Explore ancient cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument

Arizona was once home to many tribes and clans of native people. They inhabited primitive dwellings constructed in the steep walls of canyons found around the state. One of the best preserved communities of cliff dwellings is preserved by the National Park Service at Walnut Canyon National Monument, southeast of Flagstaff.

Cliff dwelling alcove at Walnut Canyon National Monument
Naturally occurring alcoves like this one provided the people who built the cliff dwellings a jump start on construction.

Walnut Canyon National Monument quick facts:

  • Alive with ancestral activity between the years of 600 and 1400 A.D.
  • Archeologists labeled this prehistoric culture Sinagua, a Spanish term for “mountains without water”
  • Ancestral people farmed the canyon rims for centuries, growing corn, squash, and beans
  • During the 1100s, many moved into limestone alcoves below the canyon rim, where they constructed the cliff dwellings we see today
  • The community thrived for another 150 years before the people moved on
  • Today, visitors can walk through about 25 dwellings situated along a well marked one-mile trail
  • Ranger programs are offered daily at either 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. as long as staffing is available
Cropped view of visitor trail map. The green dashes indicate ruins locations.

 

Small passage way in the wall of cliff dwelling
Small passageways like this one allowed cliff dwellers to move easily between pueblos.

 

Cliff dwellings viewed from a distance
Pueblos like these are visible across the canyon in nearly every direction as you make your way around the Island Trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument.
Small elongated hole built into masonry wall
Ancient cliff dwellers knew the importance of building to allow for adequate air flow. Experts who’ve studied the Walnut Canyon site believe this intentional gap was built to allow smoke to escape the dwelling. The evidence of black soot on the rock above seems to support that notion.

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ruins of above ground ancient dwelling
Numerous above ground ruins like this one are located throughout the Walnut Canyon National Monument grounds. It’s believed that they were likely used for storing food and other valuables.

Video: See Walnut Canyon cliff dwelling ruins up close

There are so many cool things to see in Arizona and Walnut Canyon National Monument has been on my AZ Bucket List for a while. I’m glad I checked it out and I think you will be too.

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Ready to see the dwellings of Walnut Canyon for yourself? Tap the map↓

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