Home » 2002 Cross Country Road Trip

Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ

Saturday, August 10, 2002 - 7:00am by Lolo
90 miles and 1.75 hours from our last stop


As we got onto I40 eastbound, we were officially on our way back home, which for some reason set a different tone--less frantic and more mellow. The anticipation of the unknown was behind us and there was a feeling of satisfaction from having shared some wonderful experiences together. Anything from this point on was just icing on the cake.

Boys in cliff dwellingBoys in cliff dwellingThere is an awful lot to see along the section of I40 that goes through Arizona and New Mexico, so there were plenty of choices for breaking up our long drive home. Our first stop was at Walnut Canyon National Monument in central Arizona where there are ancient cliff dwellings built into the sides of a 400-foot-deep canyon. These were the ancestral homes of the Sinagua people, the ancestors of the modern-day Pueblo. They lived in these cliff dwellings from about 1100 to 1250. Today it is considered a sacred place by the Pueblos.

Wanting to do more than just observe the dwellings from the rim of the canyon, we took the fairly strenuous Island Trail, which took us 185 feet down into the canyon. Along the trail, we were actually able to enter some of the cliff dwelling rooms. It was a very different experience from the more crowded, ranger-led tours of the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings. Although less dramatic and on a much smaller scale than Mesa Verde, it was interesting to experience the dwellings on our own with almost no one else around.


Walnut Canyon, located in central Arizona right off I40, is the most easily accessible of the numerous prehistoric settlements in the Southwest. Within the 400-foot-deep canyon are cliff dwellings built into the sides of the canyon walls by the ancient Sinagua people around 1100 to 1250 AD.

Spouses resting on Island TrailSpouses resting on Island TrailThe best way to see the ruins is to hike the Island Trail, a 1-mile loop that takes you 185 feet down into the canyon providing access to 25 cliff dwelling rooms. Climbing down and up the 240 steps into and out of the canyon is fairly strenuous.

A less strenuous hike is the 3/4 mile Rim Trail which takes you to viewpoints down into the canyon.

Walnut Canyon National Monument location map in "high definition"

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