Best Western PLUS Inn of Sedona
Day Trips from Sedona, Arizona
Walnut Canyon National Monument
By: Lisa Peters
While vacationing in Sedona, Arizona you have an unlimited variety of day trips to the surrounding areas that will both educate and spark the imagination of you and your family. Recently my friends’ brother visited from the North East and we decided to go on an adventure to Walnut Canyon National Monument, once home to a vital pueblo community over 700 years ago that built their homes in shallow alcoves along the ledges of the canyon.
Most of my friends who know how much I love history could not believe I had not been to visit Walnut Canyon before. They kept telling me how much I would love the scenery, history and ancient ruins at the Canyon. They were right!
The three of us headed out to Walnut Canyon on a Thursday morning. We left from the Inn of Sedona and headed to Flagstaff, Arizona where the canyon is located. The drive itself up the switchbacks of Oak Creek Canyon was a special treat. There is a lookout at the top of the canyon with an easy walking path that looks out over the canyon. Some of the fall colors were beginning to show, making the view even more special. There were vendors selling some Native American crafts. Our friend Walker could not pass up a special necklace made of turquoise, and the price was more than reasonable. I have to admit as great as the scenery was, I rushed everyone back in the car, anxious to get to Walnut Canyon.
When we first arrived at the Canyon we went into the visitor’s center to pay our fee, which was only $5 per person, good for 7 days. If you are visiting with your family, kids under the age of 16 are free!
Carved by Walnut Creek over a period of 6 million years the canyon is twenty miles long, 400 feet deep and 1/4 a mile wide. The canyon offers two trails, the Rim Trail that takes you on an easy beautiful stroll above the rim of the canyon and the Island Trail that is more strenuous and descends 185 vertical feet into the canyon!
We all enjoyed the scenic beauty the Rim Trail provided, but I have to tell you, if you can handle it, the Island Trail is the way to go! The Trail starts with a ramp type walkway down, then stairs taking you down further into the canyon where you will see cliff dwelling rooms along the trail with more visible across the canyon. The trail is paved making it a little easier to walk but I suggest if you have back problems, or a fear of heights, stick to the rim trail.
As you are walking the trail you will come across cliff dwellings that are right on the path, being able to get so close to the ruins is what blew me away the most. You feel like you are being transported back in time when the Sinagua inhabited the area. You get a good feel for what their life must have been like. You will also be treated to a wide variety of wildlife and plants. During our hike into the canyon we came across many lizards, red-tailed hawks and a few rock squirrels. A variety of wildflowers were still in bloom with several I have never seen before.
“Walnut Canyon is a biological “hot spot” – a place of concentrated biological productivity – because of its varied exposures and elevations, together with seasonal water, all compressed into a narrow band within a surrounding pine forest. The canyon twists and turns, creating a patchwork of sun and shadow. Hot dry desert-like slopes and shaded forests, normally separated by thousands of feet in elevation, are found here almost side by side. With these overlapping habitats come unusual assortments of plants and animals, and a high concentration of sensitive species. At the same time, the canyon serves as an important wildlife migration corridor, linking higher elevation forests with lower pine-juniper woodlands to the east.” – National Park Service Website.
By the time we ended our journey into the canyon and headed for the stairs I had some amazing pictures, and a better understanding of the Sinagua culture. I will go back many times and highly suggest it to anyone interested in Native American History, beautiful scenery or has an adventurous spirit.
- Entry to the Island Trail closes 1 hour before the monument closes.
- Entry to the Rim Trail closes 30 minutes before the monument closes.
- The Island Trail is paved, but not accessible to wheelchairs, due to steep canyon terrain and many stairs.
- Keep in mind you may need to pace yourself a little more than usual, especially if you are not acclimated to 7,000′ elevation.
- You have to return the way you came, so take your time on the way back up and you will be fine. I am not the strongest of hikers and there were plenty of places to pull aside and rest for a moment. And believe me I was not the only one taking a momentary pause.
- Park entrance road, trails, and Visitor Center are open all year, except December 25.
- In winter the Island Trail may be closed temporarily for snow removal. Please call for current information if there are storms in the area. 928-526-3367
- Show respect, stay on the established trail, don’t climb on walls, and do not remove or disturb any features.
- Hours for Walnut Canyon National Monument
November – April 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM MST
May – October 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM MST
Check out these other National Monuments in Flagstaff, Arizona
We still have a few rooms available for this weekend at the Best Western PLUS Inn of Sedona, to make reservations please click here. Make sure to check out our Sedona Vacation Packages that combine lodging at our Sedona hotel with a variety of Sedona tours and attractions.