getting to the Hike
The park’s hours are 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily. To get there, you’ll drive just 17 minutes out of Flagstaff’s town center on 40 West. You’ll exit off of 40 West onto exit 204 and turn right, or South, on Walnut Canyon Road. After driving for three miles on Walnut Canyon Road, you’ll come to the entrance of the park.
If you’re traveling often and think you’ll visit other National Parks and Recreation Areas within the year, we suggest buying a National Park Pass. An annual pass is $80, or it’s $20 for seniors (age 62 and over). If you already have the pass, entry is free! If you decide not to buy these passes, it’ll be $25 to enter for a week-long pass.
There’s just one parking area straight after the entry gate. There are restrooms and a picnic area available if you need to fuel up before the hike! After you park, head towards the Visitor’s Center where you’ll see a sign for Island Trail.
What to Expect on the Hike
The trail will take you down 185 feet through a series of winding paths and stairs. Make sure to bring plenty of water if you visit during the heated summer months. You’ll be able to see the impressive canyon stretching out before you as the dwellings come into view. You’ll take a 360 degree walk around a large island in the center of the canyon that allows you to climb inside some of the recently preserved rock homes.
The puebloan people used the diverse set of resources provided by the canyon to make their homes, grow food, create clothing and find water. As you walk the one mile loop, there are ample information stations describing the seemingly ancient way of living as well as the plants and animals that supported the puebloans.
The hike brings both beautiful views and an appreciation for the stories held by the well preserved lands. At the end of the hike, you’ll head back up the stairs, (breaks are encouraged!) and to the parking lot.
If you end up visiting the park and enjoy the hike, be sure to leave a comment and let us know!