Walnut Canyon is a wide canyon of rock, petrified sand dunes and pine forest with a peninsula of rock sticking out into the canyon for a short distance. The sides of the canyon are dotted with Native American rock dwellings, and they line the walls of the peninsula. You walk along a path that circles the peninsula, where you can not only see, and enter, these dwellings, but see the dwellings in the surrounding canyon walls.
The last couple of times that we’ve visited was during the monsoon season, and experienced a thunder storm. When the rain starts we find shelter in the old ruins, and listen to the rain drops falling on the pine forest, and thunder echoing in the canyon. It’s a magical experience.
Walnut Canyon (https://www.nps.gov/waca/index.htm) has been visited by various peoples for thousands of years. The Sinagua were the first permanent residents, and they lived in the area from about 600 A.D. to 1400 A.D.
Walking around the cliff dwellings, it’s fascinating to see tiny rooms, many of which are smaller than my bathroom, and realize that an entire family lived there. Looking out from these dwellings, and seeing cliff dwellings on the other side of the canyon, is a step back in time. I’m seeing the same thing the Sinagua saw when they lived in these dwellings 900 years ago.
One interesting thing about our visits here is that each time we hear Native American flute music for a few minutes. It’s like Carlos Nakai is hiding around some corner, playing his heart out. The sound of that flute floating around the canyon, and getting inside of your body, is very ethereal.
After walking through the office, and visiting the attached gift shop and museum, you walk down a flight of stairs and go outside to the overlook. There’s also an open elevator that mobility challenged people can use to access the overlook.
Now, the fun starts. You will walk down stairs, a lot of stairs, to get to the walkway that wraps around the stone peninsula, where you can see, and enter Sinagua cliff dwellings. As you take these stairs down, remember that when you’re done, you have to take them back up, all 185 feet (56 meters) worth. You can take breaks on landings, so don’t worry.
If stairs aren’t your thing, you can still have wonderful views from the overlook. You can also enjoy a paved, and mostly level, trail that starts near the door to the office, wanders along the cliff and overlooks the canyon and ruins. Picnic tables are located along the trail, so you can eat your lunch in the forest.
Walnut Canyon is where we go to travel back in time, and to find peace and quiet in a busy world. Grab a picnic lunch and head on over. You’re sure to enjoy the visit.