Hike To Ruins On The Walnut Canyon Island Trail In Flagstaff

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In 2020 on one of our trips to Flagstaff we stopped at Walnut Canyon. The Island Trail was closed then so we just did the short Rim Trail.

I thought it was nice but I wasn’t blown away. I did want to come back eventually to do the Island Trail and this fall when my parents were here was the time.

view of walnut canyon arizona
Can you spot the ruins?

We went to Walnut Canyon, Wupatki, and Sunset Crater Volcano in one day before the Grand Canyon the next. Or maybe it was opposite, I don’t remember but it’s also not relevant haha.

When we got there we stopped in the visitor center and I got a mug, then we did the rim trail overlooking the canyon while we made sure we wanted to do the Island Trail.

mesquite bush walnut canyon national monument arizona

They make it sound like all 700 stairs are at once that you’ll have to go up on the way out, but it’s 700-some stairs on the whole trail. There are a lot at once but it’s not as bad as it sounds, I promise.

If you hate stairs, it won’t be fun but it’s not a total nightmare. After the Rim Trail, we hit the Island Trail and headed into the canyon to see the dwellings built by the Sinagua people up close. (The park website can tell you about the history better than I could if you want more of that.)

view of mountains from walnut canyon national monument arizona

Along the way down and at the bottom of the stairs, you can see even more ruins than from above, both in the direction you can see from above and on the side right below the rim.

It’s so wild seeing these dwellings tucked into these little alcoves I don’t even know how far off the ground. And it felt like everywhere I looked down the canyon I could spot another one!

walnut canyon ruins national monument arizona

At the bottom of the stairs, the trail becomes a loop taking you around the island. We went to the right which is the shady side. You can see dwellings across the canyon and you want by/through a few, too.

Along the way there are signs telling you about the ecology, environment, and history of the canyon you’re walking through. On the far end of the loop, the opposite side of the canyon is just pine trees and it’s beautiful!

ruins at walnut canyon national monument arizona

As your go around to the other side, you’re on the sunny side. You can even tell the sunny vs shady side because of the types of plants growing in them which is pretty cool!

On the shady side, most of the dwellings are on the side you’re walking on but once you get to the sunny side, they’re mostly across the canyon. So they built them to be in the shade!

Soon, you’ll be facing the stairs again and will have to make your up. At least there are benches along the way so you can rest which definitely makes the trek out better.

ruins at walnut canyon national monument arizona

National Park Goodies

ruins at walnut canyon national monument arizona

Where is the Walnut Canyon Island Trail?

Walnut Canyon is just about 20 minutes from Flagstaff. It’s an easy drive down I40 to the exit and right in to the visitor center. The Island Trail trailhead is right behind the visitor center and so is the easy, short Rim Trail.

pine trees at walnut canyon national monument arizona

How long is the Island Trail at Walnut Canyon?

The Island Trail is just 0.7 miles with 249 feet of elevation gain, but that’s pretty much all on the way out. It’s a short trail and doesn’t take too long, 1-1.5 hours should be plenty of time.

walnut canyon national monument arizona

Is the Island Trail at Walnut Canyon hard?

Not really, but if you’re not used to higher elevation or stairs, this one might be a little tougher. Round-trip, there are 700-some stairs but it’s really not as bad as they make it sound.

If you do go in the summer, be sure to bring plenty of water because it does still get really hot. Half of the loop part of the trail is shady but the majority of the trail is sunny. There are benches along the stairs on the way up/down.

walnut canyon national monument arizona

Is the Walnut Canyon Island Trail worth it?

I think so! It made me like Walnut Canyon a lot more than just doing the short Rim Trail. You get a great alternative view of the canyon, from the inside and below the rim.

This is a great addition to a trip to Flagstaff, a Route 66 trip, or a trip to Petrified Forest National Park. They’re all right along I40 making it easy to do them all.

have you been to Walnut Canyon? Did you hike the Island Trail? What did you think of it?

2 thoughts on “Hike To Ruins On The Walnut Canyon Island Trail In Flagstaff

  1. We just did this hike also, and enjoyed it. Since we have a national parks pass, it was free. At full price I would feel slightly overcharged considering it’s really a couple of hours max. Still a nice stop.

    1. Nice! We also have the pass, I can’t remember how much it was but I definitely understand that feeling haha. It’s a small park! Cool though!

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