Officials at Walnut Canyon National Monument are reconstructing a trail that gives visitors a view of 25 cliff dwelling rooms.
The one-mile Island Trail will be closed for the rest of the month.
Crews will be removing the asphalt along the trail to prepare it for repaving later this year.
Other improvements over the next two years include widening the trail, eliminating cracks and evening out the stairways.
The project won’t impact access to another trail that runs along the canyon rim.
The monument east of Flagstaff contains ruins of dwellings built by the Sinagua Indians more than 700 years ago.
Walnut Canyon National Monument is one of Flagstaff’s greatest locations. A little less than eight miles east of Flagstaff, Walnut Canyon features several family-friendly hikes unique to the history of the area.
The Monument’s Visitor Center houses geographical and historical information about the region. Even after hiking through the area a few times, you never run out of things to look at.
The canyon’s Rim Trail is a basic walking trail around the rim of the Valley, totaling 0.7 miles round-trip. The trail features multiple lookouts for visitors to enjoy the beauty of the canyon. Ancient cliff dwellings and countless Ponderosa Pine Trees can be seen below. In addition, hikers get to see a pit house and a pueblo that were used for farming by former residents of the canyon.
The Island Trail takes hikers 185 feet down into the canyon, totaling one mile round-trip. The trail is made up of stairs that take you down into the canyon. Visitors then make an easy walk around the relatively flat loop that features 25 cliff dwellings. During your trip down the stairs, park rangers are conveniently placed to give sightseers unique information about the landscape. Along the loop, there are signs with historical information about the vegetation, wildlife and families who lived in the canyon. Arizona residents who paid close attention in high school history classes will probably be able to tell what each dwelling was for. Scorch marks on the walls and ceilings of some rooms indicate former kitchens.
I can only imagine how exciting it would be to be a child hiking the Island Trail. Touring the cliff dwellings almost feels like a game that would be featured in Highlights magazine. It is hard not to imagine where beds, stoves, tables and chairs were located in each room. The dwellings are like giant, blank, limestone canvases that are there for your imagination to decorate as it pleases.
It is hard to comprehend how groups of people made lives for themselves in the bottom of a canyon. Visiting the Monument is a surreal experience. It’s a gateway into understanding the history of the northern Arizona region.
For more information about Walnut Canyon National Monument, visit nps.gov/waca.