Located on a paved road just off I-40 about 7.5 miles east of Flagstaff, AZ is Walnut Canyon National Monument with its cliff dwelling community dating back about 800 years or more. It is amazing to think the Sinagua people lived here year round (elevation of visitor center is almost 7000 feet) in the 20 mile long canyon with its 400 foot cliffs. Plant life zones are like those traveling from Mexico to Canada including ponderosa pine forest, pinyon/juniper woodland, upper Sonoran desert, mixed conifer forest and riparian bottom lands.
I visited after a major winter storm with several inches of newly fallen snow. I did not try taking the Island Trail with its 240 steps, but did take the .7 mile self-guiding Rim Trail to the pueblo and pit house ruins. The trail is paved, wheelchair accessible (even in Winter), and the signs detailing plant and wildlife are readable.
The visitor center has two manual lifts inside (staff will operate them ) for guests who have trouble with stairs. A filmstrip with much information is a good place to start your visit. There are also numerous exhibits-some interactive-, a bookstore, and an observation deck overlooking the dwellings in the visitor center. Outside are the two trails mentioned and a picnic area. No food is sold at the monument (closest restaurants are back in Flagstaff), so bring your own lunch if you plan to picnic.
Admission is $5.00 per person except children who are free. National Park passes are accepted making admission free. Monument is open year round with extended hours May-October. Winter has its own beauty and I was fortunate enough to see a deer along side the road. I found this National Monument well worth a stop.
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