Walnut Canyon National Monument…
A Descent Into The Past

Walnut Canyon National Monument Cliff Dwelling

Walnut Canyon, twenty miles long, 400 feet deep and ¼ mile wide, was formed over a period of 60 million years.

Today, six miles of the canyon’s length are protected within the monument’s 3600 acres.

The monument, located just off I-40 a few miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona, contains the only known remains of the northern Sinagua culture.

These ancient people built their dwellings in rock alcoves, tucked away within the canyon walls, protected from the elements and their enemies alike.

There they flourished for over 200 years.

Walnut Canyon National Monument Map


Walnut Canyon National Monument is 7.5 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona.

From Flagstaff, travel east on I-40 and turn south on Exit 204.  The Visitor Center is at the end of this 3 mile road.


The turn-around space in the parking area at the Visitor Center is tight.

A maximum length of 40 feet is recommended for RVs, especially those towing another vehicle.

The National Park Service at Walnut Canyon warns that GPS units in this area often lead people astray. They recommend you do not use them for getting to the Monument.

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Operating Hours and Seasons

Walnut Canyon National Monument is open year-round except for Christmas Day, December 25th.


•    May thru October – 8 AM to 5 PM (MST)
•    November thru April – 9 AM to 5 PM (MST)

You may find books and maps on Walnut Canyon National Monument  at the Visitor' Center, or you may click on the link below which will take you directly to Amazon.com

Walnut Canyon National Monument


Entry to park trails closes one hour before the monument closes.

Most of Arizona does not observe Daylight Savings Time.

The monument remains on Mountain Standard Time year-round.

Entrance Fees

$5.00 per person (good for 7 days)
Children under 16 are admitted free.

Flagstaff Area National Monuments Annual Pass

•    $25.00
•    Admits passport holder and 3 adults (16 years and older) to Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments
•    Valid for one year beginning from the month of sale


There is no lodging within the Monument.

The nearest city, Flagstaff, Arizona is just minutes away.

To find lodging in Flagstaff, use the Search Box on the right.

Simply enter the dates you have in mind, and the server, Hotels Combined, will provide you with a list of the lodging available on the dates you have specified.

This is not a booking agency. It is a search engine to help you find great lodging at great prices.

For Current Weather in Flagstaff, Arizona, Click Here.


The visitor center and its restrooms are accessible.

Due to steep grades and many steps, the Island Trail is inaccessible to strollers and wheelchairs.

The Rim Trail is accessible only to the first overlook.

Flora and Fauna

Scientists have identified at least 69 species of mammals in the monument, as well as 28 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 121 species of birds.

Walnut Canyon National Monument


Of the 69 species of mammals identified within the monument, those which are commonly seen include:

•    coyotes
•    cottontail and jack rabbits
•    rock squirrels
•    golden-mantled ground squirrels
•    cliff chipmunks
•    peccary
•    fox
•    badger


Walnut Canyon National Monument Peccary

The monument and surrounding lands provide seasonal habitat and movement corridors for elk and mule deer.

 Large mammals, including mountain lions, black bear, and pronghorn antelope also frequent the area.

Wild Turkey

Walnut Canyon National Wild Turkey Monument


Of the 121 species of birds which have been identified within the monument, those which are commonly seen include:

•    pinyon jays
•    white-throated swifts
•    turkey vultures
•    red-tailed hawk

The south side of the canyon provides habitat for wild turkey.

The steep terrain and secluded side canyons provide habitat for birds of prey like the:

•    cooper’s hawk
•    sharp-shinned hawk
•    golden eagle
•    prairie falcon
•    flammulated owl
•    great grey owl

In addition, peregrine falcon, and northern goshawk, among the rarest

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl Walnut Canyon National Monument

raptors in the southwestern United States, are residents of Walnut Canyon.Bald eagles, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, routinely spend the winter in the area, and are occasionally observed perching in dead tree snags and feeding on elk carrion within the monument.

Walnut Canyon also harbors nesting pairs of Mexican spotted owls, also listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act


Aspens Walnut Canyon National Monument

Tree and Shrubs

•    New Mexico locust
•    box elder
•    aspen
•    cottonwood
•    pinyon
•    juniper
•    Douglas fir
•    Ponderosa pine
•    Gambel oak

Flowering Plants

•    Claret cup cactus
•    yucca
•    prickly pear cactus


If you are traveling with pets, it is best to make arrangements to have them boarded in Flagstaff.

Pets are NOT ALLOWED on monument trails or in buildings.

They are allowed in the parking lot only and must be on a leash at all times.

There are several places in Flagstaff which offer boarding and/or pet-sitting services.  Click Here for more information.


Summer heat can be intense; pets left in vehicles - even for a short time - can suffer heat stroke and die.

You should allow at least 2 hours to see the visitor center and museum, hike down to the cliff dwellings, and walk the Rim Trail.

Walnut Canyon National Monument  Cliff Dwelling


Although Walnut Canyon National Monument is comprised of almost 3600 acres, much of the area is undeveloped thus limiting the types of activities within the monument.

Presently, access is limited to established trails, roadways, and developed facilities.

Areas not designated and identified for public activities are closed to unguided entry.
Various interpretive programs, including guided hikes to the historic ranger cabin and additional cliff dwellings, are offered as staffing permits

Walnut Canyon National Monument  Cliff Dwelling


Rim Trail - 0.7 miles, offers an easy overview of the canyon.
It closes 30 minutes before the visitor center.

Island Trail – The Island Trail descends 185 feet into the canyon, passing six cliff dwellings with a total of 25 rooms. Many other cliff dwellings are visible across the canyon from the Island Trail.

Although it is only a 0.9 mile round trip, it descends 185 feet down into the canyon, and climbing the 240 steps back up can be quite strenuous and hard on the heart and lungs.

Also, people who don’t feel comfortable with heights usually do not enjoy the Island Trail with the steep drop-offs along some sections.

The Island Trail closes one hour before the visitor center.


Walnut Canyon National Monument has an elevation of 6,690 feet.  People who are not accustomed to this altitude or who have COPD may have difficulty breathing and may suffer high altitude sickness.

Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping.

Going to a lower altitude is the best remedy. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or another over-the-counter pain reliever can be used to treat headaches.

Walnut Canyon National Monument  Cliff Dwelling


Sinagua Culture

Archaeologists believe there were people living in the area around Walnut Canyon between 2500 B.C. to A.D. 1, but most are from a prehistoric farming culture that flourished around Flagstaff from about A.D. 600 until 1400.

Archaeologists call them the Sinagua culture, from the Spanish “sin aqua” meaning without water. It is not the name of a tribe or clan of people.

Rather, it is a culture whose members share the same or similar characteristics.

The Sinagua flourished here between A.D. 600 until 1400, living first on the canyon rims where they grew crops of maize, squash and beans.

Around A.D. 1150, they descended down into the canyon and, built the dwellings we see today tucked away in alcoves along the canyon walls.

Walnut Canyon National Monument  Cliff Dwelling

Present Day Descendants

Their descendants live today in Pueblo villages such as Old Oraibi of the Hopi and Sky City of Acoma whose ceremonial and tribal rituals began with the prehistoric cultures of Walnut Canyon.

National Status

Walnut Canyon National Monument was established by President Woodrow Wilson on November 30, 1915, to preserve the ancient cliff dwellings.

The monument was initially managed by the US Forest Service until it was transferred to the National Park Service in 1934.

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Walnut Canyon National Monument

References and Resources

Daily Dose

National Park Service

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