Friday, June 28, 2013

The Island Trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument

During our tour of northern Arizona in September of 2012, my wife and I visited the three National Monuments that surround Flagstaff. One of those was Walnut Canyon, located just a couple miles east of town. The canyon is culturally and historically significant due to the ancient Sinagua people that once lived here, and the pueblos they etched along the canyon walls that still stand today.

The Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250, constructed several cliff dwelling rooms. The best way to get an up-close view of the ancient homes is to walk the one-mile Island Trail, which loops around a rock “island”, while hugging the cliff’s edge. From the trailhead, just outside of the visitor center, the path drops 185 feet - via 240 steps! You may want to note that you’ll have to climb those same stairs on your return. Once on the loop portion of the hike you’ll pass the remains of 25 cliff dwelling rooms, as well as several plant life zones that span the west from Mexico to Canada.

The park does a great job of interpreting the historical sites and the wide variety of plant life found along the way. Here are a few of the sights you’ll see:

Walnut Canyon National Monument is located roughly 7.5 miles east of Flagstaff. The park entrance road, trails, and Visitor Center are open all year, except Christmas Day. From May until October the monument is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. the remainder of the year. You should also note that entry to park trails closes 1 hour before the monument closes.

Trail: Island Trail
RT Distance: 1 Mile
Elevation Gain: 185 feet
Max Elevation: 6690 feet
TH Location: Walnut Canyon Visitor Center
Map: Flagstaff / Sedona Trails Illustrated Map

Hiking Northern Arizona features 120 of the best trails in this spectacular region. Included are high alpine trails near Flagstaff, as well as desert hikes in the stunning Red Rock area of Sedona. Also included are hikes near Williams, Camp Verde, Cottonwood and Jerome. Hiking Northern Arizona offers outings that are suited to day hikers and veteran backpackers alike.

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